Diane Prather: 'The Flower Man' has unexpected ending

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Diane Prather

Diane Prather's columns appear in the Craig Daily Press and Saturday Morning Press. You can call her at 824-8809.

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"The Flower Man"

A primary or main story and several secondary stories within the main story - that's what readers will find in this week's picture book.

All that, and it's a wordless book, too.

The illustrations in Mark Ludy's "The Flower Man" are so detailed that the book is guaranteed to appeal to children and adults. I know that I enjoyed studying the illustrations, and so did the other adults with whom I shared the book.

The reader first meets the flower man on the book's cover. He's standing on a cobbled street, surrounded by some crooked buildings. A street sign bears Mark Ludy's name.

A person can't help but be drawn to the little man. He has big brown eyes, and even his gray mustache can't hide a great big smile. The man's little brown dog seems to be staring at a daisy-like flower that bobs along at the top of the man's hat. The flower man holds a brown bag in one hand and an umbrella in the other.

(A note here: "The Farmer," also by Ludy and reviewed in the last Prather's Pick, featured Squeakers, a mouse. He's in this book, too, and although he is supposed to be on each page, he's difficult to see.)

Each illustration in the book, except at the end, takes up two pages. The illustrations in the book's beginning are done in shades of black and gray. Only the flower man, his dog, Squeakers, the street lights and the sky are in color. That's because the old man has come to a town that is colorless. Its townspeople are unhappy.

The flower man follows the street to a small rundown cottage with a "For Sale" sign on the untended lawn. It's the man's new home.

The cottage is dwarfed by surrounding apartment buildings where the people live. Some live at the very tip tops of the buildings.

The people come and go on the streets, and they're in their apartments, visible to the reader through open windows. The reader gets to know them all. There's the Wishing Boy, the Bathtub Man, the Thief, the Lover, the Uninspired Artist, the Snobs, and many more. As the story begins, the people are all colorless.

It takes a lot of looking on the part of the reader to discover all of the individual stories. And that's what makes this book so unique and fun.

Meantime, everyone takes notice as the flower man fixes up the cottage. He paints, re-hangs shutters, mows and waters the lawn, and finally plants flowers. Now the cottage, tree above it, and the yard are also in color.

The flowers bloom. The old man shares them with the townspeople. Lives change, and more and more of the illustrations are in color.

There's a lesson to be learned from this book, and it has an unexpected ending.

The teacher side of me sees this book used in a classroom assignment (perhaps even in middle school) during which kids write stories about the individual people.

I absolutely love this book.

Published by Green Pastures Publishing, Inc. (2005), "The Flower Man" costs $16.95 in hardcover. The book also can be found at the Moffat County Library. ISBN 0-9664276-4-5

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