I have been seeing this book around the library for quite awhile now. When Earl Dizon of The Chronicles of a Children’s Book Writer recommended this as a possible book we can feature for our current bimonthly theme “Loss, Heartbreak, and Coming of Age” I borrowed it from our public library.
Poppies lined the path to my father’s house. It was made of stone and slate and fastened deep into the cliff. It was safe and rooted in the rock. But inside my father dreamed of air and flight.
In a feature done on Grahame Baker-Smith about his winning the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for this book, he noted that these first few lines just came to him.
“Poppies lined the path to my father’s house” just came to me as the first line. I had no idea how it was going to end. I had an image in my head of a man making wings. And then the book came out, line by line, it felt almost like a dictation from some far corner of my psyche!
I wrote it in about an hour-and-a-half in the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep, a bottle of Theakstons Old Peculiar to hand and a deep November frost outside.
The book did not dwell on grief or bereavement or the losing of a loved one. It spoke of a wild airborne dream passed from father to son. The fantastical and quietly moving illustrations demonstrate quite vividly the nature of this grand vision.
While the reader could sense the quiet resentment of the son with this father’s dream which consumed the very fabric of his being, there is also that subtle fascination with the father’s desire to capture the skies:
Such a busy,
that would not leave him alone
or give him time to play or sleep
or think of other things
Or even have the grace to come true.
For my father, after all, never flew.
In the same interview done with Baker-Smith, he explained:
“FArTHER” is really about inheritance and how things are handed on through the generations. It’s something I think about all the time. Particularly as I live and work in a 200 year old house. It makes me think about the people who lived here before: people who felt the same as you and me, raised their children here, entertained friends, fell in or out of love, and suffered all the vagaries of the human condition just as we do.”
While the son lost his father to the war (he never came back after being ‘called’ to duty), I would say that they lost his father earlier than that. Whether the son grew his own wings and went ‘farther’ in life, I shall leave for you to discover dear friends. For teachers who wish to make use of this lovely book in the classroom, here is a list of activities School Zone created with the Greenaway Shortlist books (not just Farther) that you may want to check out.
FArTHER by Grahame Baker-Smith, Templar Books 2010, Book borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.
Farther: CILIP KATE GREENAWAY MEDAL WINNER 2011
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