Amazing Maisy's Family Tree

Lynn Zirkel, Author, Peter Bowman, Illustrator Oxford University Press, USA $12.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-19-279830-5
At a first glance, this British import (about a potted vine that consumes and displaces people) might look to readers like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But when they ""look beside things and behind things,'' as the book suggests, things will appear less grim. It's little Maisy's story and that of a single seed in a worn-out pot; it grows in her room into a multitude of seeds, vines and colors. Her family complains that there isn't enough room for both people and vine in the house. Exactly so; a face of vine leaves with roses for eyes overtakes Grandma's body as she is twilling a scarf; she is changed into a prune tree from which Maisy carves out two pets, a cat called Kin and a dog called Bark. Grumpy Grandpa means to ``cut off'' the pets, which he hates, but instead falls into a heap of peat and disappearsexcept for his feet. Maisy's mother, in turn, is reduced to ``the subtle added flavor in the pot of tea'' that she is preparing as the green ``thing'' gives her a little shove. Maisy's dad is left behind to smoke his pipe in peace but grows dizzy in a crystal world-within-a-world. Something green has taken root in his pipe. Now Maisy is happy as a bee on a flower; the accretion never slows down; flowers are outgrown by vegetables and fruits as ``big as dinosaurs.'' The house itself begins to sprout and is carried upwards in a vortex of procreation carrying with it all the ``glorious secrets'' of Maisy's family. The real glory of the book lies in Bowman's art. The intricate complexity in his treasury of color and pattern may appear ambiguous to young readers. Nevertheless, there is much more for all to enjoy in this true feast for the eyes and the imagination. Bowman has created a maze of tantalizing visual puns, puzzles and paradoxes. Pages progress from the simple to the manifold, from a single seed to Escher-put hyphen hereesque crystal balls, from the world of bees, mice and toys to the world of pipe-smoking frogs, vine pets and horrid automata. The thread in the labyrinth, however, is not impossible to find, and kids will have fun digging up the roots of ``Samantha's Secret.'' Splendid. Ages 47. (April)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1987
Release date: 06/01/1987
Genre: Children's
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