There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin Wesley took the risk to blossom in the story Weslandia by Paul Fleischman illustrations by Kevin Hawkes.
Wesley was a brilliant child that was tired of living in a world where everyone lives in the same style house, wears the same style clothes and hair, eats the same foods and plays the same games. Wesley is an outcast in his community. Not only is he misunderstood by his peers, but by his parents as well.
As Wesley embarks on his summer vacation he develops a brilliant concept to help him escape by creating his own civilization. Wesley began by turning the soil in his yard but he left the planting up to Mother Nature. I think this is part of his quest to accept all that there is to offer; not just corn, beans, and squash. He is different and he wants his garden to be different too. His neighbor says, “You’ll have an almighty bedlam on your hands if you don’t get those weeds out.” Wesley replied, “In this type of garden there are no weeds.” Wesley is escaping into his own civilization where there is acceptance for all. The illustrations on this page make me feel like I am right next to Wesley in the garden. I feel the emotion that is connected with accepting these unique sprouts as flowers, not weeds.
Wesley’s garden grew to enormous proportions. He was able to live off the plants that grew in his garden. He ate the fruit and drank the juice, made a hat from the woody bark, a loom from the stalks and clothes from the stalks’ soft inner fibers, suntan lotion and a mosquito repellant to keep bugs away. Now his former tormentors are curious and interested in him and his products. They are now paying ten dollars a bottle for the bug repellant. I couldn’t help but feel like I was a part of this boy’s world. Inside, I was cheering for him as he begins to transform into his own unique individual. Hawkes creates an environment of order and tranquility as Wesley becomes comfortable in the world that he has created.
Each day that passes, Wesley continues to be innovative and creative. He is able to tell time by using the stalks as a sundial and he has adopted a base eight counting system. He developed his own sports and games that are rich with strategy and have a complex scoring system. At this point, Wesley’s peers are jealous. Wesley continued to grow and learn about himself. He was finally happy with who he is as a person. His parents recognize that he is happy and realize how creative and brilliant their son really is. He has created his own eighty-letter alphabet and his own language. As the summer came to an end, Wesley went back to school feeling proud and confident. He was able to share his civilization that he had recorded with his own ink. The former tormentors are now followers, dressing like him and wishing they could be just like him.
I was able to see that this story was written from Wesley’s perspective. The end papers show Wesley’s alphabet and language. I am assuming this is his story. The title page has illustrations that tell his story through drawings and it looks like there is a sign that welcomes you to his world. Most of the pages have Wesley in the forefront and the other characters are smaller or are looking on from the distance. The bright colors on shiny paper attracted my attention to the surface of the picture, Wesley, and created a distancing affect which conveyed serenity.This book is an amazing work of art created by Fleischman and Hawkes.