Wafting from ‘wherever’, the sylph proved a seamstress. Fancier than the town wished, she grew bored with their taupish cotton. With tincture and texture she slipped motifs of embroidered fantasy into the pockets of functionaries and farmers; romance was rekindled. In her husband, one wife saw “a buccaneer holding pink shells, black pearls and a sword.” Pockets evinces the ecstasy in aesthetics, and shows us verse in prose -a delight for embryonic elocutionists.
The young seamstress may have had to wear the plain style of the prairie townspeople, but she did not allow herself to adopt their dull philosophy. We see her hit upon a way to maintain her sense-of-life, and even to spread it. The wild and disconnected themes of her embroidery suggests an ‘anything goes’ view of art, but it is only a reflection. The un-integrated rush of images in the seamstress’s thoughts and art emphasize the limitless options in both art and life. With a few well chosen words, a parent could encourage their child to consider that interpretation.
There are some flaws. We never learn why the seamstress has “a broken heart” or why she returns to wherever her heart was broken. More seriously, we do not learn enough of the character of certain townspeople to understand their conversion. It ‘just’ happens. Is this omission a matter of artistic focus or a failure to grasp the intellectual processes behind such abstract understandings?
Jennifer Armstrong uses a host of unusual, often nautical adjectives and objects that may make a full understanding of the text difficult even for adults (e.g. a “binnacle” is a case by the helm of a ship that supports and protects a ship’s compass). The theme of her story —happiness through aesthetics, imagination and worldly knowledge— is expressed as much in her plot as in her choice of words, whether directly or as metaphors. Even her use of alliteration and rhythm add to the point and purpose of her story: “The waves of plains had rolled and tumbled her and left her stranded.”
The illustrations by Mary Grandpre complement Armstrong’s writing style and purpose. They sharply portray the feelings and thoughts of the characters in fanciful, but never cartoonish, images. While Realism would not be appropriate, GrandPre’s Expressionism does not offend reality. As with the story, the art is more about romanticizing reality than distorting it.