One Hungry Heron (2014), by Carolyn Beck and Karen Patkau

This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 20.3.

Beck - HeronI’ve always been particularly fond of herons, especially in art, so One Hungry Heron immediately appealed. The beauty of Karen Patkau’s rich illustrations of pond life springs out of the pages, the main element of the book’s engaging graphic layout. Creatures from the drawings on the right creep, swim, slither into the white-space where Carolyn Beck’s simple poem counts up from one hungry heron to ten tiny turtles… only to quickly slide back down through the numbers as raindrops on the water send the creatures to seek cover. In the upper left corner of each page spread, too, Patkau has decorated the brightly coloured numbers with small pictures of the pond’s creatures, complementing the larger pictures on the right.

The movement in the structure of the poem is paralleled by the onomatopœia: “dragonflies / hover and dip. / Whiz! Pause! Whiz! / Zoom! Zoom! Zip!” The images and sounds together create a rolling, fluid experience for the young reader, interrupted only by the occasional stilted syntax of some of the verses or uneven meter of the poetry. It is unfortunate when such a beautiful little book is marred by imperfect poetics; One Hungry Heron comes so close to being a spectacular book. Certainly, it is still beautiful, but the overall reading (listening…) experience will be lessened by the uneven meter and imperfect rhyme scheme.

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