Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Excited by words...

When people ask me why I am a writer I usually tell them I am hoping to replicate the joy for others that I experienced as a young reader. I spent so many very happy hours lost in the pages of a good story. I can think of no better use of my time (apart from hanging with my loved ones) than trying to create a reading experience that transports a child to somewhere fascinating, fun, exciting or all of these. But there is another reason. I am rather in love with words.

Like physicists are exploring space to understand the origins of the Universe and create a unified theory about how we and the world work at the most basic atomic level, or mathematicians look to find proof of Fermat's Theorem, I am looking to arrange and rearrange words to create another kind of magic. Despite the fact that words have been around for thousands of years, it is still possible to come up with novel combinations that make us laugh, cry, or feel a sudden enlightening. Or just give the reader a sense of hope or potential about themselves or their future.

Even when we acknowledge there are really no new plots in the world, there are still books being published that are stunning in their originality. I guess in part we are constantly incorporating all we have read, heard, and seen, and the spells in our minds must, as a result, be unique. When I write for children I am conscious of all the wonderful writing for children that has gone before me. I like to leave clues to other childhood stories, fairy tales and nursery rhymes that I have experienced and enjoyed. And I hope that maybe there are young readers out there who have come across the same children's literature that I have and perhaps they recognize my allusions and feel that little thrill of understanding that make them feel a little extra special. Or they see magic in the words and are impatient to go out and find more, to feel that thrill of all that is possible with language. Maybe...

so I was very happy to see this review of my book While You Are Sleeping for Magpies Magazine, by Trevor Agnew.

This handsome picture book explains to young readers just what goes on while they are asleep. Double page spreads show people on the other side of the world enjoying the sunshine. Meanwhile, on our side of the planet it is night. While you are sleeping night creatures wake and eat breakfast in the dark. Nocturnal birds move among the trees, while fish weave their way through black waters. People come out to work and the reader sees trucks dashing through the darkness, bakers rising from their beds, and farmers donning gumboots, while their cows queue for the dawn milking. Some of the word play is charming. While you are sleeping the moon jumps over the cows. Echoes can be heard from nursery rhymes.
Finally the narrative returns to the young sleeper. While you are sleeping your mind and body will rest and grow.
The text is printed in white lettering against the dark night-time backgrounds but it is very legible.
Greg Straight's colour illustrations are a superb evocation of the night. Magnificently stylised owls are to be seen in every picture, while the endpapers repeat the night-sky image of dark purple heavens with silver stars. The stars get their chance to shine. Each picture contains an unexpected detail for readers to seek out: mice, cats, possums and moreporks [owls].
While You Are Sleeping is a wonderful book to share with young readers, especially those who don't see why they should go to sleep.
Trevor Agnew

1 comment:

Jane Bloomfield said...

Lovely wordy post Melinda!