Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small!
Miss Maple’s Seeds
Story and Pictures by Eliza Wheeler
Meet Miss Maple, a facilitator of sorts, for Mother Nature. Eliza Wheeler has created a book that not only introduces a sweet persona who gathers, nurtures and guides seeds so they can eventually take root and grow where they will flourish, but she has also created in my mind, at least, a metaphor for parenting.
Every flower, plant and even the most majestic of trees start, as she explains, as a tender seedling, needing protection, guidance and direction, even as the four winds help Miss Maple along in her tender mission to allow each variation of seedling its chance in the sun, to grow and thrive. Early in August, she is sweeping her front doorway to welcome orphan seeds. Miss Maple has spent her entire summer searching out the lost seedlings. And they literally fly into their new home, within nests that sit atop the backs of a squadron of blue birds! These are seeds that seemed to have gotten lost in the spring planting.
What seeds you may ask? Why any number and variety, ranging from pumpkin, pea, lentil, and wild rice to honeysuckle, maple (of course), raspberry, apple, acorn, buttercup and a host of others. I was fascinated with the page of painted pictures of seeds that Ms. Wheeler provides to illustrate this point. What a great lesson in botany to show young readers the difference, if you have the time and energy, between the seed as it appears on the page, and the result as full-grown!
Miss Maple, of course, knows all the names of the seedlings by heart. And after a thorough cleaning, the seeds are taken on field trips to learn the varied places they will eventually take root, such as fields and forests, carried there by rivers and other means. Her repeated caveat is repeated often to her interim charges, “Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small.” In Agra speak, that’s please watch out for “weedy characters!”
Neighboring birds, squirrels, mice and rabbits bring supplies to the hollow of Miss Maple’s tree home to help her small nesters pass the winter in cradles and hanging baskets, tucked about with straw.
And as spring arrives with thunderstorms, and buckets of rain descend, her cheerful exhortation is, “Do not be afraid – raindrops help us grow.”
Finally, May arrives in its calm and quiet way and Miss Maple sees the seedlings off with a display of illustrative art that is truly beautiful. In fact, Ms. Wheeler, an award-winning illustrator and winner of the SCBWI Los Angeles International Conference Portfolio Grand Prize, has given her book the softness of birth and new beginnings in its use of color. Glorious! Ms. Wheeler has even scripted the scene of departure beautifully as the seeds, set gently inside pods attached to petals that remind one of Chinese lanterns lit from within, float softly away on a river. They begin their journey into the world on a spring night, with an escort of fireflies leading the way!
Isn’t that what we as parents do, and that is love, guide, nurture, support, and ward off anything our young cannot handle, until they can? We encourage them not to fear the tough times and the challenges, for those very things are what will help them to grow over time. What is that saying? “We give them roots and wings.” Roots firmly establish them and their identities and gifts, and then, we watch as they fly on the winds to wherever in the world their lives will take them.
Your young reader will enjoy the story of Miss Maple and her young seedlings, but we as parents, grandparents and friends, can also enjoy the subtext with a bit of nostalgia for what was and what will be. The joy is in the knowledge that we are the Miss Maples of our children’s lives. “Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small.” Enjoy the journey!