Weird, Wild & Wonderful
Weird, Wild & Wonderful: The Poetry World of James Carter
James Carter, illus. Neal Layton. Burley Gate: Otter-Barry Books, pb, 978 1 9130 7473 9, 2021, £7.99, 96pp.
Poetry, black & white illustrations, 6-14 years
‘Hear the moon speak, explore a magic wood, play an air guitar, watch a gorilla and a wolf, sing a magic lullaby to woolly mammoth, marvel at a dung beetle, meet an alien in a library’.
‘A Few Word from James Carter’ prefaces the book and sets the magic atmosphere that evades the poems.
‘There’s a Magic Wood at the back of my house. If I am ever seeking inspiration, I’ll take off at night and wander through the wood… . But we’ve all got our own Magic Wood.’
The poems are grouped under Weird (daft, cheeky), Wild (nature, beastly), Wonderful (science, quiet) and NOW… Many of them are shaped to represent a theme, e.g. ‘Angleness’, ‘Do You Know What You Are?’, ‘Tear Drop’ (even the title is shaped). Also, black is used as the background for ‘What Stars Are’ and ‘Northern Lights’, each arranged on a double spread. The layout, illustrations and background of each poem express its content. Neal Layton uses his ingenuity while restricted to black and white to capture and enhance the mood of each poem. For example, ‘Conversation with a fly’ shows the fly swirling around a lampshade. The conversant begs ‘Please don’t keep saying ‘zzzz!’.
‘Electric Guitars’ is under Weird, ‘She Watches the Word’ is under Wild, and ‘This Is Where…’ is under NOW.
You can read and see the layout of these poems here, but not the illustrations. A poem in the section Wonderful (science, quiet), which has no example online, is a quiet poem ‘Night Car Journey’: ‘…I look up/ out through the darkness/ out through the silence of an infinite sky’. Also in the same section is a science poem ‘What Stars Are’: Stars/ are not/ the shards of glass/ smashed by the gods in anger’.
This is just the book for the pandemic as the reader can escape into their Magic Wood where no lockdown restrictions exist. Highly recommended.
Review by JJH