Reviews /

When Poems Fall from the Sky

Authored by Zaro Weil
Illustrated by Junli Song
Published by Welbeck in association with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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CLIPPA award-winning author, Zaro Weil, has had a lifelong affinity with nature. She always hoped it would deepen into communication. Then, one day, she decided to spend a day in Kew Gardens, one of her favourite places. As she immersed herself in the plant world, ‘Before long my imagination sat up and took note. Kew began to talk to me … By the end of the afternoon, as the sun slow-slid away, I saw things differently. Felt different. The garden had shared a secret or two with me.’ And so, this volume was born, a collection in which nature talks, sharing its mysteries and stories.

These are whimsical poems, sometimes funny, always playful. Her adaptation of ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ would be great fun read or sung aloud, with its litany of plant names for readers to get their tongues around. Her language is imaginative and her imagery apt. A shadow is an ‘inky tattoo’, ‘sun-silent’ and ‘bobble-dark’. These are performances pieces. I enjoyed a short play with a cast of noisy wasps and I liked a two-hander featuring an oak and a jay. There’s a long story-poem, ‘The Magic House of Seeds’. In fact, the variety of lengths and forms adds to the entertainment value.

Junli Song partnered with Weil on her award-winning Cherry Moon. She has illustrated the poems in full colour with verve and a kind of Japanese printmaking or collage effect. I think the book has been beautifully designed. The square format allows each poem to occupy its rightful form.

Finally, worthy of note are the notes at the back which offer pointers for exploring and discussing the poems. I heartily recommend it.