Hello, friends. It’s been only a few months since I last blogged about bookish serendipity, but it’s something that seems to happen fairly often at our house. In our most recent instance, Nick came downstairs one weekend morning with a slightly dazed expression and said, “Have I been a while? I got sucked into a really great poem by Carol Ann Duffy.” I was going to ask him about it, but then life (children, house guest, the inarguable necessity of producing breakfast immediately) intervened.
Later that day, however, we went to a bookstore. Nick’s mum wanted to buy each of the children a gift, and I plucked this one from the shelf: The Tear Thief by Carol Ann Duffy, with illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli. It seemed like it was meant to be.
I’ll state my reservations right up front. I didn’t love the cover, although the glowing lights are very compelling. And I’m still a bit squeamish about the super-sentimental, lollipop-model-girl illustrations. Here’s an example:
It’s all a bit airbrushed for me. Maybe that’s okay because it creates a tension within the book: Duffy’s words don’t idealize the existence of tears, although she offers a lyrical explanation as to where they all go. Still, I’d prefer images that don’t present small children as Bratz Lite.
But the words! Don’t listen to me; listen to Duffy. “A light rain began to fall, orange under the street lights. The Tear Thief worked hard. She stole the oddly long tears of a boy who had trapped his finger in a flute. She stole the tiny tears of a baby having her nappy changed. Into the sack: the tears shed by a pair of twins fighting over an orange teddy bear. Into the sack: two pear-shaped tears from the sly cheeks of a boy who’d been caught telling a lie about a big hole in his trousers.” I love the way the passage begins slowly, dreamily, then accelerates. I love the deft choice of details.
And I adore this description of moonlight: “The girl saw the light of the moon in her garden, turning the leaves on the trees to silver. Beyond that, she saw the light of the moon on the rooftops of all the houses, like honey. A midnight cat walked along a wall and the light of the moon made its eyes burn gold. The whole town moon-bathed as it slept. The river lay on its back and gazed up at the moon, dazzled and lovesick.”
When I read a passage like that, I uncurl with satisfaction (and feel a stab of envy). It’s absolutely thrilling to share language like that with my children. I hope that one day, they too will get sucked into great poems and wander downstairs, slightly dazed, to tell me about them.
How about you, readers? Are there particular books or passages that make you sigh with pleasure (or writhe with envy, or both)?