The blue skies of childhood exist in the warmest of our memories, but what chases us all through the rest of our lives are the storm clouds. This is the premise of Children Shouldn’t Use Knives, a harrowing but exhilarating examination of life before adolescence by Canadian poet Shirley Camia. In a series of razor-sharp sketches, Camia’s piercing observations are offered as a perfectly balanced counter-weight to the sing-song melody of innocence. Camia and Vancouver illustrator Cindy Mochizuki offer an individual reckoning that unpacks for the reader the universal truth that fear and danger respect no age and ignore all boundaries. Shirley Camia has produced a gorgeously sculptured work of poetry that is as beautiful as it is devastating.
“Children Shouldn’t Use Knives is like bittersweet chocolate, darkly evocative and tender-tough in its imaginings. Her scant, spare words interpretatively arrayed with Cindy Mochizuki’s visual musings and prefaced with excerpts from well-known children’s writers provide the reader with a truly rich reading experience.”– Sally Ito, author of Alert to Glory
“If childhood was a room, Shirley Camia’s Children Shouldn’t Use Knives paces off the corners, fiddles with the light switch, and breaks the blinds. Camia writes “the dawn has a skeleton rattle,” and we see all the moments of boredom and crisis, the lights and darks, all the joys and confusions of being young, of being alive.”– Ariel Gordon, author of Stowaways, the winner of the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry
“Shirley Camia hangs her poems on the coat hooks of famous writers. The ones who respected children enough to show them the shortcut through the dark woods. Each poem, slight and vulnerable as a seven-year-old, examines the courage it takes to grow up. Illustrated by Cindy Mochizuki with evocative sketches, this book will haunt you with your own half-remembered past.”– Janet Trull, author of Hot Town and Other Stories
“This is a work to be read slowly. One must absorb the words, the visuals, the sensations and sentiments – ones that touch our most tender selves. The book uses poetry to link childhood readings and intimacies with tales that reveal truths in the most poignant way.”– Leanne Dunic, author of To Love the Coming End
‘...there are passages of imagistic brilliance that, as the poem “Through a Child’s Window” says, “poke violently through” like “stabs of sunlight.” One example, from this poem: clouds are “a parade of elephants/crossing an amber/traffic light/backwards.” Yes! Here the music of the lines, the freshness of the image, and the metaphor lift the poem into transcendence.’ (Full review.)– Karen Hoffman, Prairie Fire
Winner, Manuela Dias Award for best book design
Honourable mention, Alcuin Design Book Awards