Forget-Me-Nots

This book is the culmination of years of working together with the author Mary Ann Hoberman and  the designerSaho Fuji at Little Brown. Since this book was out of my hands text wise as I was only illustrating, not writing, the editors have less to do with me as the book progresses.

One element of anthologies I had been previously and blissfully unaware was the amount of work involved in selecting, then contacting rights holders for permission to reproduce their poems in the book. They may be the author themselves, or someone else, a family member or an organization known as an ‘estate’, in the case of a deceased author. Then reviewing the agreements to those who, well, agree, to allow the use of the poem, or come back with rejections for which a substitute must be chosen. Then sending out the art samples designated to appear near each poem entry to each rights holder for approval, then gathering all the responses to send back to me for corrections.  Sometimes they are perfectly happy and there is no issue, but other times their appears to be a communication breakdown on precisely what the current right’s holder had agreed to.

For example, some authors or estates stipulated no illustrations at all relating to the poem appear next to the poem. This is often done when the poem has previously appeared in a  book with illustrations, possibly by the author himself, as in the case of Shel Silverstein. Some even state there may be no illustration at all on the same page as the poem, even if it’s not about that poem. Some state they won’t even accept a decorative border on the same page… it’s all part of assembling a book of many different authors, so the extra time needed to get all this done certainly needs to be figured into the schedule for a book of this type.

I always hate to throw away art. Sometimes this was not a big issue. But, as usual, I went a bit crazy on this book and tried to connect all the poems on many of the double page spreads with a single piece of art. This happened to be one of the spreads with a poem we discovered late in the game could not have any art on the same page. So I had to chop off the left hand side of the art and make it look like it was done that way on purpose.

This animal (at right) has nothing to do with the book at all. I included this ‘little animal on the stairs’ in the book to ‘rescue’ her from another book a friend of mine was working on. She was involved in an editorial ‘negotiation’ with her publisher about whether children would know what it was and weather it should be simply removed, or even relabeled a raccoon… Well, I said this looked nothing like a raccoon, and who cares anyway – its a cool name and why would they need to know what every animal was in every book? In case you can’t tell, this is a Numbat, an Australian animal that can easily be looked up in any gogglepedia. I like the name Numbat, and I felt it unfair for her to be kicked out of her chance at ten minutes of fame, so I put her here in my book. As it turned out, I didn’t need to ‘rescue’ her, as the editors changed their minds in the end and let the Numbat keep the role. So now she has two homes.

There is not much in the way of Irish poetry in this anthology, but since I live in Ireland now I couldn’t resist putting in a bit of my surroundings where possible. Several street signs are local villages, as well as  landscapes here in county Wicklow, and a ‘Round Tower’, which is a distinctively Irish ancient artifact. These towers appear all over the country and are believed to have been built as Celtic monastic refuges in times of Viking invasion. But there remains a bit of mystery about their exact function.

One way that I cheat in this book and others, if I’m honest about reflecting my local environment, is depicting animals that don’t exist here (as in the case of the Aussie animal above). There are a surprisingly limited number of animals that actually live in Ireland. There are no snakes in Ireland, as many people know, (and are in love with repeating in the St. Patrick story of him chasing them all out), but what isn’t so widely known is there are no reptiles of any kind here, including lizards, and the animals often mistaken for amphibians – turtles. Speaking of which, there are also no amphibians here either, including frogs, though there is supposedly one rare newt hiding out someplace…. We have many rodents – Badgers, rats, mice, as well as hegehogs, fox, deer, many, many birds, etc. (you wonder why St. Patrick didn’t chase the rats out while he was at it…)But no insects that bite you in the night. It never gets warm enough…

New York Times Sunday Book Review

CHILDREN’S BOOKS Bookshelf:

“Hoberman, the former children’s poet laureate (a two-year title awarded by the Poetry Foundation) and author of “The Seven Silly Eaters,” to name just one brilliant example, wants to resurrect the lost art of recitation. This joyous collection, illustrated by Emberley, a previous Hoberman collaborator, offers ample fodder. Kindly beginning with very short poems like Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Rain,” the book mixes old and new, and extends to rather long, intimidating examples from Edna St. Vincent Millay. But with carefully selected verse grouped by theme and tailored to young children, there’s plenty of motivation here.”

By PAMELA PAUL Published: March 9, 2012