No artist has painted the cold like Ted Harrison. In The Cremation of Sam McGee
, the surrealist painter and children's illustrator from the Yukon brings Robert W. Service's famous poem to life in a palette of icy blues, blistering mauves, and searing pinks. Although originally written for adults, Service's turn-of-the-century ballad of a Tennessee gold digger who will do anything to get out of the Yukon's "cursed cold" has always appealed to a youthful sense of the ridiculous. In the tradition of the tall tales of Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed, The Cremation of Sam McGee
tells of how the dying McGee (fearing "the icy grave that pains") exacts a promise from the narrator to cremate him after he's gone. Harrison's bold, stark paintings capture the narrator's increasing sense of desperation as he dogsleds across the dark and silent tundra in search of a suitable crematorium for his "frozen chum." Of course, the joke is that once in the boiling furnace of a derelict ship, Sam wakes up and with a "smile you could see a mile" asks his companion to "'Please close that door. / It's fine in here, / but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm -- / Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, / it's the first time I've been warm."
While the design of this 1986 picture book is a little stodgy and old-fashioned, the magic of Service's knee-smacking verses, combined with Harrison's dazzling art, is timeless. As Pierre Berton writes in the introduction, it "represents a happy marriage between the most eloquent of the Yukon poets and the most brilliant of the Yukon artists." --Lisa Alward
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
[Gorgeously illustrated ? [A wonderful new edition ... Harrison’s pictures are startling and memorable
There are strange things done in the midnight sun By the men who moil for books; The Arctic trails have their secret tales that could give you second looks, The Northern Lights have seen their sights But the wisest they ever did see Was the day in’06, complete with great pix They reissued Sam McGee.
No poem that I can think of, especially a comic one, was ever rendered so electrifyingly in paint