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Time for Flowers, Time for Snow

by Glen Huser; Philippe Béha, illus.

Combining striking illustrations, a dramatic story based on ancient myth, song lyrics, and a companion CD featuring a children’s operetta, Time for Flowers, Time for Snow is a fabulous multi-sensory thrill to be enjoyed by parents and kids alike.

Governor General’s Literary Award winner Glen Huser retells the ancient Greek myth of Persephone, her kidnapper Hades, and her mournful mother, Demeter. The traditional tale of how the changing seasons came to be is relayed here with a hint of modern resonance. In this version, Persephone is firmly in control: she decides her own destiny, and arranges the terms of her divided existence above ground with her doting mother and in the underworld with Hades.

The illustrations, supplied by lauded artist Philippe Béha (nominated for a 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award), lend the book visual appeal. Figures, mostly seen in classical Greek profile, are animated by rich colour and decorative detail, while dialogue and song are cleverly suggested by fragments of musical notations collaged into the images.

Huser also wrote the song lyrics, and while they may be challenging for younger readers, their pathos, spirited defiance, and humour are readily appreciated when paired with the music, which is appealingly varied in mood and rhythm. The comic tricks of greedy messenger Hermes, for example, add a delightfully lighthearted counterpoint to Demeter’s more sombre tone. On the accompanying CD, narration (provided by British actor Terry Jones of Monty Python fame) and dialogue are interspersed with songs by distinguished Greek composer Giannis Georgantelis, performed by an international crew of musicians including a choir of more than 150 Quebec schoolchildren.

Time for Flowers, Time for Snow is an ambitious project that brings together a group of talented collaborators with splendid results. This is not just a book, it’s a whole arts experience with many facets – literary, artistic, musical – to explore.