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In Profile: Mark Phillips & Terri Hamlin

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Long-time Friends Team Up to Write and Illustrate Children’s Book, The Cliff

By Rebecca Sontag

The Cliff, written by Mark Phillips and illustrated by Terri Hamlin, is a lovely allegorical tale rife with valuable lessons for the choosing. An old man finds himself a modest home perched high upon a cliff looking out over a pristine sea that stretches to the horizon. When the ocean breeze and brilliant sunrise fail to satisfy his hunger for happiness, he tries to buy a pleasurable life, one disposable item at a time.

Looking at the richly illustrated pages in this children’s book, one sees the detritus of modern life heaped upon itself in this ever-growing eyesore. The pile of discarded appliances, vehicles, electronics and more overtakes the cliff. It blocks the breeze and ocean view, leaving the man with nothing to look at but his discarded possessions. Though none of his belongings brought him the happiness he sought, he couldn’t bear to let any of it go. Then along comes the young mans to show the old man another way.

Author Mark Phillips says of this quiet hero, “Here’s this young man who’s just very helpful. The first time they meet, the old man sends him away because he doesn’t want help. He finds comfort in his pile of junk. But once he decides to get rid of it, he can’t do it alone. He can’t do it without accepting help.”

Just like the character in the book, Phillips needed help, too, if The Cliff was going to make it to the hands of the young children it was written for. Artist and illustrator, Terri Melia Hamlin, was the perfect partner for this collaboration.

Meeting at church and belonging to the same homeschool group, the Hamlin and Phillips families have been friends for almost 10 years. Though both families have since concluded their homeschooling journeys, their friendship has endured. In fact, Phillips’ son and Hamlin’s daughter have been dating for five years and were recently engaged. So, it was a natural and
easy arrangement when the idea for a children’s book was hatched.

Hamlin’s vibrant illustrations and thoughtful use of collage leads the reader deeper into the far corners of the story. The art demands that the viewer consider the stark contrast between the awe-inspiring grandeur of the natural world and the pile of broken junk that obstructs that which is truly beautiful. And when the always faithful and glorious rising of the sun is returned to view and the old man’s hair gets tossed about in the gentle breeze, the sense of rightness and accord can be felt. When the old man and young man sit side by side looking out at the sea, the sense of peace and contentment is clear.

Though written with young readers in mind (ages 4-8), children and adults alike will find much to appreciate in this charming story. Whether it be giving or accepting help, learning to let go of things that don’t matter, the pitfalls of insatiable consumerism, or enjoying the beauty of God’s creation in the company of others, The Cliff encourages reflection and thoughtful consideration even after the story is finished and the book is back on the shelf.

To learn more about the The Cliff, including ordering information and school visits from this author/illustrator team, please visit www.tmharts.com or
www.facebook.com/The-Cliff 117672152953625.

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