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Pittman, Al
Illustrated by Vesselina Tomova St. John's, Breakwater, 1992. 32pp, cloth, $14.95, ISBN 0-920911-64-1. CIP

Grades 1 to 4/Ages 6 to 9

Reviewed by Linda Holeman

Volume 20 Number 5
1992 October

Pittman's "salt water bird rhymes" are full of fun and nonsense, with the right amount of silliness to appeal to children. Each poem personifies one of the twenty-two feathered inhabitants of the salty wind of Newfoundland Pittman's home province from Batty Bernard Bawk to Terrible Terrence the Turr. For reference, the book also lists the coastal birds appearing in the poems. The list is comprehensive in that it gives the birds' "official" names and the names commonly used in Newfoundland, as well as any special local names.

While many of the poems are in ballad stanzas of four lines, there are a number of combinations of rhyming patterns. All possess a definite metered beat, and I realized I was humming as I read silently, and using a sing-song voice when reading them aloud.

The subject matter ranges from simple the birds' eating, sleeping and flying to the absurd:

Harold Hagdown wore blue serge
And chewed seaweed tobacco.
He was so behind the times
The youngsters thought him whacko.

Tomova's illustrations are bold and imaginative, and contain a pleasing, light-hearted humour that is well suited to the feel of the poems.

On a Wing and a Wish is a visually appealing, lively book to read to the younger child, or for the more experienced Primary reader to pick up and read on his or her own.

Linda Holeman, a former elementary teacher, now writes full time in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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