Some books offer a chance to escape, while others provide space for contemplation and reflection. It’s the rare book that does both. Bursting with insight, Shawn Harris’ Have You Ever Seen a Flower? transforms a trip to the mountains into a spirited voyage into our very consciousness.
The book begins with a tiny, colorful child, the only pop of brightness amid an intricate graphite city. Buildings tower around her, looming and glum. When the girl gets in a car and travels down a dark road away from the city, gray buildings give way to white emptiness before the book explodes with color. The vibrant hues that once gilded only the girl now surround her, with fields of warm-toned flowers and triangular mountains filled with all the shades of the rainbow. The illustrations grow and bloom surrealistically, as outstretched arms become the leaves of flowers, reaching toward the sun, and a drop of blood from a pricked finger becomes a meadow of crimson blossoms.
All the while, Harris addresses readers directly in a series of wide-eyed observations and imaginative questions. “Have you ever seen a flower using nothing but your nose? Breathe deep . . . what do you see?” His language is playful and sprinkled with subtle moments of alliteration and assonance.
Composed of sweeping colored pencil strokes, Harris’ art has a simplicity that belies its expert use of negative space and perspective. The illustrations don’t just carry the book’s narrative; they also deliver a beautiful metaphor as Have You Ever Seen a Flower? builds to an astonishing, all-encompassing declaration of connectedness: We are all flowers.
Have You Ever Seen a Flower? is an invitation to pause and take a moment to feel, imagine and experience the worlds around us and inside us. Its joy, color and hopefulness will ignite the imagination of anyone lucky enough to experience its magic.