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Lee, John B.

Illustrated by Michel Binette. Coldstream (Ont.), Brick Books, c1986. 88pp, paper, $7.50, ISBN 0-919626-30-0. CIP

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Pat Bolger

Volume 15 Number 1
1987 January

Readers who grew up on a farm, or whose childhood included visits to a farm, will remember a man like Tom, the subject of Lee's sequence of poems and brief prose pieces. He is ignorant, touchy, and vain, cantankerous in old age, and yet truly part of the family (the term "hired hand" occurs only in the title, never in the text). Fifteen short prose pieces, under the heading "The Well," provide a counterpoint to the fifty poems, suggesting child abuse as the cause of Tom's lack of intellectual development. There is an obvious similarity to Robert Frost, and some of these poems would partner very effectively with Frost's "Death of the Hired Man." Lee's tone is distinctively his own, though, notably in apt images:

the sun is there
eating the darkness out of the corners
like a dog with its face
shoved in an empty ice cream box.

Beyond its obvious usefulness as a resource for English classes, there is excellent material here for discussions of child abuse and the problems of aging. Special education students who shared some of the poems gave a favourable verdict ("not bad"). Recommended for high school libraries, it should also prove very useful with adult patrons in public libraries.

Pat Bolger, Renfrew C.I., Renfrew. Ont.
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