Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Catch a Frog: And Other Stories of Family, Love, Dysfunction, Survival, and DIY by Heather Ross

Quilters and sewists already know Heather Ross as a fabric designer; parents and librarians know her as a book illustrator. In both cases, wonderfully illustrated characters and vignettes have become her hallmark - there's a soft, yet contemporary feel to her work.

But here, Ross as a writer presents the story of her tough childhood growing up poor in Vermont. Much about that growing-up has shaped her illustrations, and the book is liberally sprinkled with art too. The more you know about her life, the clearer her art becomes.

That said, the book stands on its own two feet. It's a good read - sad, but not syrupy or begging for sympathy. It reminded me quite a bit of "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls about her nontraditional and frankly neglectful youth in the Southwestern desert.

Most of Ross' childhood was spent living in an uninsulated schoolhouse in the wild woods with her mother and sister. They stoked a wood stove for heat and food was never her mother's priority for their lean funds. Later in life when she complained to her mother about her childhood without, her mother scoffed and told her she'd gained plenty of stories from the experience.

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