Crows: An Old Rhyme

Heidi Holder, Author, Heidi Holder, Illustrator Farrar Straus Giroux $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-31660-0
According to a note in the back of the book, these oracular rhymes based on counting crows came from the artist's grandfather, who only recalled seven of the versesperhaps one for each day of the week. Holder has charmingly expanded the rhyme to 12 in this ornate, sophisticated picture book. ""One is for bad news/ Two is for mirth/ Three is a wedding/ Four is a birth . . . '' Each of the rhyme's omens is depicted in a full-page tableau of an elegant mink and her suitor and eventual husband, a swashbuckling weasel. Their romancehe is a wanderer, but she remains true to himand their fortunes and misfortunes are mirrored by those of a hare shown in smaller, facing illustrations, through treasure-finding, robbery, imprisonment, freedom and finally, optimism that their future is secure. Holder's paintings are richly hued and lavishly detailed, with intricate decorative borderssymbols are artfully constructed into the corners and embroidered throughout the paintingsreminiscent of a medieval illuminated manuscript. She has integrated period costumes and romantic settings with a wealth of symbols from both Christian and folk traditions. One of the marvels of the pictures is the background of iridescent pink, plum and peach colors that become gray or blue as the mood of the prophesies turns somber, and then move back to blush tones as the chance for happiness increases. For some readers, the inclusion of a table of symbols closes off the pictures from interpretation, because the icons are isolated from much broader contexts by the restrictive definitions here. But opening this ripe melon-colored book is like peering through a door at an opulent play. The colors bewitch, the textures beguile, and the entire event romances the audience. All ages. (October)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1987
Release date: 10/01/1987
Paperback - 978-0-374-41610-2
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