HMH Books for Young Readers, 1982. 978-0812404661
Winner of the 1982 John Newbery Medal, 1982 Caldecott Honor Book
Synopsis: Come traveler, and stay a night at William Blake’s Inn. You’ll meet a fine collection of animal friends, learn about some of the magic of the stars, and be told a story by William Blake himself. When it be time for you to leave, you will not leave the same.
Why I picked it up: It was on the list of Newbery Medal winners and I decided to check it out as part of my poetry binge for National Poetry Month.
Why I finished it: Inspired by William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, Willard takes us on a trip to a mythical inn where all manner of creatures and people rest their heads and visitors can experience everything from the ordinary to the magical. Part of the magic of the poems is that it makes something that would be otherwise illogical and makes it perfectly normal – otherwise we might not believe that a bear could be a piece of furniture, a cat could take his breakfast on the roof of the inn, a hike could be taken among the stars, and a tiger would ask for a bedtime story. Blake’s inspiration and Willard’s love for Blake’s poetry comes across in the work, with each poem blending together to form a story of a young and inexperienced traveler that has come to stay with other, perhaps more experienced, travelers. The Provensen’s illustrations bring the magic of the poems to life, taking us on a journey through the pictures as well as the words. The stylized but realistic pictures show us the world of William Blake’s Inn, and leave the reader wishing they too could be spirited away to such a wonder-filled place.
Other related materials: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Eric Beddows; Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd; The Provensen Book of Fairy Tales selected and illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen; Poetry for Young People: William Blake edited by John Maynard, illustrated by Alessandra Cimatoribus; Poetry for Young People: Animal Poems edited by John Hollander, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani; Poetry for Young People: American Poetry edited by John Hollander, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport; The Random House Book of Poetry for Children compiled by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel; Rhymes and Verses: Collected Poems for Young People by Walter de la Mare, illustrated by Elinore Blaisdell