Leave Your Sleep

Merchant, Natalie. Leave Your Sleep: a Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2012.

I will admit I am biased when it comes to anything Natalie Merchant puts her stamp on. Over the years Ms. Merchant has proven time and time again that she is a humanitarian and an educator. She just happens to have a beautiful voice to go with that caring heart. And having all said that, that is why I bought three copies of Leave Your Sleep. I thought it was appropriate to send one to my public library. I took the chance because there is no way of knowing if they bought it for themselves (no online catalog) but I doubt they did. I also bought a copy for my sister’s family. I don’t know if they will listen to it more than once so I have asked them to pass it along to their public library when they are finished. Do you see a pattern?
Then, of course, I bought my own copy. I will not be donating mine to any local library, though!

Leave Your Sleep is comprised of nineteen poems set to music and, in the book version, accompanied by the wonderful  illustrations of Barbara McClintock. Having the illustrations in front of me banishes my own imaginings but at the same time expands my visions, if that makes sense. For example, take The Sleepy Giant by Charles Edward Carryl. When I first heard Natalie’s musical interpretation in 2008 my mind saw an ancient old man for a giant who was decidedly, thanks to an accordion and somber drums, very very creepy. In the book version of Leave Your Sleep the 372 year old giant is a portly Victorian woman looking a bit like Winston Churchill. Not as creepy as my own imagination scared me. On the other hand the village in Vain and Careless by Robert Graves far exceeded the pictures in my head. The poem came alive in ways it hadn’t before seeing it on the printed page.

The continuing magic is how the book is arranged. Thoughtful consideration was given to every aspect from layout to packaging. Ms. Merchant’s introduction personalizes the project and gives the poems a resonating warmth. I am guessing she thoroughly collaborated on the illustrations because the girl in Equestrienne by Rachel Field looks a lot like Natalie in her video for the song Kind and Generous.

My favorite poem in the entire collection (cd and book) remains ee cummings’s Maggie and Milly and Molly and May. It’s my childhood played out before me.



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