Soonchild by Russell Hoban
Illustrated by Alexis Deacon
What a strange book! Why write or publish a book like this for children? Is it to mess with our heads? Now we have screens and TV and endless downloadable music with people emoting about luv and dance. We have central heating and the supermarkets deliver to our door, and the Internet is straight to our phone and doctors keep us well and there is insurance, antibiotics and Botox so we don't age, get sick or die.
I don't want to know about big mysteries and unanswered questions. I do not need to know about the mirror in the eye of the raven, or the spirit songs or the strangeness, or how to travel on the inside of the night like a shaman does. Or do I?
What a mystifying book! A fable, a plea, a parable, a myth, a hymn of love to the world as a father, Sixteen-Face John sets out to help his Soonchild out into the world to become Here and Now.
What a dark story! Like a zero temperature Carlos Castaneda or a shape-shifting Thomas Traherne, John must traverse through millennia, meeting animal and ancestor spirits, to learn the world songs that resonate through the the rocks, wind and water to be heard by the waking life in the womb. Hoban is an extraordinary writer, able to turn intangible thoughts into poetry. The
illustrations capture the visceral,, the totemic, the trance and the dream state.
What an extraordinary book! It puts me in mind of Hiawatha, Brother Eagle, Sister Sky and the speech attributed to Chief Seattle of the Duwamish tribe in 1854 that has been cited as an early manifesto of the environmental movement. Hoban has tapped into some ancient elemental magic here. A tough read, but mighty rewarding.