If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay

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This new release is the first book for author and artist, Elly MacKay.  Best known for her work with paper theater, MacKay makes a strong showing in the first book she has not only illustrated, but also written.  If You Hold a Seed is a tribute to the magic encapsulated in the smallest of seeds.  It follows a boy who plants a seed in the ground and starts to watch it throughout the seasons of sun, rain, cold, warmth, and waiting.  Each season finds the seed a little bigger and attracting a new creature to rest on it’s branches.  As the years pass and the child continues to wait on the growing tree, he also starts to grow rapidly himself.  At the close of the book, the child has grown into a man and the seed has grown into a large and strong tree.  The final illustration of the book depicts the man who planted the tree sitting with his own young son in the strong branches, presumably teaching him about the beauty and magic that the smallest seed can produce.

The illustrations are by far the strongest feature of this book.  MacKay originally entered the world of illustrations making tunnel books and focusing heavily on the effects that layers can have on a work of art.  The illustrations in If You Hold a Seed are also layered and complex.  The main character, the boy who plants the seed, is detailed and realistic, seeming to come straight from the pages of an old ‘I Spy’ book.  The addition of translucent layers, used in objects like umbrellas and the folds of a tent, makes the illustrations jump off the page in an almost three-dimensional fashion.  Not only is each page of this book beautiful, it is also extremely unique from most other illustrated books.  Children would be fascinated by this new medium that sets this book apart from the rest of the books they come in contact with.

hold a seed cover

This book would be wonderful to use in the classroom or at home, not only because of the illustrations, but also because of the message it conveys.  Wait, wait, and you will witness a simple kind of magic.  Especially in our world that puts such a heavy emphasis on instant gratification, this book tells the tale that not all things are best when received immediately.  Children will be fascinated by the illustrations, calmed by the rhythm and pacing, and taught or reminded through the underlying message.  A wonderful and unique addition to any bookshelf.

Reviewed by Sally Nichols

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