The Seven Towers of Wonder

Seven volumes written by master storyteller Bill Gordh and published by Thornwillow Press (forthcoming 2010). Each volume showcases one of the traditional virtues: Courage, Hope, Justice, Faith, Wisdom, Temperance (or Prudence) and Love. Seven stories—one familiar and the rest chosen from folktales around the world—illustrate each virtue.

The seven volumes are tied together by an overarching story. Possum and Raccoon are two friends who live in the Clearing in the middle of Thornwillow Woods. They walk a different path each day and collect seven different stories for their king and queen. As they go, they talk about the stories they hear and what they learn from them. They take each day’s tales and build them into a seven ‘story’ tower on their return to the Clearing.

The illustrations are conceived following Walter Crane’s idea that all parts of a book should be visually connected. The illustrations, taken together, are meant to encourage the reader to read ‘backwards and forwards.’ In other words, readers are meant to read and re-read over and over again; to read a portion of the book and look at its pictures—to remember earlier parts hinted at in the current portion and pictures—and then to go back and reread those earlier parts—and to get more out of the book upon each re-reading. Even very young children can do this with the pictures, expanding their visual memory and intelligence while enjoying the stories with their parents.

In order to promote this sort of complex reading and re-reading, the seven volumes are provided with a variety of visual features that anticipate and review the contents.

The first feature is a large illustrated map which summarizes all of the stories and the journeys which collect them through a series of tiny pictures. Before experiencing the whole series, the reader will want to know what all these enticing pictures are—they will find out as they read through the volumes—and then return and remember what the map is all about after having read all the stories.

In addition to the overall map, each volume has its own individual endpaper map that summarizes its stories. Title pages anticipate the major characters in each of the stories in the volume; large foldout Tower plates at the end of each volume summarize the stories that have just been read.

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