Footpath Flowers

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Footpath Flowers
JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith
Walker Books
To me this is a poem in pictures – poetry in motion only without the words and a pretty near perfect one too; an ode to young children, to the small wonders of nature, to joy in fact. The whole book is a small treasure.
Hand-in-hand, a child (I think a girl) and a man walk, through an urban landscape seemingly without speaking to one another. He is preoccupied with his mobile, the shopping and getting home. The child however, keeps stopping to pick the wild flowers that grow out – as wild flowers do – from all manner of cracks and corners;

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she smells each one lovingly and soon collects a small bunch. But then, still paying attention to the small things around, she notices a dead bird on the path and with due reverence, leaves her first bouquet on the bird.

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Next to receive her attention is a man (homeless?) snoozing on a park bench: he too receives a floral gift, as does a dog

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and once home she bestows floral offerings on her mum and her siblings. That leaves her just one flower:

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and she’s still walking. Whither next we wonder?

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Those of us who work with young children know that they often exhibit – like the child here – a sense of awe and wonder, a connectedness with nature and with their fellow beings and given opportunities for living in the moment, they demonstrate that felt sense, or sometimes even flow state, that young children can inhabit. To me this book is a demonstration of that and it’s achieved by its creators really getting down to the child’s eye level and showing us things from that perspective. I cannot praise too much the Canadian poet author’s storyline and the way in which he has left Sydney Smith to translate that into visual poetry with just the right amount of sentiment and judicious use of colour.

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His perspective in both full-page scenes and smaller strip-frames, is always that of the child; and this is key. So too is the fact that at no time does the adult become impatient or harass the child; rather he walks on but waits with outstretched hand at appropriate moments. (Would that every child had such an adult who showed that depth of understanding.)
Full of poignancy, this is a book to revisit and to cherish.

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