FOREST OF DREAMS; By Rosemary Wells; Paintings by Susan Jeffers; Dial; 1988; $13.95.
Put together two lifetime friends, a compatibility of writing and artistic talents, a desire to celebrate spring and you have "Forest of Dreams." Seven four-line rhyming verses list the gifts of God: the newness of life, smallness to be protected, eyes for seeing, hands to touch, strength to climb, ears to hear music in nature, and the ability to feel softness.The concluding stanza: God gave me time to listen/God gave me everything reflects the triumph of the season with a cartwheeling child and cavorting forest creatures.
But Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers have other things in common: a shared design studio when they began working on their first books, residences in New York state surrounded by nature and young daughters who served as models for "Forest of Dreams."
Rosemary Wells has written 29 books and is well known for her six stories about Max and Ruby, beginner books acclaimed as "favorites of the youngest reader . . . bound to become classics." Her awards include an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for "When No One Was Looking" and numerous mentions among the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults and Booklist Editors' Choice.
Susan Jeffers has won awards for her illustrations, including Caldecott honors, a Golden Apple Award at the Biennial of Illustrations in Bratislava and Best Book Choices.
"Forest of Dreams' is the first collaboration of these two authors/illustrators/friends.
While the text is reminiscent of Sunday school song lyrics, the incredibly beautiful illustrations are the redeeming feature of the book. Susan Jeffers, who learned about art from her mother and later studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., has used each page to express the pleasure of nature; front endpages show trees in icy dress while the final pages mirror the same scene with the branches graced in blossoms. The title page, too, is full of beauty, with birds ready for the spring thaw.
This is Susan Jeffers' first book done in oils. But she has not lost the iridescent quality that has become a trademark of her work. The ice on the limbs shimmer, and the flower pedals, raindrops and dragonwings have a luster-like excellence.
"Forest of Dreams" is for anyone anxious for spring and particularly wanting to share the expectation with young children. It can be read, chanted or sung. But, above all, it should be enjoyed for the outstanding artwork that signals the changing of seasons.
SB) Marilou Sorensen is an associate professor of education at the University of Utah specializing in children's literature.