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Living a bit in the woods as we do, I often take advantage of the inter-library loan service to bring parts of the outside world home to us. Saturday night movies, television series, children’s books, crafting books–I order in all of these categories and more, regularly.

If You Hold a Seed

From some list that I found somewhere (probably the wonderful world of Pinterest), I took away the idea that the children’s book If You Hold a Seed was one that my guys should check out (Well, the guys and me too, of course. Because one of the best things about being a Mom is picture books.). When the book arrived and I opened it, I gasped. This! This art! These pictures!

I knew immediately that this was the art of Theater Clouds, long one of my favorite Etsy shops:

Journey Into Slumberland, by Elly MacKay of Theater Clouds

Journey Into Slumberland, by Elly MacKay of Theater Clouds

The author/artist, Elly MacKay, was the artist behind Theater Clouds, it seemed. Needing to know more, I set about googling, and found Elly’s homepage, full of photos and information and blogs. (When I decided to write this post, I emailed Elly to fangirl and gush about her work and give her the heads up on my recommendation, and she couldn’t have been nicer. It’s always so cool when artists whose work you admire are good human beings as well.)

What I’ve loved about Theater Clouds’ work all along is the ethereal, other-worldly quality, a misty, smoky, almost-surreal feel the pictures have, as though they’re at once obscured by fog and lit from behind.

In a Swift Abundance... by Elly MacKay of Theater Clouds

In a Swift Abundance… by Elly MacKay of Theater Clouds

This unique, unearthly quality comes directly from MacKay’s process, which involves layering, different materials, and illumination in a theater-box. This art literally glows, and MacKay manages to translate that to print.

When she held her child she could walk through the forest, eyes high above the tree-tops, by Elly MacKay of Theater Clouds

When she held her child she could walk through the forest, eyes high above the tree-tops, by Elly MacKay of Theater Clouds

If You Hold a Seed, MacKay’s first children’s book, tells the story of a little boy who holds and wishes on and plants a seed, then waits through sun and rain until it sprouts.somethingmagicaland some rain As the seasons pass, the sprout grows and grows, until autumn, when once again the boy must wait. With the spring, the sprout becomes a tree, visited by birds and animals, and over the years it grows until it is so large it can hold the boy.spring!lean into the wind Only after all this waiting, does the wish come true.

wish comes true

This is a story about so many tangibles and intangibles, on so many levels. It is a story about plants, about seasons, about nature. It is a story about time, and about growing. It is a story about wishes and patience and magic. And through it all, those gorgeous, glowing pictures sustain the enchantment.

The big boy likes us to believe he’s too old for picture books, but I caught him looking carefully at the pages of this one, and when I settled down to read it to the small boy, it seemed that I had an extra viewer/listener. The small boy was captivated from the cover, and demanded it be read twice on first showing, and several times since. I haven’t missed an opportunity to re-visit it.

Read this. Buy it. Gift it. And don’t forget to look at Elly’s shop–I’m saving for at least one print, and thinking that perhaps I’ll make Theater Clouds art a go-to gift for special occasions.

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