Monday, January 29, 2007

Reader's Diary #224- Ellen Bryan Obed (Author) and Shawn Steffler (Illustrator): Wind In My Pocket

I've been reading Wind In My Pocket to my kids for a while, and it's been an oversight not to have blogged about it until now.

Strongly influenced by Newfoundland, Labrador and the Quebec North Shore, I have an obvious bias for this collection. However, I'd love these poems regardless.

As a book of children's poems, Ellen Bryan Obed employs the usual tactics to capture the attention of the young reader; rhymes, varied and (usually) upbeat rhythms, alliteration and occasional humour. But what sets Obed apart from the majority of children's poets, is her lack of condescension. I find it so frustrating when poets dumb down their work for younger readers. Children are supposed to have the richest imaginations yet try to find figurative language in most children's poems and all you get is some inane junk about getting toes stuck in your nose.
Obed's poems are bursting with figurative language. Picked almost at random, check out these lines:
"Ribbons of sunlight,/Ribbons of seaweed" - from "Ribbon Seller's Song"

"when there's a fragrant breeze/ and a ripening sky." - from "Let's Sing of

"In goose-down fields/ we leave our tracks/ while black-crow cliffs/ look down our backs." - from "Winter Journey"

"Gently the sun/ with steady eye/ whittled at winter/ from the sky." - from
"Sky Carver"

Metaphors, beautiful imagery, and even anthropomorphism. Great, intelligent poetry for young and old alike.
In terms of illustrations, Steffler's work doesn't really appeal to me personally. I will grant however, that they have a unique style that some might like. I do appreciate when a book offers up illustrations that are interesting and not run-of-the-mill.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Those do sound like beautiful poems. Your kids are so lucky that you care about language so much and that you want them to have that same love. That's so great!

John Mutford said...

Believe it or not, I just wanted to expose my kids to all sorts of interests. My wife and I were worried that we'd just end up boxing them into some sort of artsy world that they really weren't interested in. Even though we're not athletic, we didn't want that avenue closed to them. However, yes, they are quickly showing a love of books and of language in general. In one sense it's a relief, it'd be a tough house to grow up in if you didn't like literature! (Music, too!)