Now, the mystery deepens. I first learned about this song, this month, not from a Irishman nor from a sailor, but from a biography of Harriet Tubman.
When you look at the following page, keep in mind that although Harriet was short and slight, she had a surprising deep, resonant voice as a result of a “lung fever” (pneumonia?) that she got as a child.
Hale, Nathan, artist, The Underground Abductor. Amulet Books, 2015.
Lawton, Wendy, Courage to Run: A story based on the life of Harriet Tubman. Moody, 2009. Lung fever and lower voice described in Chapter 6, pp. 59 – 68.
Some books need warning labels. Especially history books. Heck, history needs a warning label! Heck, this entire world needs one! It should read something like: Fallen World. Danger, Difficulty, Death.
For all these reasons, the brilliant graphic artist Nathan Hale puts warning labels on the the brilliant historical books he produces for children. The labels are tailored to each individual story. For example:
Note the delightfully specific terrors promised, such as “underwater toilets” and “Swedish swearing.” (And yes, the book delivers those very things. It makes sense in context. So does the bomb on a stick.)
Besides the horrors and heroics that we all know her life contained, we get “supernatural visions” (Harriet’s and, before her, Nat Turner’s); “massacre” (led by Nat Turner); “muskrat trapping” (more of a hardship than it sounds); and, of course the “drugged babies” are so that the escapees would not be caught.
Now, I write fiction, and it’s pretty dramatic and everything, but nothing I or anyone else will write can compare to the drama and poignancy of Harriet Tubman’s life.
With that disclaimer, here — and you can tell that I worked really hard on this — is a warning label of my own, done in the style of graphic artist Nathan Hale, applied to my book The Long Guest.
In the comments, please post a goofy warning label of your own about your own book or a favorite book.