Have You Ever Seen a Flower?

h1 April 8th, 2021 by jules

” … seen a flower?”
(Click spread to enlarge)


Wanna look with me at some spreads from Shawn Harris’s Have You Ever Seen a Flower?, coming to shelves next month from Chronicle Books? It will wake you right up, this book suffused with joy and wonder. The book’s electric colors may even negate your need for coffee this morning.

Let’s take a look. …

First off, this is a lovingly designed book, so don’t rush through it. Remove the dustjacket for the glorious cover art underneath. Dive into those endpapers for a moment. Take a moment on the title page spread to note that all of these illustrations, every bit of them, were created with pencil (the opening spreads) and colored pencil (all the rest of them).

The first couple of spreads depict a massive city in grayscale. A young child is our only tiny spot of color on the bottom left corner of the verso. She runs to a car. Next to her is a flower pot, one we’d seen her watering on the title page spread. Her dog is always by her side.

“Have you ever seen a flower?” we read, as we watch her head down the road in the car. “I mean really . . .” Here, we see her destination — hills in various shades of neon colors. These vivid, sun-infused illustrations dominate the rest of the book. The girl races with her dog into a field of flowers.

And I pause here. I don’t want to give away the experience of reading this book. It’s enough to say that this engaging text, regularly prompting readers with questions, is about much more than really seeing a flower (oh, and imagining what inhabits it!). It also takes a bit of an existential turn, involving the prick of a finger and a drop of blood, and asks readers about “the brilliant color of your life.” There is one especially triumphant spread (“Do you feel yourself growing? Do you feel yourself stretching toward the sun …?”) in which the girl spreads her arms wide and gives what looks like a yawp of joy. Afterwards, Harris asks readers: Have you really and truly ever been a flower and, if so, “would you remember?”

To describe these as thought-provoking questions is, as you can see, an understatement. This is a conversation-starter, a book to sink into and a book whose questions will swirl in the minds of readers long after it’s closed. It’s also an ode to nature, to life itself. It’s an exuberant reminder to walk away from our screens and sink our toes into the grass.

And, o! the art! The textures; the brilliant, intense palette; and what Harris does with negative space here to keep the compositions from being too busy and to allow our eyes to breathe a moment — visually, it’s quite stunning.

Here are some spreads, but this is one you really want to hold in your hands. I hope you can find a copy and do so.


“Have you ever seen a flower using nothing but your nose?
Breathe deep … what do you see?”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“And did you wonder, if you wandered down between its golden colulmns
and into its corridors, who you might meet?”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“Now sip a drip of water, and stand very still.
Feel it slip and trickle all the way down to your roots.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A FLOWER? Copyright © 2021 by Shawn Harris. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

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