As promised, a review of Looking for Holes and Other Poems, first mentioned in my blog post Margo’s Car.
Niko Scharer writes cleverly and playfully in this poetry book in picture book format where real life situations are twisted, exaggerated, and misconceived, spurring comedic results. Inside Looking for Holes you’ll find Renee’s tongue is literally twisted into a knot, Alexander Salamander repulses his lunch guests with his offerings of breaded dragonflies and hot mosquito crunch, a sad cat who can’t meow but moos instead, a girl who gets the hiccups whenever she eats peas, and a slew of other delightfully colourful characters. Scharer partially plays on the literal meanings of puns and idioms to situate real scenarios in the absurdity of fiction.
The varying voices of the poems loudly resound through the text, introducing new and interesting characters with each turn of the page. The narrator is sometimes first person, sometimes third person omniscient, and sometimes third person limited, the collection of speeches, confessions, stories, etc… fill the book to the brim with huge personalities and endless possibilities. It’s easy for readers to feel familiar with the characters though they each appear only briefly. Though the poems are short, paired with the full illustrations the entirety of the book expands on the brevity of each individual poem.
The illustrator, Gary Clement, is the daily political cartoonist for Canada’s National Post as well as an author, illustrator, and artist. Clement often elongates and exagerates his characters’ features in a skillfully cartoonish fashion. Clement’s adaptability and versatility works incredibly well with Scharer’s humorous writing style, perfectly illustrating the tonal elements of the writing and bringing characters to life.
The cover of the book is the only picture I could find. This is unfortunate because the action-packed illustrations add an entirely new dimension to the playfulness and humour of the poetry. If possible, check it out! One of my favourite poems of the book, titled “Street Names,” is set in Toronto. A boy goes to King Street and Queen Street expecting to see royalty but leaving disappointed. However, suspiciously regal looking characters manifest in the background of the illustrations, unnoticed by the oblivious narrator. In fact, when choosing a poem to copy here many of my favourites were eliminated because they are elaborated on in the pictures so well that I don’t want to spoil your reading by conveying only half the experience. Here is one of the poems that I think does justice to Scharer’s work and won’t be too undercut by the lack of accompanying illustration.
Margaret’s so preposterous
She swalled a rhinoceros!
She ate him up from tail to snout
(Except the parts she spit back out.)
She munched his toes and crunched his feet,
She spread grape jelly on the meat.
She stuffed his horn with pickled eel
And fried the wrinkles on his heel.
She dipped the bones in sour cream
And licked his knobby knuckles clean.
At last she ate his tangled hair
And then the rhino wasn’t there.
How awful, how preposterous!
She ate the whole rhinocerous
And didn’t share with me.