My daughter’s rocket ship sighting the other day reminded me of a recent visit to a local, Art and Wine Festival. I love to stroll, glass of wine in hand, and booth shop. Usually, I just look at and buy small trinkets. Maybe, stop and watch the drunken dancers by the main stage.
This time, we stumbled upon something quite different, an illustrator, Mark Ludy, not only selling his artwork, but children’s books he illustrated. His artwork caught our eye, and the books sucked us into the booth. I thumbed through each book and picked one I felt reflected me as a child and knew my daughter could relate to, When I Was A Girl… I Dreamed, written by Margaret Baker and Justin Matott.
Many adults read Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, to their children with nostalgia, because it reminds them of childhood emotions still contained in their memories. I personally never related to the book. But, something about Mark Ludy’s When I Was A Girl… I Dreamed, brought back flashes of my youth, an 8 mm reel full of laughter and wonder about what I would be when I grew up, about how my imagination once let me see such wild things in the very simple. It reflected a similar ability of my daughter to see rocket ships in large antennae.
In my interpretation, the book is about a grandmother sharing her dreams and imagination from her childhood with her grandchild. The story is touching and full of hope and possibility. Each page describes a different dream.
The illustrations are out of this world. And, by out of this world, I mean that I have NEVER seen anything like them. The high level of detail lets you discover your own story on each page of the book. A ballerina dances amidst giant nutcrackers. There are even details in the kids watching side-stage and the hardwood floors under her feet. A young girl reads as her own robot maid cleans her room. There are even details in the pictures and books along the walls and the food that she’s eating. Ludy uses vibrant colors to reflect childhood dreams.
After we got home, I sat with my daughter and read the book. It didn’t take the normal, 10-15 minutes it would typically take to read a book of it’s length. It took us more than an hour. We sat and discussed each page. My daughter described what she saw. The images on each page allowed us to make up our own story.
If I didn’t love the book so much, I would cut out the pages, frame each one in a different color and hang them in my daughter’s room, as a series. She could dive into each picture and disappear, right before she sleeps. Wild and wonderful dreams would await her. Wait, maybe I would do this in my room too.
Since Mark Ludy was there doing book signings, we decided to wait in line to have my daughter’s copy signed. There were only three people ahead of us, but we waited almost an hour for our turn. Ludy was taking his time to talk to each and every patron. He drew a picture on the opening page of each and every book. He smiled and chatted with each and every child. It made the book even more magical and made me want to share this book with the rest of the world. In my opinion, the illustrator and authors have created a masterpiece.