The Sealey Challenge: Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions

a white hand holds Janet S. Wong's KNOCK ON WOOD: POEMS ABOUT SUPERSTITIONS, illustrated in a wash of warm colors by Julie Paschkis, against a warm backdrop of sun, green foliage, and gold flowers.
Knock on Wood

Janet Wong’s poetry is charming as hell, and Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions is another delightful entry—or perhaps I should say it’s a lovely book in her back catalog.

Knock on Wood is built around superstitions: seventeen of them, in fact, each one with a delightful poem accompanied by a lush, warm, almost mythic illustration by Julie Paschkis. The illustrations feel pretty much perfect for a book about folklore, with that quality of myth and nature about them, and Paschkis matches her illustrations neatly to Wong’s words in a wonderful example of poetry and image coming together.

Wong covers a fairly wide range of superstitions, some better known, some not so much. Apparently black cats were considered lucky in Egypt, which I hadn’t known! And evidently one is supposed to hang one’s horseshoe “prongs up. / Then leave it to fill, full and rich, / with no one looking. // When it’s time, the luck will spill.” Now, I come from a horseshoe-hanging family, but we’ve never, as far as I know, thought much about luck when we tacked them up. I’m pretty sure it was more about the cold iron than anything, but I’m thinking I’ll have to take care when it comes to putting up my own.

Knock on Wood is a quick, charming read, and I think could be a great teaching tool, whether as a discussion piece at home or in a classroom. The illustrations are so warm, and so lush; the poetry is so charming, and sometimes so funny. It’s a delightful book and a pleasure to read, and, I think, to share.

There must be good luck in that, don’t you think?


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