Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Hist!


Walker Classics: Hist! by C. J. Dennis, illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921977749
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Another generation of readers is being given the opportunity to embrace and enjoy poems from their parents’ and grandparents’ childhood. These immortal works are represented through the outstanding Walker Classics series of reissued books.

 Hist! was featured in my Victorian Readers Fourth Book when I was at school. Imagine my delight when I saw this wonderful production of that marvellous poem that we recited in front of the class more than half a century ago.

The outstanding linocuts were created by Gouldthorpe in 1991. The dark coloured pictures are positioned in jagged frames with borders of black images against a deep blue background.

The expressions on the children’s faces are priceless as their imagination runs wild at every sound they hear while crossing the Possum Park on a moonless night. It’s a daring adventure they’ve undertaken by torch light.

‘The clouds are low and gloomy. 
Oh! It’s just begun to mist! We haven’t any overcoats
And – Hist!

The first sound is the mopoke in the tree, then a pair of possums, a cat, and a frog behind a rock. But while they are scared witless, they think, ‘isn’t it a lark just to roam so far from home…’

The light from their house beckons as they exit the park. So does the supper on the table. So they run toward safety, knowing they’ve braved their fears. As they shout for joy at reaching home again, they are confronted by the stern faces of their parents waiting in silent reprimand. Even without the text, the poem’s story could be translated perfectly through the superb illustrations.

This reissue is a priceless present from the past to a new generation of young readers.

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