celebrating 40 years of brambly hedge with apple cake


Over the stream and across the field is the world of Brambly Hedge…

Are you a Brambly Hedge fan? 

If so, then you probably know that Autumn 2020 marks 40 years since British author/illustrator Jill Barklem published the first four picture books in her charming series — Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Story, and Winter Story.

Released simultaneously by HarperCollins, they proved immensely popular among readers of all ages despite being written primarily for young children. To date they’ve been translated into 13 languages and have sold over 7 million copies.

I was drawn to Barklem’s incredibly detailed illustrations long before I actually read the stories. This is not surprising for a longtime Beatrix Potter fan who can’t resist anthropomorphized animals dressed in smart clothes. In fact, I probably first saw Barklem’s adorable mice on pieces of Royal Doulton china. 

Once I familiarized myself with all the characters and spent ample time in their idyllic English countryside, I was totally hooked. Brambly Hedge continues to attract generations of new readers with its emphasis on traditional values and universal themes such as family, friendship, community, seasonal self-sufficiency, and sustainability.

Author/illustration Jill Barklem in her studio.

A nature lover since childhood, Jill was inspired by the countryside where she grew up, especially the ancient woodland, Epping Forest. At age 13 she suffered a detached retina, which prevented her from participating in sports, so she spent her afternoons indoors, concentrating on art and botany. Her love of drawing flowers and twigs eventually prompted her to study illustration at St. Martin’s School of Art in London.

She did not look forward to the long commute from Epping to London on the underground every day — but eventually made good use of her time by escaping into her own richly imagined world of mice who lived in the trunks and roots of trees and hedgerows.

This is how Wilfred Toadflax, Primrose Woodmouse, Poppy Eyebright, Mr and Mrs Apple, and all the others were first conceived. After graduating from St. Martin’s, Jill briefly worked for Lion Publishing, penning a few picture books and illustrating Bibles, but she didn’t feel she was doing her best work.

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[scrumptious review + recipe] Wintercake by Lynne Rae Perkins

 

What ingredients would you need to have a wonderful, jubilant, extra-happy, a little bit mysterious winter holiday?

Hmmm, perhaps two furry brown animals (one adorably stout, the other tall and sleek), a perky, yellow-feathered birdie, a warm hollow with a cozy fire, and CAKE!

For added flavor (why not?), add a bustling tea room with chatty critters in the middle of the woods, a basket of dried fruit, and three mistakes (that’s the mysterious part) — and you have the utterly charming new picture book, Wintercake (Greenwillow, 2019), written and illustrated by Newbery winner Lynne Rae Perkins.

You could say this one was written with my name all over it. I will say it’s one of my top three fave picture books of the year, and definitely one of my all-time favorite holiday books. After all, I do love little furry animals (I’m married to one), we do live in the woods (I dream of opening a tea room), and after eating enough cake, I could very well be described as stout. 😀

What’s that? You’re a little concerned about the ‘mysterious mistakes’? I thought as much. Don’t worry, because in this story, we see how mistakes can lead to good things — an adventure, new friends, new traditions — all cause for celebration. Let me explain . . .

 

 

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of love, longing, and liniment cake: a sweet treat from the anne of green gables cookbook (+ a giveaway!)

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables)

Raspberry Cordial, anyone?

 

Have you ever noticed how often the characters in Anne of Green Gables take tea? Apparently it’s the drink consumed most often in the Anne series, with cake and pie topping the list of foods. Of course there’s also apples, preserves (cherry, blue plum, crab apple, strawberry), biscuits, cookies, puddings, taffy and chocolate caramels. Is it any wonder I want to live in these books? 🙂

We had an elegant tea. Mrs. Barry had the very best china set out, Marilla, just as if I was real company. I can’t tell you what a thrill it gave me. Nobody ever used their very best china on my account before. And we had fruit cake and pound cake and doughnuts and two kinds of preserves, Marilla. And Mrs. Barry asked me if I took tea and said, ‘Pa, why don’t you pass the biscuits to Anne?’ It must be lovely to be grown up, Marilla, when just being treated as if you were is so nice.

 

Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla and Richard Farnsworth as Matthew in the 1985 Sullivan TV series.

 

For some reason I didn’t read Anne of Green Gables until I was an adult — and not until after I had seen the 1985 television series with Megan Follows as Anne. I immediately inhaled all the Anne books, wishing Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert would adopt me, and that I could have a bosom friend like Diana Barry and a dreamy admirer like Gilbert Blythe. I could picture myself sitting at the Cuthbert kitchen table, pouring from the brown teapot, buttering thick slices of homemade bread, and trying to make conversation with shy Matthew.

Last Fall, when the revised and expanded edition of The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook came out, I decided to reread the original novel, which in turn aroused my curiosity about Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

 

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