The Tale I Told Sasha

Reviewed: April 25, 2003
By: Poetry by Nancy Willard, Art by David Christiana
Publisher: Little Brown
23 Pages, $23.95

Sometimes when you are considering the worth of a book, you begin at the beginning. Sometimes you begin at the end.

“A hundred pencils, swift as rain,

writing on sheets of beaten gold

would not be quick enough to hold

the strange adventures

shadows hide.”

That’s how The Tale I Told Sasha comes to a close after a marvellous Alice in Wonderland style adventure in a plain little house on a dingy late afternoon. When her yellow ball bounces just ahead of her, through the shadow of a door cast by the mantle clock that does not work, our nameless little narrator finds herself travelling into another world over the Bridge of Butterflies, across the Field of Lesser Beasts, to the land of the King of Keys.

This is where all the lost things go, and soon she finds herself amidst a catalogue of the misplaced and mislaid, things both concrete (a card from Old Maid) and abstract (what a sailor feels when everything he loves is lost) until she finds the King and he returns her ball, which passes between the worlds as if he had unzipped the dimensions and tossed it home.

The poem that tells us all this is a lovely thing, full of evocative language and not the least bit “easy”, in the sense that some children’s books are. The artwork is complex and startling, with hints of many styles, suggesting to me work that Tenniel (of Alice fame) might have produced if he’d lived 100 years later.

Good stuff this. I read it several times, once aloud just for fun.