If ever there was an invitation to look anew at the natural world, then Antoinette Portis’ sequence of lyrical riddles offers just that.
We follow a little girl from sunrise to nightfall as she responds to morning’s invitation to “Come out and play!”
Once she’s up and outdoors a series of voices belonging to a snail, a leaf, an inchworm, a tadpole a pebble, a cloud, rain, lightning, thunder, mud, shadow and finally night, pose a clever riddle on each recto, the answer being revealed at the turn of the page. “I’m a map of my own / green home. / Follow my roads / and climb” – A mountain path perhaps? Turning to the verso we discover those words were spoken by leaf, a leaf whose shape and veins are almost mirrored by one of the trees standing behind.
Both Portis’ illustrations and verses are beautifully textured: “I’m a sweet sucked smooth / in the river’s mouth. / Let me roll in your pocket,” is a speckled pebbled held on the girl’s outstretched palm above a grainy shore.
Every riddle asks readers and listeners to embrace the great outdoors, to re-experience the familiar with all their senses alert and with a willingness to allow each encounter with nature to reveal unexpected riches.