A life song by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker

cover image

A beautifully presented picture book about life’s journey will have everyone, adult and child alike, thinking about the way their life’s journey has gone, and what melodies are sung along the way.

At birth the song is there to be developed. It may not rhyme and is very short, but as life unfolds, other songs are added, revealing the experiences they have become involved with, adding to the accumulation of song. As each year goes by the song gets broader, revealing things observed and leant.

Told in mainly four line verses, sometimes an extra line surprises. Each verse adds new phrases, some are repeated or shadowed, but are always fresh and stimulating.

Walt Whitman in his Song of myself, (1855) pens the often quoted line, 'I contain multitudes', and this text reflects that. The child learns new verses, can change some lines, assimilate other songs, all the while developing their own tune which encompasses the world they have seen and experienced.

Anna Walker’s illustrations using watercolour, pencil and collage, remind me of the atmospheric paintings of Clarice Beckett, revealing the simplicity of life, its detail, the small things that happen. Walker evokes the tranquility and joy of living with the family, stretching and growing as life continues. The family is shown, a strong unit, there to support the growing child, adding to its experiences, supporting it in its endeavours, helping it as it develops its own song of life.

Grandparents comment on how tall the child has grown, life goes on, for some it is the end, some just beginning, but for all it adds experiences, the scaffolding of life.

The illustrations are dreamy and peaceful. Each page includes lots of activities, from playing with the family and friends, meeting the grandparents, walking, camping, playing in the forest, climbing trees, and so on. I love the sweeping images of the child in the tree, the family fleeing a bush fire, the child playing by herself in the room. Each page is intimate and embracing, asking the reader to think about their own experiences.

Themes: Journey, Life force, Wellness, Family, Song.

Fran Knight