Gilles Tibo was already a well-loved children’s illustrator when he turned his hand to writing, and he has been prolific and successful in both fields. In his engaging new picture book, he celebrates his love of language, and particularly the pleasures of writing poetry.
Tibo’s verses and prose poems (translated by Pajama Press managing editor Erin Woods) playfully consider the experience of poetry – how poems may climb under his quilt at night and keep him awake, or how writing poetry can resemble plucking silence like a flower and gently pressing it “into a notebook made of light.” Unexpected similes and metaphors help the reader see poems in many ways, linking them to nature, feelings, and joy in life.
While there is fun in a good rhyme – or a whole string of them – the figurative language is more effective than the rhymed verses. Certain concepts – including that poems “are infinite inside” – might be difficult for kids to comprehend, but the emphasis on sensations such as flying and floating, and feelings of affection and companionship will bring the poems into relief for the young child hearing them.
The poetically quirky spirit of Tibo’s text is well served by the playful collage illustrations of Manon Gauthier. The text (sometimes running on an angle across the page) and images are placed in interesting and varied relationships, and Gauthier uses earthy colours and strong contrasts between white pages and patterned or dark backgrounds. The illustrations richly reflect the poems’ celebration of nature; of night with its associations of imagination and creativity; of the pleasures of poems that float in from the sea, drop from the sky, or sprout from the earth for us to hold in our hearts.