{book} the tale I told Sasha

on

DAY 18

The Tale I Told Sasha by Nancy Willard

Illustrated by David Christiana

Little Brown and Company, 1999.

Natalya still keeps a few picture books from her younger years on her bookshelf. I decided to just pick the first one to come to hand (the shelves are a mess at the moment). The Tale I Told Sasha is wonderful…and strange; which is probably a bit part of why it still lives with N.

A yellow ball rolls out of sight, over the Bridge of Butterflies, across the Field of Lesser Beasts, through painted trees, to the place where all lost things are found.—publisher

The epigraph quotes The White Queen from Through the Looking-Glass.: “Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” In the tale Nancy Willard told Sasha (see dedication), more than six impossible things occur in “the thinning evening light” as the girl in the story looks for the yellow ball that has been lost to the shadows. “Our mantel clock did not keep time/ but in the thinning evening light/ its shadow deepened to a door/ that opened nearly out of sight/ on brighter rooms, an older space.” On a day that was “wet and dull” in house where the “dining room was dark and plain” and their “living room was plain and small” the girl enters a world where the lost can be found, a curious place with a road under a coin, a door beside the road from whence “a golden fish swam out and growled, “Your yellow ball is far from here.””

—-The adventure has the surreal quality of the magical and the quiet of something potentially dark and creepy. The lighting, the wash of the water color and pastel illustrations lend a more harmless dream-like quality. Though strange, it is a lovely rather than panic-inducing kind of exploration. While the Alice down the hole or through the glass comes to mind, where the girl’s goes is not without familiar influences.  Creatures and sets alike incorporate household objects and some are not cute, but all are striking. David Christiana’s images as provoked by Willard’s tale evoke whimsy and the upside-down. He populates the pages in company with the prose, but he provides more opportunities for exploration. “Our house is quiet, small and plain, and yet its rooms run far and wide.”

When you see the mother give the girl the yellow ball, notice the paintbrushes tucked in her hair, the creature in her overall’s pocket, the print framed in the hall over her shoulder, the books. There is little wonder who nurtures the kind of tale the narrator has to tell and the kind of images the illustrator is inspired to share. I remember this particular book being shared with a certain stillness, a kind of quiet. The Tale I Told Sasha provides a different kind of experience from the many picture books with poetic language/images, a different kind of journey into the other places of our world (our imagination). I think this one is great for the already reading. Still, for adults who love language and appreciate the atmospheric call for creativity this invokes and if you’ve a child who seems to enjoy the wonder of the shadows and the lost and the strange…

{images belong to David Christiana}

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