Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: SEVEN FATHERS by Ashley Ramsden

Ramsden, Ashley. Seven Fathers. Illus. by Ed Young. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2011. $16.99/$19.50 Can. ISBN: 978-1-59643-544-5.

Ashley Ramsden’s retelling of this Norwegian folktale evokes a deep response from the reader. A winter traveler, nearly at death with exhaustion, stumbles upon a house, “blazing with lights,” a beacon of hope amid the snow and cold. Each man he meets at the house sends him further in to “the father of the house,” each one older than the last, until finally he is speaking with a speck of dust, whose response, “Yes, my son,” clues the reader into the broader spiritual element of the text. In a moment of mysterious heavenly splendor, all the men of the house, now equal in age, join the traveler in a magnificent feast.

Ed Young’s combination of cut paper collage, paint splattering, and pastel create multi-dimensional illustrations that both leap off the page and draw the reader further into the folktale. The illustrations, while sometimes abstract, are evocative – one can almost feel the temperature change from the bitter cold of the Norwegian winter to the warm indoors as the traveler proceeds further into the house.

The metaphor of spiritual quest might not be understood by very young children, but the endearing warmth and comfort of the story, particularly the ending, in which the weary traveler lies down on a bed, saying a prayer of thanks that he had, “at last, found the true father of that house,” lends itself nicely as a bedtime story to be treasured and re-read.

Marisa Behan

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