Welcome to the world of JonArno Lawson, where sound rules supreme. It's a bizarre world, where wolves live on the moon, bears inhabit the sun and bleating lambs get stuck in traffic jams. Here Sleeping Beauty is an insomniac, Little Red Riding Hood is a wolf and Snow White just needed a friend to tell her to be wary of strangers.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario and raised nearby in Dundas, JonArno Lawson's most formative experiences as a child occurred in Florida which he visited for an extended stay at the age of eight. Happy to be missing almost an entire year of school, he filled his days at the beach digging holes and collecting shells and coconuts, travelling in glass-bottomed boats and touring nature parks that featured free-roaming monkeys and parrots. He wore a ship captain's hat at all times, and a green pouch in which he kept dozens of ticket stubs, a musket ball, brass souvenir coins that bore the faces of various American presidents, and other treasures which he hoards to this day. JonArno is a two-time winner of the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Children's Poetry, for Black Stars in a White Night Sky in 2007 and again in 2009 for A Voweller's Bestiary. In 2011 his poetry collection Think Again was short-listed for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award. JonArno lives in Toronto with his wife Amy Freedman and his children Sophie, Ashey and Joseph, all of whom assist the author with phrases, topics and sometimes even complete lines for use in his poems.
Alec Dempster was born in Mexico City in 1971 but moved to Toronto as a child. In 1995 he moved back to Mexico and settled in Xalapa, Veracruz, where his relief prints eventually became infused with the local tradition of son jarocho music. Alec's conversations with rural musicians, presented along with thirty linoleum portraits, have been published recently as Faces and Voices of Son Jarocho. He has produced six CDs of son jarocho recorded in the field but is perhaps best known for his two lotería games – El Fandanguito, Lotería de Sones Jarochos, and the Lotería Huasteca – which include over a hundred prints. He has had solo exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, France and Spain. Alec now lives in Toronto. His own son jarocho group, Café Con Pan, has recorded two CDs, the most recent being Nuevos Caminos a Santiago. They are currently the recipients of a Popular Music grant from the Ontario Arts Council.
`Lawson's inspired rhyme and wordplay is deft, clever and funny, taking us from the realms of the Bible and fairy tales through to the scary regions at the very bottom of the bottom of the box. This collection offers amusement, bemusement and the most refreshing of reflections on the self, reason and both imaginary and natural worlds – just what one can expect of this most accomplished poet for the young. Reliably surprising, smart and playful at every turn.'- Deirdre Baker, Toronto Star columnist and author of Becca at Sea
`JonArno Lawson is Father Goose! Going to sea with him is a trip of gentleness and humour where we are joyfully one with the lovely flotsam of language and being. I love rubbing elbows with his poems and rhymes, and share his philosophy of delight amid the pratfalls. Oh our lovely human pratfalls, as we ``build an ark for our imaginary selves''!'- Erin Mouré, author of Furious and Little Theatres
`Highlighting the punches of Lawson's surreal wordplays and poems, Alec Dempster's paper cuts add an archaic and mystic atmosphere that will make you feel happy as you understand the absurdity. The book is an opportunity for everyone who wishes to plunge into the realms of a surreal world full of metamorphic animals and colourful descriptions around the theme of love towards human nature.
`The way Dempster handles the paper cut is representative of the experience he has gathered as one of the masters of his art. As a graphic artist, surreal poetry has always been his natural environment. Based on his passion for the Mexican fandango music that is full of riddles, he develops an unprecedented quality of work in Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, where he fuses the Mexican Graphic with music and poetry in a way that brings joy and love to all the people who open its pages.'- Helga Prignitz-Poda, curator, art historian, and author of El Taller de Gráfica Popular en México 1937-1977
`In this joyfully thoughtful collection, JonArno Lawson takes verbal leaps on the springboard of nonsense, tongue-twisters, nursery rhymes, fairytales, as well as invents creatures such as solar bears and lunar foxes to delight the imagination.'- John Agard & Grace Nichols, editors of Pumpkin Grumpkin: Nonsense Poems From Around The World
Playful in his use of sound patterns reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, Lawson's lyrics uncover an acerbic and clever wit often found in both comedians and confuscians. In the line drawn between child and adult in Lawson's poetry, the reader finds images reminiscent of school, bible stories and playtime, though their use in the wordplay suggests a requirement for adult experience to grasp their connotations. There is a sense of darkness and lost innocence in Lawson's work, despite a creative spirit that prevails with an unassailable sense of humour.- Steve Locke, THIN AIR: the blog
?A delight for fans of Shel Silverstein ... this volume touches on everything from Sleeping Beauty being afraid to fall back asleep to lunar foxes, to blubbery bears eating mounds of blueberries. Lawson plays with his words both visually and orally, happy, as Stephen Fry puts it, to ?yoke impossible words together for the sound-sex of it.??- Boxes of Paper
?JonArno Lawson doesn't see the world the way other people do, THANK GOODNESS. His most recent book release is Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, surreal poems decorated with the paper cuts of artist Alec Dempster.?- Kristin Cashore, This is My Secret
?These poems feel like genuine nursery rhymes – mysterious, welcoming, polished by time and telling, concerned with real-life dilemmas, and suffused with an energetic appreciation of a rich variety of creatures, both animal and human.... Lawson?s rigorous craftsmanship results in structures that are sturdy and welcoming.?- Sarah Ellis, Quill & Quire
?JonArno Lawson's Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, with papercut illustrations by Alec Dempster, turns words on their heads and uses them to reimagine familiar notions and stories.?- Shoshana Flax, Walk The Ridgepole
?Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box is a collection of nonsense poems for the young (and young at heart) in the tradition of Dennis Lee and Dr. Seuss. Lawson starts his poems from sounds and builds with orality in mind. The results are clever and fun to read.?- Charlotte Ashley, Inklings
?Not since Shel Silverstein's classic A Light in the Attic have I found myself so utterly spellbound by a collection of children's poetry. JonArno Lawson sets a new standard, one that many will emulate and, I suspect, none will surpass. An extraordinary and truly delightful hymn to the imagination.?- Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph's House
?What I think is most important to remember about poetry for children is how they themselves play with language upon learning, words have fluid and flexible meanings, they are representative of big, massive imaginations, and hold all kinds of potential – all of which Lawson bottles and bursts out in various ways throughout the book. From the more whimsical in the collection, something like ?The Minimum Amount of Money? ... , to poems that have a touch of what I hesitate to call magical realism ... , there's a consistent dedication to not only how language presents itself on the page, but how it sounds as its spoken.?- Deanna McFadden, My Tragic Right Hip
?Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box is an excellent work of poetry to consider, and is not to be missed.?- Wisconsin Bookwatch
?...there?s no denying that, light and enjoyable as it is, Down in the Bottom of the Box contains real poetry. Recommended to anyone who likes to smile while reading poems.?- Peter Dabbene, ForeWord Reviews
?Reminiscent of Ogden Nash?s, Lawson?s poetry combines deft wordplay with unexpected (often humorous) rhymes and a devotion to showcasing the rhythmic potential of the English language. But as always, Lawson?s signature focus on word sounds takes center stage. With masterful brevity, the majority of the poems stand alone as single quatrain stanzas, however, even the briefest poems contain a mouthful.?- Shara Hardeson, The Horn Book
`Down in the Bottom [is] unquestionably the best book of children's poetry published in 2012.... In its linguistic and intellectual play, accompanied throughout by Alec Dempster's bold, compelling paper cuts-black and white with judicious bursts of color- Down in the Bottom reminds us why we love poetry. And more, it reminds us just how lovely a book of poetry can be.... [I]t is high time to acknowledge that JonArno Lawson may be the foremost children's poet in North America. To borrow a phrase from W. B. Yeats, he's the King of the Cats. Cognizant that our pronouncement might appear to be a touch hubristic (if not downright self-congratulatory credit snatching), and of the potential irony in ending an essay that reflects on the vagaries of blurbs and blurbitude with a big fat blurb, we can only point to the record-indeed, point to the poems themselves-and say, in our defense: res ipsa loquitur: the thing speaks for itself. We are merely obligated to hear.'- Lion and the Unicorn Award citation
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