________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008


Anything But Hank!

Rachel Lebowitz & Zacharia Wells. Illustrated by Eric Orchard.
Emeryville, ON: Biblioasis, 2008.
56 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-897231-36-4.

Subject Heading:
Children's poetry, Canadian (English).

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.

Review by Sylvia Pantaleo.



Why is a baby crying for 31 consecutive days? According to an elderly pig with two black, kind eyes, the child needs a name. The swine devises a plan to take the infant to visit a wizard and his Mexican Beaded Lizard to discover the child's true name. So on a windy night with owls howling, the pig clops up to the domain of the crying baby and, with the assistance of a black cat, takes the child from the house. The child rides on the swine's back and hangs onto its ears as it trots hurriedly through the storm. On their quest, the unlikely duo travel through a mountain pass and blackened woods. They see grizzlies and Billy goats but onward to the wizard's house of toast they journey. When they reach their destination, the pig, trembling with fear, explains to the lizard that the baby has been sobbing and wailing for eight weeks because his parents have failed to name him. The wizard, with the assistance of the magical lizard and its strawberry juice, discovers the baby's name. The pig clops back to the home of the child, and in the morning the parents, who are unaware that their child has been out all night, are delighted to see the baby's name tag.

     The text of the book consists of four line stanzas featuring an ABAB rhyming scheme. Generally, the cadence of both the lines and the stanzas is even. The story of the naming of the baby is ballad-like in nature and is arranged in five sections numbered "Book the First" to "Book the Fifth." The number of stanzas on each page varies, as do the layout of the text and the illustrations. Several pages have text on the verso and a full-page bleed illustration on the recto.

internal art     Eric Orchard, a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, explained to me that his artwork generally involves a four or five step process. He usually starts with a sepia ink drawing followed by a watercolour underpainting. He then paints over everything in gouache. Eric paints on arches hot pressed paper. His illustrations both reflect and enhance the mood and events conveyed by the poem. The colours of each full-page illustration are especially effective in expressing the atmosphere of the scenes. Small details add to the quality of the artwork and the use of line in the paintings effectively conveys movement and texture.


Sylvia Pantaleo teaches courses in language arts in the Faculty of Education, the University of Victoria, in Victoria, BC.

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