Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Treehouse Heroines: Miss Suzy and Miss Twiggley

My mother did a very good thing by subscribing to the Parents magazine book club when I was a kid. Every once in awhile I come across one of these wonderful books at a garage sale and smile. Two of my favorites, Miss Suzy by Miriam Young with illustrations by Arnold Lobel and Miss Twiggley's Tree by Dorothea Warren Fox, have been reprinted by Purple House Press, a publisher that revives long-lost but well-loved children's books. (Look in the Bargain Basement! They're both available for $8.96!) Both books feature independent females who live in trees. Miss Suzy might have been a loner, and Miss Twiggley was definitely unconventional and eccentric, but they were heroines because of their tenacity, kindness, acceptance and generosity. (I have to wonder what it is about this treehouse theme that resonated so much with me. Do I subconciously dream of drinking tea out of acorn cups? Of sharing a treehouse with bears? )

Acorn-gathering time always makes me think of Miss Suzy, a squirrel who created a (cozy!) home for herself in a tall oak tree.

The illustration in Miss Suzy that I admired most shows her alone and unafraid in her treehouse with her firefly lamps, gazing up at a peaceful starry sky.

She lived alone and baked for herself.

Oh I love to cook
I love to bake
I think I'll make an acorn cake.

When Miss Suzy is threatened by mean bandit squirrels, she relocates and shares her new home with some toy soldiers, who later kick the bandits out of her house and save the day.

Funny Miss Twiggley lived in a tree
With a dog named Puss
And a color TV
She did what she liked
And she liked what she did
But when company came.....Miss Twiggley hid!

Miss Twiggly was, as I was in early childhood, painfully shy.

When a terrible flood drives everyone in town up into her treehouse, ("There's room for you all, Miss Twiggley cried. "Come up where it's warm! Come up and be dried.")

she's forced to interact with her neighbors in generous and forgiving ways. Seeing the wet villagers up in her tree all dried off playing games and drinking tea gave me such a feeling of comfort and coziness.

In the new edition of Miss Twiggley, Dorothea Warren Fox talks about what she saw one day when she felt sad about seeing an abandoned treehouse that her son had built on her once-lively property:
" I looked out of the window. How quiet it was. Nothing moved, but wait..What was that? A man was walking in the shadow of bushes by the brook! He was a very big man, coming from the direction of our neighbor's house. My friend Mr. Francis Chapleau, a kind New York City firefighter, walked across the meadow and climbed the tree. He took his time going over the tree house, looking out of every window. When he came to the rope swing, he tested it and then swung out like a big bird against the sky. When I saw his pipe still in his mouth, I burst out laughing, thinking, "When the children are away, the grownups play!"

If there are any little ones in your life, I'd be willing to bet that both of these books would make a lasting impression. And I'd love to know what books made a lasting impression on you as a child.


Joanne said...

I loved The Story About Ping, the little duck who lived on a boat on the Yangtze River. Great illustrations you posted!

edward said...

i like being read to. i like the books of edward eager (the thyme garden, half magic, the well wishers) it's neat how the characters in one book are sometimes younger or older incidental characters in the background of another book, like parallel worlds.

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Anonymous said...

Your site brought a huge smile to my face and a very happy feeling to my heart! I owned both Miss Suzy and Miss Twiggleys Tree as a child and my mother read them to me often! I am 45 yrs old and still have my copy of Miss Twiggleys Tree. The cover is gone and the pages are bent, but it is one of my most cherished possessions from when I was a kid. I read it to my children often! I'm not sure where my copy of Miss Suzy ended up but I'm so glad to find out that it's still available to purchase.