Written for Young Adults and older, this magical story about Canadian artist Emily Carr is based on a blend of fantasy and fact. It starts with her beloved trees. The trees call her “the little rebel” and predict that her desire to live in the human realm will make her life difficult. As an innate tree soul, she will not understand human society but neither will she remember her true origins. Her dearest wish is to become a painter. Emily’s life is a fable of courage and tenacity. As an art teacher, one of her favourite sayings was “SCRAPE!” Whenever her pupils heard her say this, they knew that she meant them to begin all over again. Emily was never afraid to do this herself. The story explores the many different beginnings that she made on her life’s journey, eventually to find her own unique style of painting, and to re-discover her tree soul. The text is richly informed by Emily’s own writings and further fleshed out with stories from the First Nations of Canada’s West Coast. The character of Raven is drawn from one of these stories. He is the one who reaches out to Emily when she is at her lowest ebb. He takes her to the place where only dreamers can go. Her spirit is revived and her paintings are filled with a new energy. Her last paintings of the forest of British Columbia are a luminous dance of brush strokes that weave together a panoply of trunk, foliage and lIght.
This book is a wonderful educational tool. As one High School teacher put it, “There are so many overtones and imbedded symbolism on themes of understanding, appreciation of differences, obstacles to overcome, strength, persistence and feminism. I really think it would be a great fit for our junior English classes.”