Nana came for a visit.
And she always tries to bring a new story to read to my little ones, one she's thrifted or bought new and saved for a rainy day.
When she blew in with the April wind a couple of weeks ago, she held a new-to-us book in her hands like a promise, and as I bustled about tidying the house and preparing for the evening, I listened to her voice while she read to my children.
I'm not ashamed to say that I wept along with her at the word pictures in this story.
by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Bethanne Anderson
Annie's father was restless to move west, a place he could stand "alone in an open field where the only shadow he could see was his own". Her momma was sorrowful at the prospect, but quietly packed and prepared for the journey.
On the morning of the departure, Momma's friends gathered around in a circle, pressing packets of seeds into her hands with a kiss. Heart breaking, her sister was the last to whisper words of farewell.
As the family journeyed west, Momma remained quiet as she cared for her family, a promise of her own growing in her womb. The beautiful, sometimes barren, landscape is captured in words so vividly by the author, and painted simply by the illustrator. Pa built a rough cabin with wood from the creek, and though it was strong, the moan of the wind and howl of the coyote mingled with the stillness and sadness of Momma and Annie couldn't feel safe. The seasons passed and spring blew in, and nothing else changed.
But when Annie helped the midwife make some biscuits following the birth of her sister, she remembered her momma's love for flowers. Pa was too busy planting crops to spend time tilling the hard earth for a kitchen garden, so Annie and her little brother, Jim, set to work. After a few days of hard work, though, they'd only turned over a patch the size of a baby blanket.
Pa saw their struggle and joined them with his breaking plow. And when they stood back to admire their work, Momma spoke softly from doorway.
What the family finds as they rediscover the bundle of seed packets helps Momma find her voice again, and will make you want to look closer at the old roses and bushes and trees around you, remembering those who came before us.
What Nana didn't know is how much we already enjoy books by Deborah Hopkinson, and this one, new to us, is a wonderful addition.