cover image I Wish

I Wish

Toon Tellegen, trans. from the Dutch by David Colmer, illus. by Ingrid Godon. Elsewhere, $22 (105p) ISBN 978-1-939810-32-8

Godon’s soft, unsettling portraits came before Tellegen’s poems; an opening note says that Tellegen “sought out stories behind Ingrid’s many faces.” Most of the pictures are of children, their implacable expressions casting doubt on the idea of carefree, innocent youth. Each face is round as the moon, with small shining eyes that sit curiously far apart. Often white and wispy-haired, the figures rarely smile. One boy wears a bellhop’s uniform; another, a red jersey and cap. Tellegen’s inward-turned, free verse poems, gracefully translated by Colmer, give them voice: Rosie, a fierce, small child in an incongruously bright pink bonnet, says, “I want to fight something/ but I still have to decide what..../ Vanity, maybe./ Or tickling./ I really hate tickling.” Paula thinks philosophically: “If I had never felt pain, nobody could explain/ to me what pain was.” Lack of bravery worries Anton: “If courage was something you could buy,/ I’d spend all my money on it.” By voicing the fears, angers, and secret desires of the figures, Tellegen spurs readers to embrace those of others, and their own. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)