Sunday, November 9, 2008

Words Come to Life

Some stories come and go, and others hang around a little while longer.

Such is the case with the children's stories written by Connecticut author Mark Kimball Moulton of Sparrow Hill. Karen Hillard Good creates the magical illustrations that depict many of the unforgettable characters roaming in Moulton's head. Moulton has a way of telling a story that is entwined in wonderful rhyme and I think it is this approach that is most alluring to my three year old daughter. The tale of Scarecrow Pete is a story about a book loving scarecrow who shares his love of literature with a little boy. The boy hasn't yet discovered the power of transport through imagination that comes with the simple act of reading. But by the end of the tale, both straw friend and human boy have racked up quite an impressive reading list. We've read the story countless times over the last years, especially from early October to well into December. Last year we couldn't seem to get enough of Scarecrow Pete, so my daughter and I decided to bring Pete into the world of living creatures. I raided my closet for some old denim overalls, a cozy flannel shirt, some garden clogs, and a weather proof hat to protect his pillowcase head. Stuffed with pillows of varying sizes and a broomstick to hold it all in place, Scarecrow Pete took shape within a matter of minutes. We used craft paints and our fingers to fill in rough Sharpie black lines, and a little cross stitch flossing finalized our friend. Pete hung out on the front porch for nearly three months, and when the first snows came, just like in the story, Pete went off to have an adventure in some far off less chilly land. We enjoyed coming and going and seeing his cheery face sitting there, and we contemplated whether Pete had read the stories we were telling at bedtime. Sometimes we would crack the bedroom window just a bit so Pete could hear them too down on the front porch. We have since created Miss Fiona from Miss Fiona's Pumpkin Pies, another fabulous Moulton tale. Snowman Bob also graced the porch last winter. Moulton created Snowgirl Sue to keep Bob company and I am sure she will be paying a visit to our porch this winter. I have never met Mark Kimball Moulton, though I am sure that in some ways we live in some sort of parallel universe from Connecticut to here in Ohio. We enjoy living in very similar environments, and I was stunned to recently find out that he too is a great fan of Tasha Tudor. I think both capture the essence of childhood and tell their tales in ways that even very small children can relate. Never let it be said that a book is just a book, or words just words. Sometimes they find a way into our hearts that beg for transformation. For our family, Scarecrow Pete, Miss Fiona, and Snowman Bob have become part of our family. Their seat is always saved on the front porch anytime they wish to visit.

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