Brennan, Block City, and Three Little Boys in a Greenhouse

27 years ago I was pregnant with my 1st child.

Back then a lovely woman named Jeannie in Mill Valley, CA hired me to paint a mural in her entry way. The space was a little dark, a little awkward and it really needed a mural.

She wanted to include her three, beautiful sons in the mural, so I took lots of photos of the boys.


 The mural came out well.


The boys are either in, or looking into, a painted greenhouse.

Jeannie was solicitous of very pregnant me. She fed me a wholesome lunch everyday. Whole wheat bread sandwiches, carrots and a whole lot of milk!

When I got home I’d go back to work on my other project: illustrating Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem Block City.

“What are you able to build with your blocks?

Castles and palaces, temples and docks.

Rain may keep raining, and others may roam,

But I can be happy and building at home.”

I imagined Block City as a Wizard of Oz-type story where the “I” character is a little boy. He builds his city out of blocks.

Jeannie’s middle son became the perfect model for my little builder.


then falls asleep and visits it in his dream.


Characters from his life show up in different forms in his dream.


Finally, when his mother returns from shopping, he wakes and the city is toppled.


At the end, the city is destroyed with glee and remains only as a memory.


This book is long out of print but still dear to my heart.

Not least because not long after I finished the mural, I gave birth to my own beautiful boy.


Happy 27th Birthday, Brennan! I love you.

12 thoughts on “Brennan, Block City, and Three Little Boys in a Greenhouse

  1. Aw!!! Thanks so much for sharing an awesome story and showing how you we able to show the process of a real event brought into a story. Your murals are so very beautiful. One thing for sure that we don’t realize is how fast time flies. Enjoy the moments and capturing them forever is a beautiful talent. You have truly inspired me in continuing to write my children’s book.
    Thanks again


    • I read your comment out loud to my husband, who reminded me that he has been to Serendip. It is the old name for Sri Lanka and he was sent there by the San Francisco Chronicle to cover the aftermath of the Tsunami in 2004. He said he encountered constant serendipitous events while there.


  2. jim wright says:

    What a wonderful post, Ashley. While Block City has always been of my favorites of yours I never knew the back story of how it came to be. Make me treasure my copy all the more!


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