________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 38 . . . . June 5, 2015


The Raven.

Edgar Allan Poe. Illustrated by Yunai Pery.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2014.
72 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-897476-99-4.

Grade 12 and up / Age 17 and up.

Review by Elizabeth Marshall.

* /4



Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...

Published in 1845 in the New York Evening Mirror, "The Raven", by American author Edgar Allan Poe, has been illustrated by numerous artists, most notably John Tenniel (1858) and Gustave Doré (1884). Yanai Pery illustrates this contemporary large-format picture book version of Poe's narrative poem. In "The Raven," Poe tackles questions of insanity, love and loss, and the supernatural. The narrator's memories of, and grief about, his one true love, Lenore, come to the fore when a mysterious talking raven appears at his house in the middle of the night.

internal art      Although Perry's raucous and colorful illustrations could be said to capture the psyche of the tortured narrator, they also detract from, rather than complement, the text. Pery conceives the narrator as less human than comic book or monstrous character, who wears garish pajamas of green triangles, yellow circles and orange squares. The narrator's round bald head, large sunken eyes sockets, and toothy mouth, as well as other visual features of the book, make for a visually chaotic reading experience. Perhaps to make the book more child-friendly, Pery also adds three mice and a cat to the visual narrative, and the creatures accompany the narrator throughout the book.

internal art      Most strikingly, the lines of Poe's poem are broken apart in the text. So instead of:

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;--
This is it and nothing more.

internal art      the text reads,

Some late visitor entreating entrance
at my chamber door;--
This it is
and nothing more.

      The adaptation of Poe's carefully constructed stanzas for the purposes of the picture book format ultimately disrupts the flow of the original poem, even if it does allow Pery to illustrate separate lines of the poem. Given that Poe was an author and a literary critic who had a sharp eye for style and technique, and that all aspects of "The Raven" were carefully orchestrated, these changes to the original seem ill conceived.

      The decision to publish this beautiful, eerie poem with its themes of death, madness, and loss in a picture book format intended for readers of all ages is laudable; unfortunately, the text misses its mark and will likely have a hard time finding an audience.

Not Recommended.

Elizabeth Marshall, a former elementary school teacher, researches and teaches children's literature in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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