I actually feel a wee bit sad that we are about to end our ‘When Words are not Enough – a Wordless Picture Book’ Special. I also noticed that I kind of postponed the book reviews for the biggies (Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and this book) somewhere at the tail-end of our bimonthly feature. This book alone is the recipient of the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1973, the New York Times Best Illustrated Award in 1973, and the Children’s Book Showcase Award in 1974 (source here). I hope I do it justice.
A child’s eye that sees with the heart and the adult’s tiresome skepticism. The first few pages of the book show a young (presumably golden-haired) boy doing chores in their farmhouse: feeding the chickens, giving gruel to the pigs, milking the cows, and lying on the grass looking at the clouds in the skies.
It does not seem surprising that this magical creature can only be seen by a child’s eye. He did try to inform his father about this beautiful creature that he found in the woods, but the conversation didn’t quite turn out the way he expected it would go.
Apples and Sunflowers dropped from the Skies. Upon realizing that the silver pony is a secret which he is meant to keep (not unlike Suzy Lee’s Blackbird), the boy’s winged adventures began. Astride the silver pony, our young man has traveled the ends of the earth, meeting unlikely creatures such as a polar bear, an Eskimo fishing in the glacial cold, saving raccoons trapped on a roof in a storm, and a little lamb about to be eaten by a frightening cougar. I particularly enjoyed how the young boy would drop apples from the skies and giant sunflowers to a little girl feeding pigeons on the rooftop and a cute young girl in a watchtower.
Endnotes. While I have technically entered this book as part of the picture book reading challenge, little children might have a difficult time sustaining their attention throughout – although with a bit of drama and panache with the presentation, perhaps it could be managed. Might be more ideal though for older children, tweeners, and even teenagers. The fact that the illustrations are drawn in soft black and white pencil sketches might also be a tad disconcerting to kids who may be more accustomed to bright bold splashes of colors, with large unusual fonts and mtv-like kind of kaleidoscopic feel to the pages. This one is more subdued, subtle, with an old-school gentle vibe to it.
As I was looking for possible resources for this book, I found this nice blogpost created by The Schulz Library which you might want to check out. It also includes quite a number of illustrations from the book. This blogpost by Tarquin Tar’s Bookcase also discusses two of the major novels written (without any word of text) by Lynd Ward entitled God’s Man and Mad Man’s Drum – both novels illustrated in wood-cut. I am heartbroken to find out that we do not have any of these two titles in our libraries. Woe is me.
About the Author. Lynd Ward was born in Chicago in 1905 and died in 1985. Being the son of a Methodist minister, Lynd was said to have moved around as a young boy and was close to new immigrants. In this source, he was described as a sickly baby and so his family moved to Northern Canada in the hopes that his health would improve. His illustrations are said to show his respect for all people and the effects of his stay in the Canadian wilderness.
He also attended the Leipzig Academy for Graphic Arts where he was taught the art of wood engraving by Hans Alexander Mueller. He was also quite taken with the idea of coming up with novels that contain no words and using images engraved on wood and printed on one side of the page. Quite ingenious, really. If you wish to know more about Lynd Ward, click here to be taken to a detailed biography and some samples of his work. This USM de Grummond collection website would show you not just his biographical sketch but also the scope and content of his works, and some sample of his materials that are in their possession.
The Silver Pony. A story in pictures by Lynd Ward. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1973. Book borrowed from the NIE Library.