These two terrific books acquaint us with two unusual talents:
In Mary’s Garden, by Tina and Carson Kügler published in 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First — Mary Nohl, a multi-talented artist from Wisconsin who gradually transformed her Lake Michigan cottage into a world of whimsy and beauty.
Nohl was a hands-on craftsperson and artist from the time she was a young girl in the 1920s. After art school, she traveled the world, teaching and creating art.
Later, she began to transform her inherited cottage near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, covering the walls with paintings, painting furniture and carpets, sculpting enormous, curious stone creaturesto inhabit the gardens. Sadly, it seems she was misunderstood and harassed by some of her neighbors, but she steadfastly continued to create.
The Küglers have written a very brief, pleasant sketch of her life, illustrating it with traditional and digital collage that reaches out to us with friendliness, happiness, wonder and beauty.
It’s a lovely account that introduced me to Mary for the first time and made me wish I could visit her home which is currently listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, but is inaccessible to the public.
Great book to share with children ages 4 and up.
Talkin’ Guitar: A Story of Young Doc Watson, written and illustrated by Robbin Gourley published in 2015 by Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
At the same time that Mary Nohl was growing up in Wisconsin, Arthel Lane Watson was being raised, the sixth of nine children, “in the Appalachian mountain hamlet of Deep Gap, North Carolina.”
Watson was left blind by an eye infection before his first birthday, but his world was sweetly enveloped in the sounds of music, from his Mama’s lullabies to the rushing of mountain streams, the jangling of plows, the wind in the trees.
As a young boy, he was drawn like a magnet to making music. He learned to play the harmonica, the banjo, and then the guitar, all the while absorbing rhythms and harmonies and songs everywhere he went.
Arthel’s parents encouraged him to participate fully in life, and the confidence he gained from his dear family and beloved mountains must have informed his dynamic playing, beginning at live radio broadcasts, then touring with folk musicians, and finally launching his phenomenal career as a solo artist under the name Doc Watson.
Robbin Gourley’s artwork is what first drew me to this title — her sumptuous watercolors and flowing line flood the pages with beauty. Her lilting narration encapsulates an Aaron-Coplandesque atmosphere, marvelously exuding the sweet country influences that emerge in Watson’s music.
Sorry I can’t embed a video, but you can listen to Doc on youtube here for a little taste of his virtuosity.
This is a beautiful, inspiring story for ages 4 and older, and includes a lengthy Author’s Note and websites for further information.