In their illustrated book of children’s poetry, Childers and Buck present new takes on old parables, set to rhyme.
Using various rhyme schemes, Childers retools a selection of aged fables, sometimes hewing close to the original and other times taking his own tack. For instance, "The Emperor’s New Clothes," “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “The Three Pigs” are presented as direct descendants of the old chestnuts, while the story of Icarus is a more distant relative (deploying an eagle and a tortoise). Whichever approach taken, Childers’ work is clever and (often darkly) comedic. Couplets predominate—“‘Whoa!’ said Frog, ‘Ya think I’m daft? / To use my body for a raft, / and haul a cargo such as you, / one quick stick could kill us two!’”—but Childers is not bound to the form when two, three, five or more lines are needed. He also implements internal rhyme to catch the ear (“Sun said, ‘Just because you topple trees, / and freeze lost Bees below their knees, / does not make you a bloomin’ czar’”) and varies the tempo and highlights the story’s turn. The writing is brisk, never forced or overpacked, and, best of all, it’s never scolding; these may be words to the wise, important lessons that readers should always keep in the back of their minds—“many of these seemingly capricious parables contained messages, valuable recipes for surviving in society and the physical world,” says Childers in his foreword—but they are administered with a spoonful of honey rather than fish oil. Though the tales are relatively straightforward, Childers has snuck in a teaser—“There was a Tasmanian Devil, / who, when spinning, made everything level. / It’s from ambition, I fear, / he spun up his own ear, / and now that / poor Devil / is level / !”—but for each tale Childers has provided, at the end, a short rhyme that interprets the lesson in bell-clear terms. Each of these single-page tales is accompanied by a piece of Buck’s artwork—snappy color illustrations that get right to the essence of things.
A jaunty lot of advice, sound as ever and told with good cheer.