Today’s poem in my girl’s Poetree Calendar is The Cat and The Moon by W. B. Yeats, which I discovered in The Moon Spun Round: W. B. Yeats for Children, edited by Noreen Doody (@noreen_doody) and illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald (@ShonaShirleyMac). I chose this poem (which you can read here), and this book for two reasons: (1) the obsessive relationship my children have with cats and (2) the fact that my 12 year old adored Peadar Ó Guilín’s The Call. I’m a great believer in giving kids books about subjects they’re passionate about, especially when encouraging them to try something new, and in introducing the poetry of Yeats I wanted guaranteed hooks.
This atmospherically illustrated collection of Yeats’ poems and short stories, made complete with additional biographical writings and a bibliography, is full of magic and mystery, and provides an alluring introduction for children (and indeed all ages) to the natural and imaginative world of Yeats’ writing.
Music, faeries and enchantment intertwine with woods, lakes, waves and wind across the selection of poems, which include He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven and The Lake Isle of Innisfree as well as in two short stories, The Man and his Books and The Wisdom of the King. Yeats’ interest in mysticism is beautifully and somewhat spookily drawn out by Macdonald’s incredible fantasy illustrations oozing off almost every page. The captivating combination of hypnotic rhythms and rhymes (ideal for reading aloud) and dark, delicious illustrations may well bewitch you.
Some readers will come to this collection perhaps knowing Yeats’ work well. I’m not one of them, and my children even less so, and that’s why I think the illustrations in this book deserve special credit. Yes, they’re full of magical creatures and settings, but with enough edge and shadows to snare slightly older readers, or readers who may initially be wary of language they are not familiar with. Macdonald’s artwork was exhibited at the Bratislava Illustration Biennial earlier this year, and I’m pleased to learn she’s working on a debut picture book (having already published a couple of graphic novels). At times, her drawings have echoes of Alan Lee’s early work. She’s definitely an illustrator I’ll be keeping a look out for now.
A final word about the physical object that is The Moon Spun Round. The book comes with a wrap-around poster acting as the book cover and silk ribbon bookmark, all discretely saying “gift me”. Nuff said.