Seven Fathers: A Vivid Retelling


Seven Fathers retold by Ashley Ramsden, illustrated by Ed Young

Released April 12, 2011.

A lone man walks in a snow-filled night, desperate to find shelter from the cold and weather.  With the last of his strength, he approaches a house that appears out of the darkness.  There he finds an old man chopping wood.  When the traveler asks if he can stay the night, the old man replies that he is not the father of the house.  His father is in the kitchen.  The traveler heads to the kitchen where he meets an even older man and asks him if he can stay.  But the man replies that he too is not the father of the house and sends him to the parlor.  This pattern continues until each man more wizened and elderly than the last has sent him on to the next.  Finally, the traveler reaches a horn hung on the wall with a speck of dust resting on it, and then he gets his answer.

Ramsden’s story telling skill is very apparent with this retelling.  The text glides, moves and soars, allowing the story to truly be told.  He creates moments where readers will feel the cold, the wind and the snow.  He creates other moments where the smell of stew and the warmth of a kitchen enter aching bones.  Unlike some folklore stories with repeating patterns, Ramsden writes each encounter as a special one, yet keeps them tethered to one another.  It is a necklace of unique gems.

Young’s illustrations are done in mixed-media collage.  They hearken to the Nordic origins of the story with their furs, wools, and woods.  The lines Young has created are so simple, creating faces and expressions with a minimal number of details.  All of the art is on dark paper that evokes a traditional, aged feel to the entire book.

A beautiful, moving and vivid retelling of folklore, this book is definitely a jewel among picture books.  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.