Sunday, March 27, 2011

Graven Images

By Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Andrew Glass    
Three graven images—a wooden binnacle boy, a copper saint, and a marble statue—the main commonality between the three short stories written by Paul Fleischman and Illustrated by Andrew Glass in the book, Graven Images
The mysterious tale of The Binnacle Boy is about a wooden binnacle boy who is the only witness to the mysterious death of the Orion’s (a ship’s) crew.  The amusing tale of Saint Crispin’s Follower is about a young boy who follows his heart and the direction of a copper saint to lead him to his love, Juliana.  The eerie tale of The Man of Influence is about a desperate and poor sculptor who honors a dead murderer by sculpting him in marble.
These three tales continue to show the versatility of author Paul Fleischman.  In a biography about Fleischman, it is mentioned that he, “blends musical language with quirky looks at the world as viewed through the lens of human and natural history.”  It continues to mention how in books like Graven Images, Fleischman incorporates his love of music by including rhythm, meter, and rhyme in his writing, which is written in 4/4 time.    He does this, because it is as close as he feels he can get to composing music.
I found this to be very interesting.  I have played the violin for thirteen years and was not sure I understood how to use 4/4 time in writing.  I tried reading some of the text aloud to see if I could figure it out, but quite frankly—I am not sure what he means by that.  Perhaps if I heard Fleischman read the stories aloud, it would make more sense to me.  Do you know what he means by this?
Although I do not fully understand the meter of the text, I do believe Fleischman was successful in altering the style of his language and dialogue to meet the setting and time frame of the text.  All three of these stories seemed to take place long ago.  The first, I felt to have very formal language.  For example, “Dear child—how good to see you,” Miss Bunch addressed Tekoa at the door.  “And good day to you as well, Miss Frye.  As you’re no doubt lonely without your dear son, we felt it to be our solemn duty to lend you our company once again.””
Although the second story is supposed to take place in Charleston, South Carolina at an undisclosed time, from the text I would have thought it was taking place in England.  For example, “You’ve got promise, lad—that’s plain as a peacock.  But you’ll have to give up your moonin’ about…Look alive at your work! Keep your eyelids hoisted! Stay alert as a hare, lad—a hare chased by hounds!”   The first time I read the story I missed the location and assumed throughout that they were indeed in England.
The third story, taking place in Genoa, has a more humorous style of text that help us to realize how helpless and desperate Zorelli the stone carver really is.  “With growing revulsion he took note of the spirit’s missing ear, his crooked teeth, and the long jagged’ rip down the front of his doublet.  Had warm flesh belonged to him he might have been taken for a beggar, or a rag merchant dressed in his wares, and suddenly Zorelli wondered if the man was worthy of salvation in stone—or deserved forgetting, like most of humanity.”  Although the story is odd, I couldn’t help but find the humor in Zorelli’s personality and his nagging wife.  “By tomorrow night we’ll have nothing to gnaw on—unless, of course, you pick up your hammer and carve us a roast goose out of granite.”
Although very few illustrations, illustrator Andrew Glass sets the mood for each story with a single-framed pencil drawing at the start.  He highlights the key character in the story as well as the supernatural elements.  For example, the first illustration is of Sarah Peel whispering into the ear of the Binnacle Boy.  It almost looks as though the wooden boy is scared stiff at what he has just witnessed and what he is being told.  The second illustration is that of the St. Crispin weathervane, Juliana, and the mind-lost apprentice—Nicholas.  We can see through the illustration that Nicholas is a daydreamer.  The final illustration is of Zorelli and the ghostly spirit—Zorelli realizing whom he has just honored in stone. 
Together these three stories combine to provide both spook and humor.  Will these stories replace the ones that children tell at sleepovers when trying to scare each other stiff?  Probably not, but—the tales are certainly peculiar enough to catch the interest of any reader.


  1. I liked the comments about how "devilish" men are (in the first story). Also, I tried to look up what each supernatural item looked like. I saw pictures of The Binnacle Boy but I could find one of the weather vane or the sculpture.

  2. I am not sure about counting notes, but I feel that there is rythm with his words in this book.

    I wonder how kids today respond to a book like this.

  3. Amy--which version of the book do you have? I read on Amazon that there is a newer version of the book (copyright 2005) and this version has a different illustrator than the original. My illustrations did show the picture of the weathervane and the sculpture. It would be interesting to see the illustrations of the other version. I wonder why they changed them.