A Brazilian Alphabet for the Younger Reader by P. K. Page
‘P. K. Page’s A Brazilian Alphabet succeeds in being both whimsical and elegiac at once. This mixture of pleasures gives us the feeling we are reading a text long remembered and well-loved, while at the same time charming us with surprises.’
A charming alphabet book, beautifully illustrated, by one of Canada’s most renowned poets. Ideal for very young children, and for P. K. Page fans of all ages.
But this isn’t an ordinary alphabet book, filled with words we all know that go with things we see every day. This alphabet book is special. It’s for children and adults who would like to tell a kamichi from a tatu. It speaks English, but it knows a few words of Portuguese. It’s by P. K. Page, one of Canada’s most celebrated poets. And it is illustrated with pictures that your great-great-grandmother might have seen as a child.
Page has used words that she remembers from her years in Brazil -- words that become refrains in her Brazilian Journal, words that were among the first Portuguese she learned. The illustrations are old engravings, found in forgotten books and century-old magazines. The dona de casa plucks lice from her children’s scalps, macacos grin and a thin moon looms in the janela. Grab your zabumba and beat it all the way to the fazenda, with P. K. Page as your guide to the Brazilian alphabet.
2006—Unisource Litho Award,
‘Christine Irwin, P. K. Page’s grand-daughter, writes, in her own memoir, ‘‘Ours hardly seemed to be grandparents in any recognizable sense of the word. So very grand. So exquisite. So formidable.’’ The grandchildren were fascinated by their grandparents luggage. What was in it? As she grew Christine discovered some of the contents: ‘‘Kaleidoscopes and flying goats, for example. Also angels and emperors, milk-skinned women, and snow, whiter than swan’s down. Gardens drenched in colour. Animal balladeers and rebel troops. Ararat, and glass air, bright as a glistening wing. A shrubful of perfect kisses. Grey flies dancing in the evening sun. Peacock blues and greens and the raucous shriek of jay.’’ In the small suitcase of this alphabet we all -- adults, children, travellers, book collectors, budding linguists -- get a glimpse of a long, richly lived life.’
—Sarah Ellis, Quill and Quire
‘This charming compilation, with its textured linen-like pages and sewn binding, is a work of art. Long-forgotten engravings gathered from ancient books and periodicals adorn one side of each double-page spread per letter -- delicate grey, tone-on-tone etchings on a butter-cream canvas depict a distant culture. Elegant calligraphy (though at times a challenge to decipher) with its graceful curves represents each letter of the alphabet. Page purposely chose the original Portuguese spellings to complement the 19th-century illustrations.’
—Wendy Kitts, Globe and Mail
‘This is a sublime push-me / pull-me book evoking both the innocence and plainness of your great-grandparent’s first primer, but brimming with biting humour and a linguistic heft that’s all 21st century.’
—Gilbert Bouchard, Edmonton Journal
‘The book consists of 26 poems with accompanying illustrations, and each translates a Brazilian word. Each contains four lines, though rhythmically they tend to split into couplets, the verse offering children the pleasure of a simple metre, but sufficiently varied in its emphases to give pleasure to the prosodically sophisticated. They are simple but never condescending. Recommended for those who have learned to read, but age is less important than being the children of cultivated parents who want their offspring to appreciate books and art.’
—P K Page, Canadian Book Review Annual
Back cover copy
‘P. K. Page shares with her 17th-century predecessors, such as John Donne, a refusal to separate head and heart. What you hear in her work is the sound of intelligence brought crisply into focus.’
—Robert Enright, Globe and Mail
P. K. Page wrote some of the best poems published in Canada over the last seven decades. In addition to winning the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1957, she was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1999. She was the author of more than two dozen books, including ten volumes of poetry, a novel, short stories, eight books for children, and two memoirs based on her extended stays in Brazil and Mexico with her husband Arthur Irwin, who served in those countries as the Canadian Ambassador. In addition to writing, Page painted, under the name P. K. Irwin. She mounted one-woman shows in Mexico and Canada. Her work was also exhibited in various group shows, and is represented in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Victoria Art Gallery, among others.
A two-volume edition of Page’s collected poems, The Hidden Room (Porcupine’s Quill), was published in 1997, and the full range of her richly varied work is being made available in a digital resource, The Digital Page, supplemented by a series of texts in print and e-book format published by The Porcupine’s Quill.
P. K. Page was born in England and brought up on the Canadian prairies. She died on the 14th of January, 2010.