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The Loon, the Loon/ Hatched from the Moon// Writhes out of the lake/ Like an airborne snake// He swallows a trout/ And then shakes out// A ghastly cry/ As if the sky/ Were trying to die."" This nine-line entry, though quoted here partly for its relative brevity, exemplifies some of the strengths of Hughes' poetry for children. Beginning with a catchy, seductive rhyme, he then delivers, with a momentum that readers once hooked won't break, more than the opening lines have promised. Similarly, a colloquial last word is stronger for the picture that provokes it; thus, a charge to the grizzly bear to ""laze"" and exult in his brute power ends, exactly, ""You have got it everything for nothing."" The volume abounds in immediate pleasures, and surprises us with challenges we've already taken on. Along with the deliciously spooky (""The Wendigo's tread/ Is a ghostly weight/ On top of the head. . .""), Hughes faces readers with the truly haunting, as in the opening incantation, ""Amulet."" There is humor here--on a grand, galumphing scale with ""The goofy Moose,"" bewildered by existence, who encounters another moose and stands with it, ""Two dopes of the deep woods."" Insistently, though, Hughes comes back to the blood and the screeching he seems to revel in--and here the stark Far North backdrop lends a compelling necessity to the violence (""The Eagle"" confronts us with ""an altar of blood"" and the ""gaze of a guillotine"") and a gut logic to such visions as the snowshoe hare "". . . limping after the snowstorm,/ A big, lost, left-behind snowflake/ Crippled with bandages."" Baskin's animals stare back hypnotically or face away in self-contained profile: delicate, dumb, majestic, ferocious, alert, elusive--they pick up the moods of the poems.

Pub Date: March 13th, 1981
Publisher: Viking