Picture Book Reviews: Carmen and the House That Gaudí Built by Susan Hughes and Marianne Ferrer & The Wind and the Trees by Todd Stewart

Two new beautiful picture books from Canadian authors and illustrators on the review docket today! Thanks to kind friends at Owlkids Books, I will be taking a look at: Carmen and the House That Gaudí Built by Susan Hughes and Marianne Ferrer, and The Wind and the Trees by Todd Stewart. Happy reading to you all!

“There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature.” Written by Susan Hughes and illustrated by Marianne Ferrer, Carmen and the House That Gaudí Built is a gorgeous picture book that blends facts from the life of iconic architect Antoni Gaudí with a story about change and the wonders of nature. A young girl named Carmen Battló’s mother and father have just “bought a house on the fanciest street in Barcelona”- to be designed by “famous architect Senor Antoni Gaudí”!- but Carmen does not care to move to the city. She loves spending her time outside in nature with her “invisible salamander Dragon”, and not only worries that the “gray, straight, stiff city” will not be a friend to Dragon, but also that she will miss “the wild beauty of the woods”. As Carmen carefully listens in on plans for their new house in the city, however, she recognizes that Señor Gaudí is somehow, incredibly, of similar mind! His approach to their new house is to bring as much of the magic of nature into its construction, with features such as sparkling mosaics that mimic “lilies floating on a rippling pond”, as well as “curving walls…swirls, whirls, and starbursts”. The finished house brings Carmen and her family yet another astonishing surprise, ending Carmen and the House That Gaudí Built on a wondrous, happy note. Watercolour illustrations by Marianne Ferrer, capturing the jewel-like feel of Gaudí’s work, are fantastically lush and exuberant here- a perfect match to Susan Hughes’ lovely, expressive storytelling. Readers who have loved biographical picture books that fabulously mix fiction and pieces of personal history, such as The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse or When Emily Was Small, may especially adore this read. Extras: Be sure to read the detailed Author’s Note at the book’s end, for a look at the magnificent Casa Batlló in Barcelona. Back matter also includes a Selected Sources list.

“What a windy day!” “You‘ll get used to it, little one.” Written and illustrated by artist and printmaker Todd Stewart, The Wind and the Trees shares the story of an old pine tree, a little seedling, and what happens over the passage of time. In short and often sage moments of conversations between the two trees, the young tree relies on the wisdom and reassurance from the elder pine tree- especially as great, great winds cause surprise and damage. As the young tree grows, they realize how reckless and genuinely unforgiving the wind can truly be over time. While big tree warns that the wind “stretches my roots, dries me out, and will break me apart”, they also insist that the wind is helpful in how it “scatters…seeds so new trees can grow where others have fallen”. Through many seasons and skies and clouds of all kinds, with a variety of wildlife making home and rest in their branches, readers follow the two trees; watching as one seems to grow stronger and larger, and one seems to lose more and more parts of themselves to the wind- all the while embracing the storms to come. Striking in presentation- the artwork! the colours!- and in its paired-back but impactful storytelling, The Wind and the Trees is a a standout picture book. Softly informative while telling a story that highlights the inexorable sadness and sparks of promise inherent in the cycle of life and death, The Wind and the Trees is wonderful, visually arresting storytelling. Note: Originally published under the title Quand les vents souffle.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Owlkids Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

One thought

  1. I so appreciate your thoughtful and astute reading of the books you review… can’t wait to get ahold of both of these fantastic sounding books!

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