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The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
AGES: 0 - 3
SIZE: 5.5 x 6.5
PRICES: $8.95
HARDCOVER: 9781897476482

CCBC Best Books Pick 2013


MadeForMum's weekly favourite things-25th Jan, 2013


Kirkus Reviews:


"A board-book version of Stevenson's classic poem with retro illustrations. 'How do you like to go in a swing, // Up in the air so blue? // Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing / Ever a child can do!' begins this ode, one of the poet's best-loved poems from A Child's Garden of Verses. Morstad's paintings, reminiscent of Gyo Fujikawaâ's work, feature a multiracial cast of children flying on swings in various bucolic settings. Her throwback color palette, of yellow-greens paired with pale pinks on dark backgrounds, and the classic clothes worn by the youngsters in each scene blend well with Stevenson's more formal language. The youngest readers may have a difficult time relating to the images (the swings depicted are not the enclosed baby swings with which they are familiar, and the recognizable A-shaped swing frame almost always appears off the page), but older toddlers should be able to make the visual leap. The cover is a little dark and the girl a little serious, so here's hoping prospective readers will take a look inside. The joy within repays daring readers amply."


Canadian Family:


"The simple pleasure of gently soaring through the air on a swing is celebrated in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic poem, brought to life for wee ones in board book format. With beautiful illustrations, this calming, rhythmic tale is great for a cozy cuddle."


Today's Parent:


"The sensation of soaring through the skies is told in this classic poem that is given new life with beautiful drawings by an award-winning illustrator."

Betsy Bird, Fuse #8 - Review of the Day:


"There comes a moment in a new parent’s life when they realize that they have become their own parents. It’s different for everyone. For some folks it won’t happen until they’re berating their teenagers, conjuring up terms and threats from their own youth that they swore they’d never use. For others, it happens at practically the moment after conception. And for me, it happened when I read my one-year-old daughter Julie Morstad’s simply irresistible adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic poem The Swing. As I read the book aloud I realized that I had heard this poem myself as a child. I could even recall the images that accompanied it, filled with sickly sweet children with cheeks so large they’d make the Campbell Soup kids seem wan in comparison. And when later I heard my own mother recite this poem I was amazed to discover that my reading, which I’d done several time for my own daughter, contained the exact same cadences and turns of phrase as my mother’s rendition. The difference for my daughter will be the fact that while the art accompanying my The Swing was tepid, the images that appear in Julie Morstad’s gorgeous little board book are utterly lovely creations. For all those parents desperate to introduce their toddlers to poetry, or just folks who want to read their kids something beautiful for once, here is the answer to your prayers.


'How do you like to go up in a swing / Up in the air so blue?' I should think you’d like it very much if you were one of the children in Julie Morstad’s clever little book. Adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s words, Ms. Morstad fills her pages with kids on their way up, their way down, and everywhere in-between. They glide under cherry blossoms, observe the even rows of plants and vegetables, and swing like superheroes on their bellies. The result is a haunting but thoroughly enjoyable update to a poem that feels as fresh and fun as it was the day it was first published in the late 1800s.


Etsy has been a simultaneous boon and problem for the children’s picture book world. On the one hand, there is no better place for editors to find up and coming artists. Never before has a public forum of this scope yielded such rich artistic talent. On the other hand, there is a kind of Etsy “look” that typifies the people found there. It’s what allows reviewers like myself to view certain kinds of children’s books and sniff “Etsy” when we want to put them down. Now at a first glance Morstad’s work onThe Swing might strike you as falling in the Etsy vein. An unfair assumption since as far as I can tell Ms. Morstad sells her art herself and not through Etsy. More to the point, this book is better than that. Granted I wouldn’t mind taking some of the images found in the book and framing them on my wall (particularly that cover image with the black background and white haired girl swinging through a field of vibrant blossoms). But there’s a quality to Ms. Morstad’s art that feels more than merely trendy. There’s a lot of beauty here, and it ties in directly to the subject matter.


Books about swinging for children are the one-act plays of children’s literature. Tied entirely to a single place where the vertical is exchanged for the horizontal, it’s hard to make a narrative around swinging. Indeed that’s probably why books like Higher Higher by Leslie Patricelli have been for the very young set while Tricia Tusa’s Follow Me has looked at other aspects of swinging entirely (colors, etc.). The best attempt at the genre was probably Joe Cepeda’s The Swing which had a kind of Calvin & Hobbes type of plot. Morstad’s adaptation of Stevenson’s poem is smart because rather than show a single kid just going up and down and down and up she shows a wide range of children swinging in all kinds of different settings.


Looking at the book itself I was impressed by the design of the thing. It fools you for the first few pages, allowing you to think that you’re reading yet another book where the text is on one page and the images on the other. Yet when you reach the lines “Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing / Ever a child can do!” the words curve and dive around two tow-headed children, swinging against a verdant green background. Each image carries with it a distinctive mood and feel. There’s one scene of a child swinging over “River and trees and cattle and all” while a midday sun sinks red towards the horizon. Of course I’ve already mentioned my favorite image in the book, which is the one on the cover. Happily Ms. Morstad comes full circle with that girl. She appears at first on the cover, and then once again at the end of the book with the final lines “Up in the air and down!” There you see her white hair, little pink shoes, and jet black background in place. This time, however, her swinging has definitely slowed down and she regards the reader with a small smile and a sense of complacency you can’t help but envy. Plus the fluorescent flowers are cool. Like those.


I am pleased to report that while I dislike it when folks use their own children as control groups, determining whether or not a book works, in this particular case I feel no guilt in reporting that my one-year-old is a fan. I’m not sure if it’s the engrossing images, the way the sentences are split up on the pages, or the way the poem sounds on my tongue, but whatever the case Morstad’s The Swing is definitely doing something right. Evocative and mesmerizing all at once, this is one book that is sure to engage kids right from the get-go. With its new packaging, Stevenson’s classic feels as fresh and new as anything you’ll find on your bookstore and library shelves today. Beautiful. There’s no other word for it."


CM Magazine - 4/4 stars review:


"Robert Louis Stevenson’s short poem, The Swing, is about the joy children experience when playing on a swing. On the first page, a boy is sitting on a wooden swing. Underneath his feet is a field of grass. On the next page, a girl in red shoes is flying up so high on her swing that she is eye to eye with a bird. Underneath her feet are fruit trees. The following pages show a boy playing on a tire swing in a park, a girl standing on a park swing, a boy lying on a swing on his stomach, and a girl from the countryside (braids, barefooted and overalls) swinging over her family’s garden. The book ends with a girl swinging over a field of flowers. It’s nighttime; the sky is black, but she’s still enjoying the sensation of going “up in the air and down!”


Morstad, who also illustrated the picture book Julia, Child by Maclear, captures that exhilarating feeling of being up in the sky on a swing. The views down below and up above are fantastic (water, boats, a field of cows), and the children’s pink cheeks and big smiles indicate they are thoroughly enjoying themselves. A few of the children are swinging with a friend, but many are alone. No adults appear on the page. The Swing is an easy rhyming poem to memorize, and a fun poem to read aloud during an infant or toddler storytime. Adults could sway or rock their child back and forth while the story is read."


Fab Book Reviews:


"One word immediately comes to mind when I think about The Swing and that word is joy! This is an utter gem of a board book, featuring glorious illustrations by Morstad to accompany the charming poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. There is something about this poem that takes me back to my childhood- perhaps I had it read to me when I was young, or it could be that it just exudes a feeling of happy nostalgia. That nostalgic feeling may also exist because this poem- perhaps due to certain key words or imagery- makes me think back to a beloved passage I read over (and over) again as a child: that of Winnie-the-Pooh, holding onto a balloon, sweetly singing ‘every little cloud, always sings aloud‘.
The lilting, uninhibited verse of Stevenson’s poem is, I think, perfectly expressed by Morstad’s buoyant yet serene illustrations. You can take a peak at some more of the delightful illustrations here on Morstad’s site. Overall, I just love this board book and would highly recommend it to little ones and adults alike."