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From the Mind's Eye

From the Mind's Eye

This post is written by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, author of Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White, illustrated by Eva Campbell

Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White is an honest expression of thoughts growing from conversation between a mother and daughter walking through a charming Canadian landscape.

The geography of the land is so novel to the immigrant mother that she exerts care and caution even on a casual walk. Her stepping into footprints “ready-made” in the snow is a metaphor for her hesitations, for her fear of the new. She finds security in the idea that a path set by forebearers is most likely to be safe and trustworthy.

A girl and her mother walk through the snow.

Her daughter, on the other hand, glides with elegant ease on slippery ice. (Slipping on ice acts as a metaphor for life’s uncertainties.) The girl has an independent streak of mind. She lets go of the known (her mother’s hand) and goes along with the flow. She simply enjoys the everyday without any preconceived ideas.

The mother’s intimidation is the child’s happy invitation. When the mother says “Do as you like”, she may sound admonishing, but to my mind she is also secretly admiring her daughter’s carefree attitude. In a strange sense, the mother wants to partake in the fun while still holding on to what she has left behind. Her daughter’s eager enthusiasm energizes her, and the contagion of joy slowly spreads.

The child singularly loves the snow, and she can discern the spectrum of hues on a cloudy afternoon. She enlightens her mother’s spirit by discovering something colorful and cheerful in every minutia of her mother’s monochromatic — and at times myopic — observations. She seems frivolous in her merry ways, but is quite resolute in the obvious realities. Her internal affirmation comes alive in her emphatic declaration “This is home” in the center pages of the book. The juxtaposition of images on that spread is a classic. Eva’s vibrant and versatile illustrations swing the text to action. You can almost feel the wind as it gusts through the subsequent pages.

The characters in this story grew and morphed in their own ways over a long course of time, since their initial inception on my walk back home from kindergarten. It was personally enriching to imagine and watch the child’s character mature in such gentle and layered ways.

It is heartening to intuit that an imprint of white dollops falling from the joyful scoop of a child’s hands will sparkle like “fireworks” in a reader’s (especially in an adult reader’s) mind. I assume that picture books are most likely read by parents too, and I hope there are some takeaways for everyone.

The concepts in Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White are lesser-explored concepts in children’s literature. They may have more appeal to an immigrant family, but I think all readers can come together (like the two in the story) in their appreciation of contrasting perspectives, particularly in acknowledging the ideas of young family members.

In the end, it is the child’s cheer that warms the senses. Home is where the family is, and the heart always rejoices in that sense of belonging. When the heart is content and the mind is open, the eyes begin to see the array of possibilities — the splendid scatter of shades in a single speck of white.

A reading with Saumiya:

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