CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 40. . . .June 15, 2018
The Night the Forest Came to Town.
Charles Ghigna. Illustrated by Annie Wilkinson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, Oct., 2018.
32 pp., hc., pdf & epub, $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1650-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1651-0 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1652-7 (epub).
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
It was silent in the city
when the cracks began to form
in the evening late one summer
when the concrete was still warm.
The biblical story of innocence and purity found in the Garden of Eden has resonated through literature since the story was written. The need to reconnect with nature and childhood innocence is a familiar theme in books for young people. There’s something about the human condition that does better in natural surroundings. Concrete jungles do not produce happy people, in general; even the slightest introduction of greenery or green space is enough to bring out smiles and feelings of togetherness.
Picture books abound that teach children about where it all started, and many stand the test of time. A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope by Michael Foreman, The Gardener by David Small are two, and among novels, An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett are timeless examples.
American children’s writer Charles Ghigna has added to the list of valuable titles that emphasize the healing power of nature. The Night the Forest Came to Town, a story poem with a mysterious, ethereal quality, is supported by British Columbia illustrator Annie Wilkinson’s thoughtful drawings.
Nature is suppressed in cities, but nature is irrepressible, as it cracks the concrete that covered it up, then invites the night winds to blow in seeds that take root with soft rains.
Animals and plants are awoken, and the city begins to quiver with anticipation:
It twirled beneath the moonlight
down to the city park,
spreading seeds along the way
as shadows turned to dark.
By the time morning dawns, plants have become established and flowers have blossomed, birds have built nests and hatched their young, a sign of hope for the future:
The city sky was filled with birds
who carried seeds that blew
onto the tops of buildings
where rooftop gardens grew
Alabama-based Ghigna has been writing poetry and literature for children since the 1970s, earning him the nickname Father Goose. He has written more than 100 books and serves as the Chair of Creative Writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. His word choices evoke images of childhood (twirled, glow, blush), his rhymes flow well, his rhythms are gentle. Annie Wilkinson uses colour and contemporary drawings to represent Ghigna’s words, and the results are masterful.
The glow of dawn had warmed the day
when the first cry was heard -
beneath the veil of twilights blush,
a hungry baby bird.
The first few pages show the growing shadows and dusk in shades of purple and blue. The adults rush around, their eyes glued to their phones while they ignore the children. It’s in the deep dark of night (deep purples and greys) that the magic of nature begins to happen, with animals coming out of hiding places and showers making seeds sprout. By morning, colour has returned to the world. Enormous flowers line the sidewalks, and trees are green. Adults are out walking, gazing at each other - there are no technological devices in sight. Children are playing in the parks as smiling caregivers watch them.
The combination of poem and art will appeal to young children who can study the detail in the illustrations while listening to the narrative. The Night the Forest Came to Town can teach or reinforce valuable lessons and prompt both adults and children to plant gardens, to be aware of animals and plants around them, and to go outside and appreciate what Nature can do for their psyche.
Harriet Zaidman is a freelance writer and reviewer in Winnipeg, MB.
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