Paper artist Elly MacKay’s venture into the children’s book market is a natural fit. The process behind her ethereal illustrations, evolved from the tunnel books she made as a child, yields not only the depth expected in this method of composition but the dream-like haze that surrounds our memories of earliest childhood and imaginative play. Traditional tunnel books create a 3-dimensional image by composing a picture in layers. When those layers are arranged one behind the other, with a space between each layer, they reproduce a sense of depth. The effect is similar to what you might see through a ViewMaster, but without the viewer. Elly accomplishes this effect with yupo paper, beautiful shades of ink, a delicate drawing hand, and a handmade “miniature theater” where, with a bit of magic, she stages her
creations before photographing them. In her first book for children, If You Hold a Seed, story and technique come together as a young boy discovers the potential in a small seed and the value of patience.
The layered illustrations draw the reader in, filling each page with softly-colored light and shadow. As one season becomes another and as the years go by, boy and sapling grow together. The marvelous thing is that the wait is tempered by observable changes to both. This a wonderful choice for soothing bedtime read-aloud sessions—books that can stand the test of multiple readings, either nightly or consecutively, are invaluable. If You Hold a Seed is a lovely addition to any parent’s arsenal.
Disclosure: If You Hold a Seed was kindly sent by Running Press at my request after I learned it was in production. I discovered Elly MacKay’s Etsy store a few years ago and have been a fan of her work ever since.