Everyone Out Here Knows: A Bigfoot Tale, with words by William Stafford and illustrated by Angelina Marino-Heidel
As someone who is fond of cryptozoology  and who has read a wide variety of William Stafford’s work , there is much to commend itself about this book. For one, this book adds to the genres of work where you can find William Stafford. His master’s thesis is a semi-poetic memoir of the antiwar movement in World War II, he has several works that discuss the process of writing and some of his views on poetry criticism, and he is known for having numerous compilation volumes of poetry as well. This book, though, is the first poetic work I know of the author that is a children’s book. As someone who reads and (hopefully thoughtfully) reviews children’s literature from time to time, I found this book to be an excellent example of children’s literature done right, and the art and text go well together. It is rewarding to see that William Stafford is still able to have new works come out because his poetry is so easily accessible to readers of all ages and has a powerful visual component that can be drawn out by a skilled illustrator.
The contents of this book are pretty straightforward. There is an introductory poem from the poet Tim Barnes (with whom I am unfamiliar), and then one of the poems of William Stafford (“Everyone Out Here Knows”) is divided out into phrases and illustrated in gorgeous fashion by the illustrator. After the course of the poem, with its mythical view of the creation of the Oregon landscape around the Cascades, there is a look at the original poem with a drawing of the poet himself in old age and some closing essays. One of the essays is a biographical essay about Stafford, another is a discussion by Tim Barnes of his own belief in Bigfoot, and there are discussions about Bigfoot from the compiler as well as some other books about cryptids and some notes by the illustrator and a list of the various local flora and fauna that appear in the book as a whole. The whole book is an example of a book that appears deceptively simple and that offers something for both young readers as well as older ones who want to dig into the mythos of the book a bit deeper.
Indeed, the most interesting part of this book is its context in the quirkiness of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest as a whole. The myths about Bigfoot (often known by another name, namely Sasquatch), are pretty thick on the ground, to such an extent that there are advertisements based on the product and even situations where a Sasquatch mom is used as a pitch person for various goods and services here. It should come as little surprise that a poet that had so much to say about life in the West Coast of the United States (and a lot of other things besides) would have a work about this bit of Oregon cryptozoology. The fact that William Stafford’s poetry is so accessible to young readers suggests at least some of the reason why his poetry is not always taken as seriously as it should be more critical readers. It does seem as if writers are sometimes caught in a catch-22 where to be accessible is to be accused of being too simple and too facile and where writing with advanced vocabulary only makes one’s writings inaccessible to all but a few would-be readers. At any rate, this book is a delightful addition to the William Stafford oeuvre as a whole, and a part of his body of work that will likely be appreciated by a good deal of young readers.
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