CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There are certain people whose gifts are so numerous, one can only stand back and marvel at them. Charleston singer, songwriter, graphic artist, poet, teacher and writer Colleen Anderson is such a person.
Now add novelist to her list of accomplishments, for Colleen's first chapter book for young readers, "Missing: Mrs. Cornblossom," has recently been published by Quarrier Press. "Mrs. Cornblossom" is a story told with such warmth and charm, it seems an ideal candidate for reading aloud.
Anderson's book is a story about journeys. It's a story about friends and neighbors who play porch music together on warm spring nights and bake gingerbread on winter afternoons. Most of all, it's a story about love and loss and how we bear up when someone dear to us goes away.
Those familiar with the Charleston landscape will recognize locales such as Arlington Court and a certain woodland trail leading to a mansion on a hill, though Anderson has transformed this everyday world into a place of wonder.
As the book begins, an elderly eccentric named Toothbucket wonders what has become of his beloved friend Mrs. Cornblossom. Only Cocobean the cat has observed Mrs. Cornblossom stealing away in the early light of dawn. When a short, rotund man named Inchbald moves into Mrs. Cornblossom's house, Toothbucket, along with his 10-year-old neighbors, Caleb, Nell and Ed, welcome him to Arlington Court.
In short chapters told from alternating points of view, each resident provides a glimpse into their tightly-bound community. The story deals with serious themes -- death and loss and healing, but never in a grim fashion. Rather, Anderson ties these inevitabilities to cycles of the natural world -- the change of seasons and the glories the earth provides, showing how these wonders sustain her characters as they come to terms with their friend's disappearance. There is a touch of magic in Mrs. Cornblossom's fate, leaving readers with a mystical and satisfying conclusion.
On her website, Colleen calls her book "a love song to her neighborhood," and certainly, song is an appropriate word for the text sings with her graciously-observed metaphors and similes. Her poet's eye is bound to spark young minds to the marvelous possibilities of the English language.
"Missing: Mrs. Cornblossom" is available from West Virginia Book Company and Taylor Books and will soon be available online in both print and ebook versions.
Sarah Sullivan is the author of "Passing the Music Down" (Candlewick, 2011). She holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts and may be reached at sarahgle...@gmail.com.