I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but I love picture books. Super-detailed, nature-inspired, Beatrix-Potter-esque ones especially. So I expected to like the Brambly Hedge books, which are pretty much the definition of “super-detailed, nature-inspired, and Beatrix-Potter-esque”. I actually worried that they’d be too much like Beatrix Potter, and I’d waste an evening reading rip-offs.
Luckily for me, Brambly Hedge isn’t a rip-off. It’s more cutesy, and not as dark as, say, The Tale of Mr. Todd, where a bunch of baby rabbits are kidnapped and stuffed into a stove. But the books are full of details about life in the hedge. The mice run a dairy mill and a flour mill, work paw-driven looms, and dig interconnected tunnels between their houses when it snows. It’s all incredibly accurate, and apparently the author/illustrator, Jill Barklem, spent years researching old agricultural practices to make sure she got the details right.
The illustrations are also incredibly detailed--and delicious. They’re too many pies, cakes, and puddings to count, and I think the food actually ended up being my favorite part of the whole book. I mean, how can you resist descriptions like these?
“Mrs. Crustybread baked a huge hazelnut cake with layers of thick cream, and Wilfred’s mother decorated it. Mrs. Apple made some of her special primrose puddings.”
“All the kitchens along Brambly Hedge were warm and busy. Hot soups, punches and puddings bubbled, and in the ovens pies browned and sizzled.”
And yes, it’s always the girl mice who end up doing the cooking, but I almost don’t care because if I could move to Brambly Hedge, I would.
The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge includes the first four books in the series and an interview with Jill Barklem, where she talks about her inspirations and creative process. It’s perfect for curling up with after a tough week (like I did) or if you’re looking for a book that makes you hungry. If you like picture books, I can almost guarantee you’ll fall in love with this one.