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Review: Leave Your Sleep January 31, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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Leave Your SleepOne of the musical highlights of 2010 for me was ‘Leave Your Sleep’, a two disc set of children’s poems set to music and sung by Natalie Merchant. A few of the poems were familiar to me, but many were entirely new and their images were brought to life beautifully by Merchant’s lovely voice and intricate instrumental arrangements. Now a companion book of the poems has been published with a special CD and thanks to the amazing illustrations by Barbara McClintock, I have fallen in love with both the words and the music all over again.

Merchant collects poems from a wide range of time periods, placing Jack Prelutsky and Ogden Nash alongside Robert Louis Stevenson and Edward Lear. More obscure poets include Laurence Alma-Tadema, whose poem “If no one ever marries me” takes a refreshingly positive look at spinsterhood, considering she was writing in the early 20th century. Giants of poetry whose poems are sometimes less likely to turn up in children’s collections are also here, such as e. e. cummings and Robert Graves.

McClintock engages the eye perfectly for each selection, alternating between witty spot illustrations and gorgeous full page pictures. The spread for “The Blind Men and the Elephant” is as perfectly balanced a scene as I have seen in any picture book this year. The energy, expression and detail in her spot drawings had me constantly making comparisons to Arthur Rackham and Randolph Caldecott, particularly those that were historical, such as “Vain and Careless” or “Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience”.

My one complaint about this collection is that it does not include all the tracks from Merchant’s original project–the two disc set was perhaps too long to translate into book form unedited, but it made me sad that a few of my favorite songs were not skipped over. This is a minor flaw, however, in a delightful book that is perfect for any poetry lover (of any age) you know!

One of the spot illustrations from 'Equestrienne' by Rachel Field

One of the spot illustrations from ‘Equestrienne’ by Rachel Field

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