cover image Shadow Play, Night Haiku: Night Haiku

Shadow Play, Night Haiku: Night Haiku

Penny Harter. Simon & Schuster, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-671-88396-6

On the title page of this artful collection of haiku, a boy and his dog lean out the window, ostensibly to listen to the sounds of the night. At each turn of the page, three loosely related haiku are paired with a dark pastel illustration filled with intriguing angles and shadows. Like the work of Gary Blythe or Chris Van Allsburg, Greene's (Backyard Bear) compositions startle with their skewed perspectives and bold designs. Unfortunately, the text succeeds neither as a body of haiku nor as a story: the traditional haiku form is not used to its advantage but as if it were a prosaic stanza in a narrative poem (``the cat wakes me up/ chasing his tail/ in the dark''). On the other hand, the links between the poems are not always evident, as when haiku about nightfall, morning dew and chasing evening fireflies inexplicably interrupt the description of the snowstorm that occurs as the boy sleeps. Poems about a fortune-teller and the boy's grandparents watching an eclipse seem to pad the pages rather than form an integral part of the boy's thoughts or dreams. Ultimately, a disappointment. Ages 6-11. (Sept.)