Monday, July 30, 2007

A Visit to William Blake's Inn

is subtitled Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, was written by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, and won the Newbery Medal in 1982.

I felt like I was on a roll with children's poetry - I absolutely loved Out of the Dust, and I liked Joyful Noise very much. Last week I picked up my son's copy of A Pizza the Size of the Sun (by Jack Prelutsky) and read it without even meaning to do so before re-shelving it. And I have always liked "Tyger, Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night" (the only William Blake poem I can remember), so I thought that A Visit to William Blake's Inn was a good bet for my next read.

I was a little disappointed. It's a short book, shelved with the younger kids' picture books in our library (it won Caldecott honors in addition to the Newbery award), and I just didn't find the the sixteen poems and the accompanying illustrations about an imaginary inn run by William Blake terribly compelling. I like reading about (and watching video re-creations of) Regency period England, too. I just moved Pride & Prejudice (both recent versions) up on my Netflix queue. Again. Not just so I can see Colin Firth swimming, either.

The poems and the illustrations do have a certain charm reminiscent of old nursery rhymes, and they suit each other very well. But I would be very surprised if this were a favorite of many kids. I can see that some adults would enjoy it (especially if you have a fondness for early 19th century England) - but this is supposed to be an award for children's literature, not children's literature written for adults, and that's how this book struck me.

The Wise Cow Enjoys a Cloud

"Where did you sleep last night, Wise Cow?
Where did you lay your head?"

"I caught my horns on a rolling cloud
and made myself a bed,

and in the morning ate it raw
on freshly buttered bread." (p. 26)

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