A fictional scrapbook assembled by a boy, Charlie Whistler, during his summers in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. I started working on this in 2008 and finally it’s here, beautifully published by HarperCollins and illustrated by Bob Parker, Sarah Nicholls and Nancy Loeber. It’s aimed at children from 8 upwards. It’s highly browsable, but readable too. The spirit is outdoorsy, adventuresome and, I hope, generous spirited. The guiding idea that left to their own devices, children will find wonder in the world and pursue what engages them. It’s summed up in the quote from William Blake which I use to start the book: “Energy is eternal delight.” It’s when we try to trammel or dictate the paths of that energy and natural curiosity that we go so wrong. A gentle nudge or word of encouragement is all that’s required. The book is a collection of fictional letters written by the Whistler family to each other since the middle of the 19th century, and notes, advice and doodles, stuck to the refrigerator door over those decades of Adirondack summers. Omnium Gatherum is cod Latin for a place where you stick any old thing. A scrapbook, or a kitchen drawer with dead batteries, bits of string and half used ballpoint pens.
This is a photograph of my older son standing out on a dock on Bantam Lake CT, which I took on my phone a couple of years ago and seemed to sum up all I was trying to create in this book.