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Joanne Findon is a Fitzhenry and Whiteside author.
Gr 3-5‘This account of the life of Robert Burns is written in the first person, as though the bard himself were telling of his trials and triumphs. His story is told in flowing prose, with some of the lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne" interspersed throughout. While the text is clear and generally accurate, it does include a rather romantic explanation of both the poet's father's encounter with a gypsy and Robert's "vision" of the muse, Coila. However, this is in keeping with Burns's own style and, thus, seems fitting to the piece. Words that appear in the glossary are not highlighted in the text. The full-page, realistic paintings vary in quality, but they do amplify the mood of the text. Interior scenes and those showing close-ups of people appear rather amateurish, for facial features often appear disproportionate; landscapes fare much better. An additional purchase for collections in which poetry and introductory biographies are popular.‘Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
The creators of The Dream of Aengus shape a fittingly romantic though somewhat desultory portrait of Robert Burns, who is credited for preserving the melody of and contributing lyrics to the classic Scottish ballad of the book's title. Findon's first-person narrative imagines the thoughts of this 18th-century poet, who reveals that since "that famine-faced spectre, Poverty, was a constant visitor in our home," he had to steal away from his father's fields to write down the poetry that "burned within me." An 18-year-old Burns receives a prophetic visit from Coila, goddess of the land of Kyle (and celebrated in his poem "The Vision"), who bids him "to serve her by writing of Scotland's joys and sorrows." Findon also includes here Burns's chance meeting with his future wife, Jean Armour, hints at the birth of "five wee bairns" and records his early days traveling as the Scottish Bard. A glossary translates words from both text and song, yet youngsters will likely stumble over the numerous ponderous sentences and colloquialisms. More accessible and memorable are Nasmith's lifelike paintings, which include several majestic mountain and sea landscapes. This accomplished artist's feel for the tale has historical roots: Alexander Nasmyth, a Scottish portrait painter and Burns's friend, was Nasmith's ancestor. This sturdy introduction may lead older readers to the poet, but younger readers may find it difficult to follow. Ages 6-up. (Jan.)