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From The Asian Reporter, V15, #45 (November 8, 2005), page 15.

This dim sum of my dreams

Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams

By Janet S. Wong

Illustrations by Julie Paschkis

McElderry Books, 2000

Hardcover, 28 pages, $16.00

By Josephine Bridges

Dreams aren’t always sweet, and that’s okay with Janet Wong. Night Garden is a strong collection of poetry because the author doesn’t shy away from sad, odd, or even scary dreams, just like her audience. The more of Janet Wong’s books I read, the harder it is for me to believe that she’s really a grown up and not a wise, poised, articulate ten-year-old.

"Who Knows How Long" relates a dream in which the narrator answers a stranger, "Oui, c’est vrai," even though she doesn’t really speak French, and compares this instinctual language to "the way a goose flies south for winter."

Lots of people love to fly in their dreams, but Janet Wong’s narrator isn’t one of them, and she’s not embarrassed to admit it in "Flying":

I’ve never flown

except in planes.

I think I would be terrified

to find the ground lost

under me.

Night Garden isn’t just about people’s dreams, either. We’ve all watched dogs and cats dream, but it was Janet Wong’s thought to write "Dog Dreams":

Our sad old dog

kicks his feet,

twitches, growls

in his sleep,

whimpers, snarls,

yelps awake.

There’s a poem called "Nightmare" that deals with the terrifying after-effects of what children see on the news on television. "Even in My Sleep" is about one of those dreams that start out pleasant enough and then take a serious turn for the worse.

"Turnip Cake" is a feast of color, taste, and texture:

The salt in it

bites the back of my mouth,

my soggy mouth,

watering over

this lo bak go like no other,

this dim sum of my dreams,

crisp to the teeth

and soft to the tongue,

and I wake up

hungry.

Julie Paschkis does these poems proud with her surreal illustrations. Vegetables with faces, geese carrying keys, squirrels wearing acorn berets, fish with hands and feet, and people with tomato heads are all between the covers of Night Garden, not to mention mice, horses, and monkeys eating with chopsticks and a cat smoking a pipe.

Night Garden is a dream come true.

 

To buy me, visit these retailers:

Powell's Books

  Amazon