Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Emily Hughes
Everything You Need for a Treehouse
by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Emily Hughes
Review Copy from Chronicle Books
Story: Higgin's poetic, occasionally unpunctuated text lyrically takes readers through the delights and designs of a treehouse, "without the tether of a storyline," as illustrator Hughes describes the book. She begins by telling readers, "Everything you need for a treehouse starts with time and looking up and imagining a hime of timber and rafters in wrangled, gnarled bark." Traveling the trees of the world, she brings her story home, ending it with these words, "But if your whisper is broken you can warble and yell / the thrashers will scatter and barn owls echo and the crickets will welcome the company. The begonias / the whispers / the sap / and the speckles / Everything you need for a treehouse starts with time and looking up." As a city kid who dreamed of having a treehouse, a window seat or both, I deeply appreciate the ending of Everything You Need for a Treehouse, which shows kids on a rooftop, apartment building patio where laundry folded in baskets and rickety tables and chairs and lots of chalk art fill the space, along with a pot with a small tree growing out of it. You may never get that treehouse of your dreams (or window seat) but you can make it where you are if you really want it, which is exactly what illustrator Emily Hughes said in this fantastic interview at the author's (Higgins is a school librarian and graphic designer) website, Design of the Picture Book. In this interview, Hughes shares her childhood experience (and jealousy) with tree houses and thoughtfully notes that there is a, "privilege required to have a literal treehouse," (land, a very old, big, tree, adults who can help kids build it) which makes my appreciation of her final two page spread of the apartment complex, which includes "something from everyone one of the former pages, even deeper. And, of course I love that Higgins considers a bookshelf an important part of a treehouse, which evokes a marvelous illustration from Hughes.
Pictures: Emily Hughes is one of my new(er) favorite illustrators. Her style is intimately detailed with rich, lush representations of the natural world. Her work also has a retro feel to it at times, reminding me of picture books from my childhood (in the 1970s) and also, on occasion, Richard Scarry. In her interview with Higgins, Hughes says that, from cover to cover, there are over 200 children in Everything You Need for a Treehouse! The book is filled with all sorts of Easter Eggs, some of which Hughes reveals in her interview, like the fact that her parents, as kids, are in the treehouse on the cover. For the endpapers, (which have a palette that reminds me of the original colors used in Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban/Garth Williams's Frances series) Hughes, "asked people online and friends in real life about their treehouse attempts. Every vignette in the endpapers is based off real-life stories that people shared about their results. I think they are all so creative and special - far more resourceful, interesting and ingenious than the ideas I spent weeks working on." The thought and connection Hughes has to the text is evident on every page, making it exciting to hear her talk about the process of creating the illustrations, deepening that connection.
Why Read? Why Buy?: Hopefully it's clear as glass why you should read and buy Everything You Need for a Treehouse, but just in case... Higgins has written a dreamy book that is magically, intensely, carefully, thoughtfully illustrated by Hughes. This kind of picture book - one that the reader will return to and remember long into adulthood - doesn't come along often.
More Books by Hughes
A Brave Bear written by Sean Taylor