cover image Prayer for the Twenty-First Century

Prayer for the Twenty-First Century

John Marsden. Star Bright Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-887734-42-4

Like the traditional Irish blessing (""May the road rise up to meet you./ May the wind be always at your back""), the form that Marsden chooses for his modern prayer is a lyrical litany: ""May the road be free for the journey,/ May it lead where it promised it would."" In his first picture book, the Australian YA novelist (Letters from the Inside) combines modern anxieties (""May every aircraft fly safely"") with the language of ancient longings (""May fears always have names""). The stunning graphics and design feature a line or two of the poem on a textured background subtly incorporating a single word, and each spread displays reproductions of extraordinary paintings and photographs. A striking collaged skeleton is juxtaposed with a slick black-and-white photo of hands loading a gun (""May the knife remain in the holder,/ May the bullet stay in the gun""). The plaintive ""May we be outlived by our daughters,/ May we be outlived by our sons"" appears with three startling photographs and a painting, all of thriving young adults. The brilliant complexity and range of the artwork evocatively counterpoint the simplicity of the poem's entreaties. Best suited to older children and adults, this supremely accomplished work gives uncommon voice to the hopes and fears of people everywhere. All ages. (June)