Sing a song of seal-folk,
A graveyard full of bones,
Cats as big as horses,
and mausoleum moans.
PRESENTING: THREE REVIEWS IN VERSE
Andrea Spalding. Seal Song. Illus. Pascal Milelli. Victoria, BC, Canada: Orca Book Publishers, 2011.
Finn, he was a fisher’s son.
Hark, hark, the seals do bark!
To the waves he’d run when work was done,
All afternoon with his finned friends to lark.
New girl, new girl, where are you from?
When I play in the sea, why don’t you come?
Fisher’s son, fisher’s son, please don’t go —
A storm’s coming soon, out there don’t row!
And now, some iambic reflections:
In medias res the story starts, right in
You swim. From scene to scene, the plot, it jumps.
Part poetry, part prose, sentences short —
Staccato waves within a pre-storm sea.
Images likewise, patchwork shades combine
In oil paint scenes somewhat abstract — a good
Effect, Enhances theme and mood. Not sure
I like the plot transitions, though. They skip
Some things I would’ve liked explained a bit.
Why doesn’t Sheila simply tell Finn why
She cannot go into the sea? Is that
Forbidden, too? Or what makes Finn sudden-
-ly change, still child but no longer seeming
To want even just one day free from work?
Overall, though, I do like Spalding’s blend
Of selkie traditions from the U.K.
And from Canada’s east and western coasts.
Her version of the rules of shape-shifting
For selkies is just like those in Seal Child,
By Sylvia Peck (inserting cross-ref here).
Janice M. Del Negro. Passion and Poison: Tales of Shape-shifters, Ghosts, and Spirited Women. Illus. Vince Natale. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2007.
There was an old woman in a house just as old.
There was a young woman with eyes ice cold.
There was a brave woman who’d take any dare,
A sweet girl who gave her cruel father a scare,
Two maidens who outwitted deadly fiancés,
A grieving mother, having lost one child, one saves.
And now, some acrostic reflections:
Witches, perhaps? Cats figure strongly in two of the tales, one
Inspired by a New England tale (see “The Newcomer,” in Mary Bolte and Mary Eastman’s Haunted New England: A Devilish View of the Yankee Past), the other unique to Del Negro.
To the wilderness they turn, some of the women, or from it they come.
Curious choice for the opening tale, not exactly a
Heroine, not exactly a sympathetic character.
Even somewhat sinister? Or is she just desperate? I’d feel somewhat
Sorry for her if it wasn’t for the hint that she’s just after his money… the man is certainly more sympathetic in Del Negro’s retelling.
Ghost stories, you could call these. Del Negro sees them as read-aloud tales — so she says in
Her author’s notes, and I can picture it.
On some crisp autumn night, by a campfire, or on a front porch,
Sitting on a quiet evening, someone
Tells the story of Rosie Hopewell and her mysterious cat, or Pearl Blacksea and the
Jackie Morris, illus. The Cat and the Fiddle: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2011.
Sing, sing, what shall I sing?
A story of blackbirds and pudding strings?
Twinkling stars and singing pie?
Or a woman whose job is to sweep clean the sky?
And now, some haiku reflections:
Rhymes like small stories
Told to entertain a child
Also to teach things
Mother Goose rhymes and the like
Others more obscure
Watercolors by Morris
Giant chickens, giant snails,
Large enough to ride
Boy and girl riding
Polar bear, all three wear crowns
Lavender and wheat
All the people’s eyes
Closed or half-closed, like dreaming
These fantastic sights