Afternoon on a Hill

Creative Editions. Mar. 2019. 16p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781568463346.
Gr 1-3–Edna St. Vincent Millay’s short poem describes how she expects to enjoy nature on a hill. She will touch but not pick the flowers, look at cliffs and clouds, and watch the wind blow the grass. Italian illustrator Domeniconi’s digital artwork adds whimsical and sometimes eerie moments in the seven scenes of this quiet afternoon. In a simple opening scene a girl races through golden grass in a rolling terrain towards a line of distant fir trees while small birds fly overhead. Nature is never quite natural here. Lying in a field of varied flowers that resemble artificial blooms stuck in the grass, the girl appears to be sleeping. Her arms are curled around the stem of a gigantic blue flower. She then stands on a large leaf floating over the grass. Her gaze at the clouds and cliffs is obstructed by a clump of fir trees in the shape of an enormous rabbit. Things become a bit scary as she climbs a neat path to look down at the lighted town. Finally, in a cinematic ending, a tree morphs into a stupendous reindeer, the branches now a mass of antlers where the girl is seated for the ride downhill. The poetry without illustrations would likely seem vague to children, but the imaginative visual treatment is likely to elicit chuckles from some viewers. The eye on the tree is pretty unsettling. The tree-turned-reindeer seems to suggest it must have all been a dream.
VERDICT Some readers will find this fun and others may find it odd or confusing, but it does have possibilities for read-aloud, discussion, independent reading, or poetry lessons.

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