Adult Award-Winning Books Books by Region Early Readers Genre International Lifespan of a Reader Memoirs, Biographies, and Constructed Narratives Middle Grade Picture Books Poetry Poetry Friday Reading Themes Young Adult (YA) Literature

[Poetry Friday] Poetic and Philosophical Musings Matched with Surreal Art in Norwegian Picturebook “Night Guard”

A collection of poetry written by multi-award-winning Synne Lea and illustrated beautifully by Stian Hole.

poetry friday

Myra here.

I am back for Poetry Friday! Early this week, we just launched our new reading theme until end of June 2018: Memoirs, Biographies, Self-Constructed (or First-Person) Narratives. Thank you, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm, for hosting this week,

I try to be as strategic as I can when I hunt down titles, especially since we are hosting the Literary Voyage Around the World Reading Challenge – and this will be a lovely addition, seeing that it’s an international title from Norway. The poems are also written in the first person narrative – as if providing some instructions or advice to its reader – perfect for our reading theme too.

Night Guard

Written By: Synne Lea Illustrated by: Stian Hole
Published by: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (2016). First published November 1st 2013.
ISBN: 0802854583 (ISBN13: 9780802854582). Literary Award: Brageprisen Nominee for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (2013). Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I am a huge fan of Stian Hole’s picturebooks – I reviewed his award-winning Anna’s Heaven a few years back and am absolutely taken by his Garmann series. I have a special leaning towards Norwegian titles, after being exposed to quite a number of them while serving as International Research Fellow at the International Youth Library in Munich. I know that they can be edgy, progressive, and without borders in its narrative and visual storytelling.

This book is slightly different since the poems are written by a Norwegian poet that is unknown to me, but the art work is still as delightfully surreal, as is the trademark of Stian Hole.

The endpapers.

Truth be told, I read this book thrice now, but I still am unable to completely grasp what it signifies. The essence seems to be the philosophical meanderings of the main protagonist who is battling his own fears and anxieties, describing his family in a way that tears open the fabric of their soul without really providing any details to the reader about who they are exactly; and his yearning for a friend, or just someone who will listen and understand.

This is not really what one would call a novel-in-verse – but neither is it strictly a picturebook. I think it carves a niche of its own – something like poetic vignettes – each page a fragment of a thought told in imagery wrapped around in verse, but with a continuity to it, a thread that connects all the philosophical musings and poetic narratives into a feeling, a sensation that fights the darknesses through a night guard of sorts. This predilection towards existential inquiries could be seen in the quote below:

Because clouds look like something,
are they dreams?
Because dreams exist,
do clouds look like something?


There seems to be an appreciation of the life of the mind: be it among seemingly-inanimate beings such as trees. The idea of a tree’s thoughts as a song warms my heart.

There is continuously a mention of the weather, and how it brings certain emotions into light. There is the hint of summer below:

Then there is winter, and its concealed sadness:

What I loved especially, though, and my Poetry Friday offering are these two:

All you need is a friend now
and you’re big enough
to walk home alone
in the evening, Dad says.
Then you’ll learn
how to rip up the dark
with your hands and throw it at anyone
you think is following you.


How empowering is that: the very idea of ripping up the darkness in one’s hands, using your own fear as a weapon against that which scares you. How utterly brilliant.

Am I awakened
by you because I’m dreaming
of me?
First my friend
laughs, and afterward
I do.
Then the laughter is
precisely long enough.
I can wind it
three times around my neck,
and get it to warm me
half the winter.


I get that this book may not necessarily be for everyone – some may find it too obscure or too strange or too disconnected. Yet, its realness spoke to me, its ability to string together words I would not otherwise have considered, and this curious way of perceiving the world with quiet longing, with winding laughter that warms another all through the winter, and the sense of awakening brought about by dreaming about one’s self. There is something about this book, I hope it manages to find you.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: Norway

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

11 comments on “[Poetry Friday] Poetic and Philosophical Musings Matched with Surreal Art in Norwegian Picturebook “Night Guard”

  1. lindabaie

    I like that ‘winding winter’, too, an intriguing look at someone’s thoughts, Myra. As I read your post and these words, like ‘ripping darkness’, I kept remembering Bradbury’s scary words in his books, often escaping the dark. Thanks, such an interesting book!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this book. I had never heard of the author until now. The illustrations are stunning and original. The bits of verse are thoughtful. Thanks for this recommendation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. maryleehahn

    What a fascinating book (words AND illustrations). It is proof that we need to get out of the neighborhood now and then and see what else is out there!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The illustrations are absolutely stunning. I really like the tree song poem, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kay Mcgriff

    This looks like a book to ponder over. I’m captivated by the illustrations you shared. I could look and look at them and spin stories from them. And then the poetry adds even more layers to ponder. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alice Nine

    The illustrations are fascinating… and they help unveil the words that seem to mean something deeper than what they say, that hold an expression of yearning, that are a quest for answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Stunning! The illustrations pull me into the words. I’m intrigued.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Myra, I am grateful to Alice for leading me to your book review. This book sounds fascinating with all of its inquiries and perspectives. I am especially interested in the winter poem since I am working on the design of my winter gallery. I am going to insert the poem into a special place in the gallery. Thank you for that. If you have a winter photo / poem that you would like to offer me, I would love that.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. amyludwigvanderwater

    What an enchanting book! I am going to get my hands on it. Just that line about ripping up the dark and throwing it at someone is enough to feed me for a while… Thank you. x

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This looks like a book I need to investigate further. Interesting illustrations.

    Liked by 1 person

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