Lasso the Wind is a sensory delight. With George Elliott Clarke’s words rolling off the tongue and Susan Tooke’s illustrations vibrating with colour and depth, this collection of poetry for children by Toronto’s Poet Laureate presents a luscious feast for eyes and ears.
Clarke’s poems skip through the glories of spring, the nature of dreams and dragons’ favourite picnic foods. He is at his soaring, word-wrangling best when he writes about nature, such as, “Rain thrashes, trembles through branches—Gusty, lusty avalanches” and: “That sugary whiteness of the moon / snow scooped up with a silver spoon.” Clarke has the knack of choosing unexpected words that wake us up and shake us up, like “Waves whittle the horizon down / Until the sun descends to drown.” The book ends with birthday poems written by Clarke for his daughter, Aurélia, which serve as joyous snapshots of a growing, much-loved child.
Tooke provides a happy counterpoint to Clarke’s words. Her use of scale and colour is as innovative as his use of images, and she uses a combination of drawing, collage, painting and digital imaging to create a pulsating three-dimensional world. You can almost hear her song birds as they chatter and trill, feel the frigid air as an owl flaps over a snowy field, and taste the salty sea as a girl floats on its surface.
Occasionally Clarke’s adult concerns creep into the poems, introducing themes that go beyond a child’s understanding. But young readers will gravitate to their favourites and want to go back to those pages again and again.