Crows: An Old Rhyme

This edition printed in:

A calico tabby sits beside the richly illustrated cover of Crows.

A Special Post

I can’t believe that this is my hundredth post! This blog started as just an idea I had on a rainy day while my lovely spouse and I were sharing a coffee, but over the last two years it’s become a pleasant routine for me. It’s helped me a lot to have something to write, an excuse to work on my photography skills, and a venue to talk about books, reading, and writing.

When I’m having a bad week, preparing a post gives me something to distract myself with and lets me do something book-related even when I don’t have the time or concentration to sit down and read. When I’m having a good week, a post is just something else to look forward to.

This blog has also been something that my lovely spouse and I share. It’s something we do together and work on together and spend time on together.

So, as I write this milestone post, I’d like to dedicate it to my lovely spouse for encouraging me to pursue my independent study of nearly all things literature-related. She’s my everything and without her, this blog wouldn’t exist. Without her, I wouldn’t exist.

A mink holds a frog, and a weasel opens a treasure chest. A parrot sits at the front of the page.

The Rhyme

I mentioned Heidi Holder’s book, Crows in my post last week and I settled on reviewing it this week because it’s a book that was very formative for me in my childhood. When I think about the reader I am now and what influences guided me to become so interested in literature, I inevitably remember this book. When I was in kindergarten and had to bring a book to the reading circle to read to the class, this was the book I chose. It was one of the books I carefully preserved when I grew up. It still sits on my bedside table as an adult.

Beneath eleven crows, two rabbits embrace. On the opposite page, a mink and a weasel dance beneath flowering cherry trees.

The rhyme is a simple one. A counting book of crows and the portents each number of them bring. Holder has used the story of a mink and a weasel to illustrate each number as well as rabbits on the opposite page. Again, it sounds so simple. But this book held my imagination captive for so many hours while I created stories to go along with the pictures and the numbers.

The Illustrations

Holder’s illustrations are beautiful and, without them, the book wouldn’t be what it is. It’s clear that she put so much thought, research, and time into the picture that corresponds to each number. The story of the mink and weasel feature illustrations that include intricate borders and the tiniest of details. The way she draws everything from fabric folds and drapes to flowers and waves of water is meticulous and astounding beautiful.

A calico tabby sists in front of the Eleven page in Crows.

As an adult I appreciate that she is also meticulous about crediting other artists in the acknowledgements — including the unknown textile artist whose work she used to draw one of the dresses in the book.

The Symbols

At the back of the book, Holder provides a thorough list of symbols she used in her illustrations. Playing cards, a frog in the road, species of flowers, she guides the reader through all their meanings. The creative use of symbolic imagery that she turns into almost a find-the-detail game for young readers is something I find influencing my writing now. I love to use symbols and imagery in a way that intrigues the reader and adds another layer to my work.

Holder showed me when I was a child that a frog in the road is not just a frog in the road and that flowers had an entire language to them. She encouraged me to look beyond the surface of things and to think critically about every illustration and every paragraph. That was such a valuable gift for me and it made me never look at a book the same way. And as I got older that extended to other media like film, and even journalism. Crows was the first time I saw that there was often more to the story than just the story and that part of being a reader is trying to see a work from as many perspectives as you can.

The cover of Crows features on crow on budding branch, beneath a curtain.

Many More!

I may have discussed a hundred books but I have so many more in my stacks! I’m hoping for many more posts in the future. This last year has been a hard one for me, and when I started this blog, I can admit that it was partially because it was very hard time for me then too. But this blog helped me through that time then and it will help me through this time now.

And, of course, I have my lovely spouse always beside me and I know we can get through the worst of times together.

A closeup of the illustrated crow perched on a budding branch.

Thanks for reading!

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