I have had the privilege of bounding along in the company of Jill Stanton-Huxton’s Leaping Hare. What a truly unique and exquisite collection of poems, as I imagined it would be from such an evocative title. It is wonderful to ‘feel the love’, the author’s passion for our threatened creatures and woodlands, as it blows through the poems to the reader. I was spellbound as I turned each page, and Emily Brady’s illustrations are exquisite and indeed the perfect complement.
There is a fascinating Introduction (pages ix to xii), which sets the collection in context and explains the debt the author owes to her parents, who knew the importance of enabling their children to spend time in the natural world – with a pair of family binoculars. As I moved from the introductory prose to the poems, I found Jill’s magical memories were triggering a host of half-forgotten ones of my own.
It was the intriguing title that made me want to read this beautiful collection in the first place. I love the way in which the Moon Daisy weaves her way through the pages. I admire the sense of balance between joy and wonder on the one hand, and concern and pain on the other. This judicious inclusion of this ‘light and shade’ seems fitting for a dappled woodland backdrop. There are, however, other habitats to explore and enjoy; the opening poem offers a coastal setting, while the kingfisher prefers the willows by the river and the fox prepares ‘to curl up tight nose to tail’ in an urban garden.
Like the author, I found myself very worried when I first heard that a significant number of ‘nature’ words (‘acorn’, ‘buttercup’ and ‘catkin’, to name but three) had been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary back in 2007. Many will be familiar with Robert Macfarlane’s book, The Lost Words (illustrated by Jackie Morris); the poignant reference to ‘last words’ in Jill’s final poem, ‘The Nightjar’, did not pass me by.
The Leaping Hare and the Moon Daisy will surely appeal to adults and children alike. The author’s subjects are most engaging; we marvel at the Moorhen in her ‘green stockinged feet’ and are introduced to the Dandelion with its ‘mustardy roar’. The collection can be enjoyed for these wonderful descriptions alone, but I sense most readers will allow themselves to be transported downstream on the metaphorical undercurrent of something a little deeper, something linked to the joys, sorrows and responsibilities that reflect our humanity.
Caroline published her beautifully crafted and absolutely delightful debut poetry collection ‘Driftwood by Starlight’ in 2021. See Caroline’s blog for further information and to purchase a copy. www.carolinegillpoetry.com