1982 - Children’s Books, Picture Books (Hardcover)

A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers

By Nancy Willard

Original Publisher: Harcourt Brace
Current Publisher: Sandpiper
Digital Publisher: Not Available

Reading Level: Ages 4 & Up

Chelsey Philpot writes:

An “Innocent and Experienced” Travelers’ Guide to a Stay at William Blake’s Inn

This inn belongs to William Blake
and many are the beasts he’s tamed
and many are the stars he’s named
and many those who stop and take
 their joyful rest with William Blake.
- Nancy Willard, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn

Introduction: Imagine that the poet of the celebrated lines “Tyger, Tyger, burning bright/In the forests of the night,/What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” opened an inn. In 1981, author Nancy Willard and illustrators Alice and Martin Provensen did just that. The lodge has housed the likes of the King of Cats, the man in the marmalade hat, the Wise Cow, and many other celebrity guests. It offers characters galore and a five-star sense of wonder. And, most enticingly, the inn delivers opportunities to meet the great wordsmith himself––whether he is sharing his writing space with obstinate sunflowers, telling bedtime tales to a tiger, or leading tours among the stars.

Accommodations: The angel-fluffed featherbeds are like sleeping on mattresses made of marshmallows. The shaggy bear combination afghan, sheet, alarm clock, and security lock is surprisingly comfortable and comforting. Carpets with topaz tortoises and flowers that enjoy the view decorate the pleasant space, while the attentive rabbit staff are there to see to guests’ every whim.

Dining: The dragon-baked loaves are fresh and not too often charred. The King of Cats swears by the “Brisket of Basilisk Treat” and “fat mole smothered in starlight.” And, of course, the “rolling cloud” on “freshly buttered bread” comes highly recommended.

Transportation: The good boat Believe, “having both feet and fins,” is wonderful for travel by land or sea. But for those seeking a more angelic ride, “Blake’s Celestial Limousine” (complete with a winged chauffer) delivers all guests “wonderfully well,” indeed.

Activities: Storytelling and dancing. “Sun and Moon Circus” watching and road bend straightening. Milky-Way walking and wish-making.

Packing List:

  • Two pairs of dragon-proof pants
  • A tiger-friendly attitude
  • Some fondness for badgers, moles, and other creatures small and furry
  • A tale to share
  • A sense of whimsy
  • Three wishes or more
  • A belief in star walking and the transporting power of poetry, and a willingness to surrender to the imagination

Enjoy your stay!

Chelsey Philpot is a book reviews editor at School Library Journal. Her debut YA novel will be published by HarperCollins.


Children’s Books, Picture Books (Hardcover) Finalists That Year:

  • Olaf Baker; Stephen Gammell, ill. for Where the Buffaloes Begin
  • Arnold Lobel; Anita Lobel, ill. for On Market Street
  • Chris Van Allsburg for Jumanji
  • Nancy Willard; Alice and Martin Provensen, ill. for A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers

Children’s Books, Picture Books (Hardcover) Winner That Year: Maurice Sendak for Outside Over There

Judges That Year:  Not Available

The Year in Literature: A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard won the Newbery Medal.

More Information: Willard’s book was the first book of poetry to win the Newbery Medal. Willard is also an awardwinning author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for adults.

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