‘Books in Bloom’ at Norwell art center on Mother’s Day weekend

“Open” by Andre Agassi, illustrated by Kristina Murphy of Norwell. Arrangers chose their books and flowers.
James Library
“Open” by Andre Agassi, illustrated by Kristina Murphy of Norwell. Arrangers chose their books and flowers.

Norwell gardener Laurie Detwiler chose “The Hunger Games” to illustrate with flowers because the best-selling dystopian fantasy by Suzanne Collins is a book with such strong visual imagery.

Elements of the main character’s coal-mining home, her symbol of the arrow, and colors that evoke the novel will figure in the floral arrangement Detwiler is preparing for “Books in Bloom” at the James Library and Center for the Arts. A biennial event at the James Library, the show consists of artistic interpretations of literary works chosen by more than 30 South Shore artists and gardeners. The exhibit stretches over all three floors of the landmark Victorian building in Norwell Center, transforming the James Library into an artistic greenhouse of highly individual floral arrangements.

Inspired by the renowned “Art in Bloom” event hosted by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the event consists of an opening reception on Friday night and visiting hours on Saturday. Children’s books, young adult books, classics, new bestsellers such as The Hunger Games,” and quirky favorites will receive floral homages at this year’s show, including Boston favorite “Make Way for Ducklings,” fantasy novel “The Night Circus,” Monique Truong’s novel “The Book of Salt,” Pearl Buck’s classic “The Good Earth,” and Indian novelist Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things.”


“Books in Bloom” is a great way to launch Mother’s Day weekend, the show’s organizers say, especially for people who love books and flowers,.

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“It’s perfect for moms and kids and daughters,” said event publicist Michelle McGrath. Visitors can get involved by discussing their favorites and voting for the People’s Choice Award winner.

Friday’s opening reception is an elegant night out, offering food and drink that’s “a little more high-end than in the past,” McGrath said.

The arrangers choose their book and use flowers, plant material, and small pieces in other media to illustrate themes and imagery from their book.

“To me it’s just one more form of art,” said Joan Sewall of Duxbury, an artist and potter who will illustrate the 1997 novel “The God of Small Things.” You read the book, Sewall said last week, and then your mind takes off on its own channels.


Attracted to the possibilities of “small things,” Sewall is looking for “very tiny” flowers that will survive the exhibit period and plans to visit to the Boston Flower Exchange. “The title is conducive to an interesting floral illustration. It stirred my curiosity,” she said.

“I have a flat, carved board that looks like an eye of the Buddha, so there’s my ‘god,’ ” she said. The flowers will come in small multiple arrangements.

Sewall also donated two of her works, a tall clay vessel and a photo of The Garden in the Woods in Framingham, to the event’s raffle.

John Holmes of Norwell, who traveled to China and was attracted to the country’s art, people, and flower arrangements, will illustrate “The Good Earth,” Buck’s saga of social disruptions in early-20th-century China.

“Chinese arrangements are, more or less, simple — simple rather than massive,” Holmes said. He is planning on using chrysanthemums in a single color to evoke that quality.


“I just enjoy doing the arrangements,” he said. “I use what I have in the yard, such as ivy. A lot of people won’t dare do that, but I do.”

Before the hoopla generated by the recent movie version of “The Hunger Games,” the first book of a trilogy in which teenagers fight to the death to win food for their village, Detwiler was persuaded by a 12-year-old to read the books.

“I read them. I loved them,” she said last week. For her, the book is not about the fear and violence of a desperate struggle to survive. “For me, the series is about hope, hope overcoming the odds.”

A member of the North River Gardeners, a small garden club in Norwell, her garden currently has lilac, scilla, and bleeding heart in bloom. Given its name, “bleeding heart” is a possibility for her book, Detwiler acknowledged. But like Sewall, she plans a visit to Boston’s large flower market.

Saturday’s “Books in Bloom” exhibition occurs in conjunction with a couple of other Norwell Center community events. The North River Gardeners’ annual plant sale at the Cushing Center, 673 Main St., and the First Parish Church Spring Fair, at 24 River St., both take place on Saturday.

Norwell Center wants to make sure there’s no excuse not to take Mom somewhere.

“Books in Bloom”

James Library and Center for the Arts, 24 West St., Norwell

Friday reception, 6- to p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

$22; $20 in advance for reception; Saturday free; 781-659-7100

Robert Knox can be reached at