Creative worlds collude and collide in this contemporary rendering of a well-known 17th-century English poem.
Seldom does a book review address a book’s design, but in this visual stunner from publisher Tara, the literal setting of the words is as key to the volume’s success as are its text and illustrations. Urveti, an acclaimed artist from Madhya Pradesh in central India, chooses for his subject an oft-anthologized anonymous circa-1665 “trick” poem, depicting the wily text with ravishingly detailed black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings in a style typical of Gond tribal art. The other third of this global collaboration is Brazilian designer Yamakami’s exquisitely thoughtful setting of the 12-line poem, which highlights the reflexivity of the six couplets. The meanings of these couplets can be gleaned reading each line with the rhyme from beginning to end, or—the tricky part—against it, from the middle of one line to the middle of the next. Take, for example, the poem’s opening: “I saw a peacock with a fiery tail / I saw a blazing comet drop down hail / I saw a cloud….” Through the use of intricate die cuts, Yamakami subtly leads readers from a spread featuring a plumped-up peacock to the image of a comet with its “fiery tail” of metaphorical “hail,” then to a cloud dropping the more literal icy phenomenon. These careful cuts draw readers through the work from cover to cover, brilliantly underscoring both the poem’s dizzying, dreamlike essence and its thematic obsession with the subjective nature of seeing.
Indian folk art triumphantly meets 17th-century English trick verse in this sophisticated graphic venture fit for middle graders on up. (Picture book/poetry. 10 & up)