Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just booklove miscellany in general.
While not outrightly fantastical, this book shows the depth of emotions among creatures and the world of infinite truth and thirst for beauty that resides in every being, and it is with that rationale that I am still including it for our current reading theme. Although, admittedly, this would have been a better fit for our Loss, Heartbreak, and Coming of Age reading theme.
I first learned about this book through Holly Mueller of Reading, Teaching, Learning. When I saw the book cover, I just knew that I have to hunt it down in our library. I am glad that this grouse has found me.
The Epigraph already shows what kind of picturebook this would be: lyrical and quiet, melancholic and wise, and the passing of the seasons a layered metaphor for things that are not here to stay. I took a photo of the page and edited it using an iPhone app:
A grouse has fallen in love with her favorite Forever Flower. Despite the snowfall and her friends’ entreaties to fly to distant lands that are not blanketed with ice, the grouse claims she needs more time as she plucks the last of the Forever Flower and gathers whatever seeds she can in her grass packet. Her baggage made it difficult to soar past the gray skies and soon this younger grouse found herself sinking into “autumn’s icy water.”
It was there that a springer spaniel found the plummeting gray cloud, and rescued the grouse from the cold waters. The spaniel had a ball in his mouth that he also didn’t want to let go, while the grouse held on to her Forever Flowers in her grass packet. Against insurmountable odds, the grouse found shelter and warmth in this unpretentious, cozy cottage of a dog and his mistress. Despite the comfort that some evenings bring, the grouse was singleminded in her pursuit of finding her Forever Flowers once more:
Darkness buried some days. Sunlight lifted others. The grouse, it appeared, felt that impatience could hurry the seasons. But the spaniel showed her that the way to pass time is to revel in it: romp through snow, sniff trails, fetch.
Yet the grouse thought only of leaving and the happiness she’d left behind. She counted the new petals on her Forever Flower seedlings as if each one brought her closer to spring and back to her friends.
With each day unfolding into the next, and the snow gradually disappearing from the ground, the grouse settled into the breathing rhythm of the cottage with her beautiful companions who waited through the dark days with her. What I found particularly beautiful was their finding an almost-spring day, an island of brightness amidst a sea of gray and white, a precursor of the green that is yet to come.
In the language all creatures share, the spaniel and his companion could tell that the grouse wanted this almost-spring day to stay and stay until the season truly arrived. But they didn’t know how to convince her that happiness comes from the very chance of stumbling upon it again.
When spring burst forth from the ground in a rush of red and Forever Flowers, the grouse’s friends saw her and rejoiced at the sight of beauty they have waited all winter long to see and feel against their skin. Now the grouse is left with a dilemma: will she stay with her newfound friends or will she fly away with her old friends to taste Spring?
This beautiful story provides further proof that the picturebook has indeed come of age. It is able to tackle complex issues of loss, longing, and letting go with such a crystal clear sight that it is both luminous and painful. This story explores the kindness and compassion of strangers who chanced upon this grouse, who unfortunately, is still filled with her own longing and loss to see past the haze of petals and the scent of Spring. The grouse is not blind to her new friends’ good will and patient nature. She knows that they provided her with what she needed most during the cold days of spring – yet all that is peripheral to her Forever Flowers and her insistence on making momentary things last for a lifetime, perhaps failing to understand as yet that each moment can be pockets of Forever captured in time.
There is much to savor and explore in this picturebook of holding on and letting go. It makes one ask what one is holding on to and what one eventually lets go once the flowers have blossomed, when Spring has finally come like a yearly visitor passing through.
The Forever Flowers by Michael J. Rosen and Art by Sonja Danowski. Published by Creative Editions, 2014. Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.