________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 7. . . .October 18, 2013

cover

Black and Bittern Was Night.

Robert Heidbreder. Illustrated by John Martz.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2013.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-302-2.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4

 

Vancouver poet Robert Heidbreder, who has previously authored poetry collections such as See Saw Saskatchewan and Drumheller Dinosaur Dance, has been on the Canadian children's literature scene for 25 years now. He is back with another interesting picture book, a spooky little number that is just in time for Halloween.

internal art     Adults warn of the dangers of Halloween night as a tide of teeny skeletons ('SKUL-A-MUGS' here) prepares to chase trick-or-treaters through dark streets. But the boys and girls are not ready to give up their annual ritual without a fight. The costumed children climb out windows and sneak out back doors and prepare to confront those who would spoil their Halloween fun.

      There is a cadence reminiscent of Lewis Carroll in the alliteration and onomatopoeia of the verse here:

Squik-quick as hair-scares
up-spring SKUL-A-MUGS all,
hoarse-hollered-moan-groned
their smeerk SKUL-A-MUGS call:

'Drickle! and drackle!
Dead dinders and dreads!
Ghoulie-gob tykies,
we'll sceer off your heads!'

     But, of course, after several skirmishes, the little clowns and witches and pirates emerge victorious, or, as the book says, "strong-sure tyke-tots out-movvered SKUL thunder". The traditional door-to-door candy collection continues successfully, and the children return to their well-lit homes to be greeted by happy parents and to assess the spoils.

     The text could trip an unwary tongue and is probably best read aloud by an adult, but the choice of word-sounds is beguiling. This collection would provide a good springboard for discussion about how words can evoke emotion and atmosphere.

     Artist John Martz' credits include illustrations for chickaDEE magazine and the book Dear Flyary, a recent Kids Can publication. The pictures in Black and Bittern Was Night are crisp and expressive with a retro style, and the colour palette is all about Halloween. I especially liked the double spread of the black-and-white SKUL-A-MUGS and tricker-or-treaters facing off in the middle of the street. The totally orange background is seething with activity. A book for primary school and public library collections.

Recommended.

Ellen Heaney is a retired children's librarian from Coquitlam, BC.

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

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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