Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Highway Rat

Not as famous as its spiritual predecessor The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler's take on Alfred Noyes' poem The Highwayman is a wonderful offering which teaches both consequence and humility without a preachy tone.

The Highway Rat follows the story of the title character as he robs the other woodland creatures of their foods.Written in the same style as Noyes' original verse, there are lines of repetition which some other reviewers (on amazon, if you're interested) found irritating and difficult to read. In our house though, these are the highlight. Daughter doesn't speak yet and so is perhaps too young to find repetitive things annoying, but the familiarity of the repeated line makes her little face light up and sometimes, with the second or third reading of, "the highway," she'll try and copy the syllables. It's very heartening. 

Having loved the original Highwayman poem, this was a real treat for me to read and made me revisit the Loreena McKennit track of the same name - another really fond memory from growing up. I hope that as Daughter gets older, I can use this as a way to introduce Noyes to her and other poets such as R. L. Stevenson and Poe. I am really keen for her to know that poetry isn't something to just be dissected at school until it is a lifeless thing.

I can see why people have voted this down - if repetition and verse aren't your thing then you're not going to get on with it, no matter how beautiful the illustrations are. And if you're not passionate, then you're not going be able to stir up that sort of enthusiasm in those you're reading to. For us though, this is a definite book-shelf highlight.

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