It’s a winter wonderland and Kikko’s father goes to Grandma’s to shovel. Seeing that he forgot the pie, Kikko hurries after him, through the woods, following his tracks in the snow. When she spots a figure ahead in a coat and hat, she calls out ‘Papa’ and runs to catch up, but she falls, crushing the pie and wanting to cry. The figure enters a strange house and Kikko peers inside where she discovers that the figure is not her father at all – it’s a bear! Led by a lamb, Kikko enters the house and a group of finely dressed animals greet her warmly and invite her to tea. The animals assemble a new pie with pieces from theirs and accompany Kikko through the woods to Grandmother’s house.
Kikko’s world is a textured black charcoal one with splashes of yellow and red – perhaps a nod to Little Red Riding Hood.
In the 70’s, environmental psychologist, Roger Hart studied what children do in natural settings by tracking and mapping 86 kids, ages 3 to 12, in a small Vermont town for 2.5 years. He found that the kids had far-reaching freedom. Several years ago, Hart went back to the town and tracked the kids’ kids. He found that they didn’t leave their properties. The town was no more dangerous than it was 40 years prior; only the parents’ fear had changed. (‘World With No Fear’, Invisibilia – NPR).
The Tea Party in the Woods viscerally evokes the childhood emotions associated with stepping out into the world by yourself: the anticipation, the despair in failure, the fear and shyness among the unknown, and the pride of success. This beautiful book is a reminder of how instrumental in our young lives these emotions are.