A Bell for Jimmy by Theo Wadsworth
Review 5 star
Not On Amazon
A Bell for Jimmy by Theo Wadsworth is a short story in verse that tells a moving tale of a dog’s heroism to save a community. Lovely, starkly surreal black and white illustrations by Julia Naurzalijeva act as companions we travel back in time while an old man tells the tale of the isolated town of Eden. The man explains to a stranger who’s stumbled on the hushed village why they are ringing a memorial bell. Years ago, a terrible winter storm lasted for weeks and almost destroyed the town. A group sent to get help vanished into the storm. Other communities were far away. People had lost hope. But then a small dog became the hero of the town and ever since he’s commemorated in honor.
Original, dramatic, and heartwarming all at once—A Bell for Jimmy is a modern classic. With a lyrical, well-paced poetic style and a small-town scene reminiscent of 19th-century American writers, Theo Wadsworth captures a unique storytelling voice. The book creates a mood and a moment, half-fantasy, half-gritty reality, in a captivating twilight zone that draws the reader in. Part poem and part short story, it’s a survival tale with a bit of nightmare, and it’s amazingly believable, self-contained and individual like Eden itself. But it is also accessible, with an earnest familiarity, a story of courage and memories that touched me by the end. If you like family stories about courageous dogs, this is entirely perfect. And if you like books that make you remember them long after they are closed, A Bell for Jimmy is remarkable.
Echoes of Haikai by Gil Olson
Review 5 star
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Echoes of Haikai is an excellent book of 75 poems by Gil Olson. The poems are a good recreation of the spirit of Japanese literature’s distinctive tone and style and are divided into four sections for the seasons. 2 tiny poems per page exhibit the great subtlety and scope for the reader’s own interpretation in this art form. Ordinary things like eating, observing flowers, feeling cold in the winter, and other people’s deaths are given layers of imagery and meaning painted in cold, clear words, perfectly chosen, to snapshot an image of a person’s essence—a moment’s essence.
Gil Olson does a fantastic job of capturing the personality of Japanese poetry, so hard to label or pin down, so definite when it is seen and felt—a personality truly distinctive, with a strong presence that this book made a pleasure to read and to recognize. Fragmented, detached feeling combined with underlying intensity and nuanced sophistication expressed in simple terms create an underlying depth rewards continual re-reading. Careful word usage and the communication of the poet with the reader in phrases like—“plums, cherries, and apricots—sunlight on your hand”–make an idea mean more than one thing. Is the sunlight in your hand from the fruit, which came from a tree that used sunlight to grow, or from the warmth of your friend in giving it to you? If we see how other people see things, we see so much more of the world and Echoes of Haikai opens a lovely world to explore.
Review 5 star
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Clouds on the Wind: Poems for the Soul – A Meditation by Gary W. Burns is a collection of restful and uplifting poems on the emotions of finding harmony in and comfort from nature. The book is structured into four parts—Clouds Moonlit; Cloudy Day Doorway; Windswept; and Wind Songs—with a variety of brief poems that lay out situations people might experience while connecting those situations to the sky—stars, moon, day, night, clouds, breezes, and blowing leaves. Intersection between different people or between different moments in life is a cornerstone of the book’s identity, with many meditative thoughts devoted to understanding others. Several notable poems are “Quietly There You Be,” “Leaving,” “Blue Ridge Twilight,” “Smile,” and “Days with You.”
These poems are about more than expression and good use of words—they’re about relaxing. Over and over, I felt stress slipping away from me as I was drawn by a gentle guidance into swirling autumn leaves, dances with the stars, infinite love, and sunset clouds. Gary W. Burns is extremely accomplished and excels in graceful, artistic verses that capture an idea instantly, and the hopeful, but honest tone of his poetry made me nod my head more than once. In “On the Wind” he expertly compares people’s different experiences to birds flying on the breeze, and uses a few, well-chosen words to do it. But the strength of Clouds on the Wind: Poems for the Soul is the sheer beauty of the world it pulls you into and the happy spirit with which you leave it. The book deserves a lot of praise for its resonant elegance, its serenity, and its peaceful approach to life’s realities.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.