Blaise Cendrars, original text

Marcia Brown, translation and illustrations

Scribner’s, 1982

36 pp.

Age: 7+

Interests: poetry, Africa

Also by this illustrator: Once a Mouse…, Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper , Stone Soup, Dick Whittington and His Cat, Puss in Boots, The Steadfast Tin Soldier

This free verse poem by Blaise Cendrars was inspired by the shamans and storytellers of Africa. It evokes the dancing shadow of the fire, the prowling shadow of the jungle, the sightless voiceless shadow of night, the teeming stretching shadows of morning.

Marcia Brown translated this poem from the original french and created the collage illustrations, which serve the text wonderfully.

It’s a little creepy in places, with Shadow personified and omnipresent.

It is always watching. / If you open your eyes in your sleep, / Shadow is there. \ It has already stolen back like a thief, and now it is spying on you.

And in the dark of night it is zombie-like, staggering about blindly,

arms stretched out, / trying to grab / to hang on.

Probably not great for kids with night terrors. More suitable for older children interested in poetry or African folklore. Also, for children interested in writing, here’s a good example of free verse. Deep and mysterious, rich in metaphor, dark and unsettling.

(This title at


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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