Monday, September 6, 2010

Marilyn Singer's Mirror Mirror

I am ecstatic about the book Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse. It was highly praised on Surlalune when it came out. Being on a tight budget, and since fairy tales are not my line of work, I don't have the luxury of ordering every fairy tale book I'd like to, and generally content myself with whatever my library has, but after flipping through this book I knew I had to own it.

For those of you who haven't heard of it yet, Mirror Mirror is a book of reversible fairy tale poems. Singer took several major fairy tales and wrote a poem about each of them, and on the other side of the page, the poem is reversed line by line. With alterations only in punctuation, the poems not only still make sense, but most of them alter the perspective and/or meaning by the reversal. For example, I'll share with you my favorite, which predictably, is the Beauty and the Beast one, but it's so beautiful and simple, yet complex...
Longing for Beauty

A beast
can love
A moist muzzle
can welcome
a rose.
A hairy ear
can prize
a nightingale, singing.
Beneath fur,
A soft heart

(And the reverse: )
a soft heart.
beneath fur.
A nightingale singing,
can prize a hairy ear.
A rose can welcome
a moist muzzle.
can love
a Beast.

Isn't that amazing?!?! I think that, if I read this as a child, I would be fascinated by the concept of the reversible lines. It would blow my mind (it still does) that it could make sense up or down, but the child can look and see, visually, that each line is the same, just reversed. I feel like I could have stared at these poems for hours, trying to understand how they worked.

I think my other favorites in the book were the Ugly Duckling, and the Rumplestiltskin (although they are all fantastic). Rumplestiltskin isn't necessarily one of my favorite fairy tales, but the poem that features his perspective starts "Do you know my name?/Think of straw turned to gold./In this story/I am/famous/but not/liked." The one that features the princess ends, "I am/ liked/but not/famous./I am/in this story./Think of straw turned to gold./Do you know my name?" At first I was confused but then I realized...the princess doesn't have a name! It's a whole fairy tale about guessing Rumplestiltskin's name, and though the princess is thought to be the heroine, I never even noticed she didn't have a name.

Let's forget about the bewitching writing for a second and just talk about the pictures, which are also stunning, and perfect companions for the poems. They make complete pictures, but the pictures are split as the poems are, showing opposite sides of the tales. The ones that illustrate this best are probably the cover and the Snow White picture-I love how the cave and hill complete the witch's face!

The pictures help clue you in on some poems. Rapunzel's poem includes the line "No wonder she felt snippy." At first I just read that as, "she felt annoyed," as it talks about her mother being a witch and keeping her in a tower. But a close look at the picture reveals that "snippy" meant she literally cut her own hair off!

Seriously, for Christmas this year, get this book for every child you know.

No comments:

Post a Comment