Herman of Herm Island
I was at the Stamford Arts Festival in February and among the usual bookshelves, boxes and piles of books at the literary exhibition, a stand caught my eye. It was adorned with an enticing display of pebbles and shells, and caught the fingers of the little people who passed by. Stones, shells and pieces of seaweed were arranged in patterns that evoked games, games that one could invent or develop with a friend.
The booth belonged to Janet Murch, best known as a poetry editor in Iota, but today she was displaying a children’s book she wrote with artist Lizzie Mee. Herman’s Stone’ is a very engaging read for adults and children to enjoy together, all about a Stone Age boy called Herman and the treasures he finds on the beach. It starts like this:
Herman lived on Herm Island thousands of years ago.
He loved to explore and he knew the whole island very well.
His favorite place was the rocky beach.
There are many books for little people that start the same way, but this one is special for two reasons. First of all, Lizzie Mee has a wonderful way with illustrations. The colors and shapes of pebbles and other beach treasures reflect the sun and clouds in the bright, summery sky in ways that are inexplicably satisfying to both child and adult. The work reminds me a little of the alchemical images inspired by the Mutus Liber, in the sense that one feels changed and uplifted by them. The luminous innocence of sunny yellow days and the dreamy softness of blue and pink evenings created by Mee provide a wonderful setting for this story in which Herm discovers his world and learns to get along with his sister and friends.
The second reason I recommend this book is its appeal to adults. Little people get so much out of stories they can enjoy with big people – but only if big people really enjoy reading, then I look for children’s books that offer something for adults too, and this one certainly does. part. I was not surprised to learn that the book was inspired by a visit to Guernsey. The book ends with a radiant image map of rural peace, which will have adults dreaming of a visit to the place where Herman found his stone.
‘Herman’s Stone’ costs £4.99 and can be purchased direct from Ragged Crow
More small presses and independent book reviews on bookish
Kay Green’s “Jung’s People” collection of stories, first published by Elastic Press, is now available at Circaidy Gregory Press