Out in the Country
Judy Pedersen’s ”pictorial memoir” of her childhood Out in the Country, makes an unusual picture book for young readers. Instead of a story, it’s an artist’s version of a family snapshot album.
When Pedersen was a small girl, her family moved from Brooklyn to a little New England town where they spent their first summer building a house on land given to them by Pedersen’s grandparents. In simple, vivid prose, she recollects the exciting highlights of house building. The children help to measure the dimensions of the house with string; the uncles pile stones for the foundation; the spruce framing goes up, and ”we could see the clouds and stars through the openings.”
Though adults may remember the hassle and horrors of construction differently, Pedersen’s child’s-eye view is wonderfully romantic. There’s a tinge of magic in creating a home where nothing stood before. The strangeness and delight show through in Pedersen’s memories of the pure morning light on the treetops, or the way a ”hat” for the house was woven from cedar shingles.
Pedersen’s nostalgic, faintly blurred illustrations, like the text, achieve their impact through understatement. Each pastel drawing is bordered in white like a snapshot and set against a black album page. They’re like fragments of sensory memory, frozen in time: A bird nibbles on blackberries while the little girl peers through the brambles; a whole page of ripe golden peaches glows like globes of sunshine.
The simplicity and restraint of this memoir leave breathing room for a small child’s imagination. The pictures resonate with the unstated happiness of a family working together all summer to build a home. A