My friend Catherine Griffiths illustrated In Mr. Handsome’s Garden. It was a magical collaboration and was marked that way from the beginning.
In the winter leading up to the idea for the book – a quick dialogue between a cat and a goat – I was occupied with three things: taking care of my business clients, gardening and waiting for something to come.
By the spring – which starts sprouting in March here in North Carolina – things were beginning to change. The ground was soggy. The birds were back. Things I’d planted in the fall were setting up to bloom. And on the best nights, it was becoming warm enough to sleep with windows open.
On one of those nights I was in bed trying to sleep, but mostly enjoying the outside air and listening to the garden. And in the small hours – like 2 or 3 o’clock – The Little Prince came through the open window and laid across my back. I remember feeling him like a thin, light spirit settled on me like light. I think I fell asleep that way.
But here’s the magical thing …
Two months later, in May, I visited Catherine several times in Toronto. She read the six or eight pieces I’d written at that point, we discussed the book and she committed herself to illustrating it. A few weeks later, we had a serious conversation over the phone about how to illustrate the book. “In what style?” as Catherine put it – a question I hadn’t thought about. After laying out some options, she suggested a naive style like that in The Little Prince.
Now that is magical. Not only how it happened, but that it happened at all. The naive style of The Little Prince became the stylistic concept for In Mr. Handsome’s Garden. Then Catherine contemporized and personalized it to suit – I’d say enchant – readers and children today. Would you not say this is a “meant to be?”