A classic form of fantasy advancing high ideals is found in four books by author-illustrator Flavia and her daughter Lisa Weedn. Recently reissued after more than a decade, each of the books is told as a fable with animal characters who discover their own value and find hope and comfort. The California mother-daughter team has evolved a good bit since the books first appeared. Flavia Weedn has been writing and illustrating inspirational concepts in books, cards, stationery, and posters for more than 30 years. Now her daughter Lisa, who shares her mother's viewpoints on life, works with her in developing and writing the stories.
Based on folk tales from different cultures, each of the four stories tells a very human situation but has illustrations featuring animals. In The Elephant Prince, three young elephants vie for the heart of a rich princess. The test is scaling the glass mountain to the castle where she lives, and only the one who loves her for herself, not for her riches, makes it to the top. The Little Snow Bear features a lonely little bear who finally creates a friend for himself out of snow. They fly kites, read books, and watch the stars together until spring comes and melts the friend away. Lonely at first, the little bear discovers that in his heart, he remembered everything, and his memories help him make new friends.
The Star Gift emphasizes the rewards of kindness, and The Enchanted Tree teaches the lesson of self-esteem in a story within a story.
Falvia's rich colors are outlined with pen and ink. The illustrations completely cover the pages, yet are simply drawn and never overpower the stories.
These books are quiet-time reading for young children, best if their themes are matched with particular children who need the ideals they bring. Flavia and Lisa believe they are needed now more than ever when children are faced with adult concerns at younger and younger ages. A little hope goes a long way.
Etta Wilson is the children's book editor of BookPage.