Beryl Holland’s picture book aims to see nature through a poetic sensibility. With topics and illustrations that include flora, fauna, animals, weather and more, the book appears to be targeted, as the title suggests, to “All Ages.”
Unfortunately, this all-ages theme proves inappropriate, as, while many of the pictures are cartoon-like and are likely to draw in young readers, the poems often feature very adult themes that provide a disturbing and dark view of the world that is particularly ill-suited for children.
“First day of school.[sic]” for example, describes a child discovering a school uniform in a trunk. Instead of a lighthearted look at the first day of school, the child-speaker appears to be very sad: “Tears drift down my face,/ What? Have I done wrong.” “Mother Goose,” is illustrated with a cartoon of a duck (no explanation of why it isn’t a goose), which signals a fun poem children could enjoy. But the poem itself discusses a bird in the freezer complaining about the cold and wishing to be “Into the oven where I belong” — a decidedly un-childlike theme.
In addition to the mixed message about its audience, the text is laden with punctuation and spelling errors, beginning with the title, in which “Natures,” lacks an apostrophe. There is also homonym confusion (“their” for “there”; “are” for “our,” etc.), compounded by puzzling word arrangement and choice. For example, a line in “Birds of paradise” notes: “So proud to show how strong her beloved soil belongs to sonnies days of Cyprus long.” Readers will wonder if “sonnies” actually means “sunny,” or even a person named “Sonnie.”
Given that this book confounds more often than it entertains, it’s unlikely that many readers will persevere to the end. Significant rethinking and revision is required in order for this poetry collection to find a suitable audience.
Also available as an ebook.