My father recently asked me to come around to his house to sort through boxes of my things from childhood. It was a rather nostalgic affair. I managed to get some really nice childrens books and some neon coloured clothing from the eighties (for the irony factor) which I was happy about.
One of my book finds was Meet My Folks by Ted Hughes and illustrated by George Adamson. It was originally published in 1961. I remember it scaring me silly when I was little.
The book is a series of surreal poems about the narrators family accompanied with intensely detailed illustrations. This narrators family is rather unusual. His sister is a crow, his “other granny” is an octopus, his uncle is killed by his overly realistic painting of a tiger and his father is a specialist of holes (see illustrations below)
His Uncle Mick (who disappearance is still unexplained)
Each of the poems have a frivolous and playful style undercut with a foreboding and ominous tone. Its wonderfully macabre. In the final poem entitled ‘My Own True Family” the central character is captured by the trees in the wood who claim they are his real kin. They speak to him about how cruel humankind has been to them and envelop him in their trunks. He finally gets away ( it is just a dream) but the experience remains:
“This was my dream beneath the boughs, the
dream that altered me.
When I came out of the oakwood, back to
My walk was the walk of a human child, but my
heart was a tree”
My favourite character is the Grandfather who is an owler. I love owls.