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Childrens Book Reviews

This Week’s Column

Poetry Enlightens Language

April celebrates Poetry Month. Here is a variety of books with poems following a theme and stories that rhyme. All of these are exceptional and promote poetry appreciation for the young and young at heart. Unless otherwise stated, these books are best for ages five through eight.

 

A Song About Myself, by John Keats, and wonderfully illustrated, with his signature award-winning style, by Chris Raschka, was written almost a hundred years ago.  This whimsical rhyme is almost nonsensical which makes this a most delightful poem.  Keats was walking through the Scottish mountains enjoying the beauty of nature.  Near the end of his twenty miles of hiking and walking, he writes to his sister, and with humor states “I will write you a song about myself”.

 

Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse, amusingly written by Tamera Will Wissinger, and drawn with pen, ink and watercolor by Matthew Cordell, exemplifies the trappings and facetious humor found in every poem.  Preparing to go camping, then heading to the campground and taking part in the activities like fishing are part of this funny book.  There is an exceptional section found in the back of the book that details the types of rhythm, rhyme, style and techniques, making this a perfect poetry handbook for information.  This book is good for all ages.

 

Spunky Little Monkey, by Bill Martin, Jr and Michael Sampson, and brightly illustrated by Brian Won, is a fun twist that begins like the traditional rhyming tale of the “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”.  The story begins with mama calling the Doctor when Sleepy Little Monkey won’t get out of bed.  The Doctor prescribes “Apple Juice, Orange Juice, and Gooseberry Pies as Monkey needs exercise!”  From there the rhyming tale becomes a tantalizing dance that will have the young reader moving, clapping and smiling all of the way through!  This is just what the Doctor ordered!  The colors are bright, bold, and fill the pages.

 

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderly and Marjory Wentworth, and bursting with color and brilliantly placed with collage on paper by Ekua Holmes, contains inspirational poetry that just might motivate the reader to try their hand at poetry.  The three poets wrote poems about famous poets and the poems that made a tremendous effect on them.  For instance, award winner, Alexander, was inspired by E. E. Cummings and displays his original poem celebrating Cummings’ style.  The book is broken down into three sections: Got Style, In Your Shoes and Thank you. This is an important book that families and schools should own.  This book is best suited for ages nine through adult.

 

No Fair! No Fair! (And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood), by Calvin Trillin, and illustrated with ink and watercolor by Rod Chast, is a hilarious collection of poems that young and old can relate to and chuckle with that describes growing up in a family.  In the poem “Who Plays What”, the older sister always gets to be the queen while the younger one is subjected to serving her. “The Grandpa Rule is in Effect” poem instills the knowledge that when Grandpa is tending, there is no rule in effect and “No time we have to all be in bed”.

 

A Squash and a Squeeze, by Julia Donaldson, and colorfully illustrated by Axel Scheffler, is a delightful rhyming tale about a little old lady who is dissatisfied with her tiny house and wishes it were bigger.  But her perspectives will slowly change when a wise old man gives her advice and tells her to invite into the house first a hen, then a goat, and so on.  Before long her tiny house is so crowded she must get rid of all the animals who have left her no room at all and that is when the genius of the old man becomes apparent. This is a very clever, yet simple story.

 

There’s a Bear on My Chair, by Ross Collins, is a playful rhyming story using only the title’s two rhyming words to carry the story.  A small mouse is quite upset that a Bear is on his chair.  He attempts to give him a pear and give him a stare but to no avail.  The ingenious ending brings about a new rhyme.  The digital drawings are large and clear on one side of the open page with extra-large font on the opposite page.  As the mouse becomes more exasperated, the words reflect his emotions.  Youngsters will quickly pick up on the rhyming and likely make up their own words!

 

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, by Edward Lear, and beautifully drawn with ink and filling the open pages with watercolor by Charlotte Voake, is the perfect adaptation of this classic nonsensical poem.  As the pea-green boat sails from the harbor, the two love-struck animals seem ready for adventure.  The land they finally come upon is filled with the most unusual vegetation, as proclaimed in the poem.  And ultimately, when the marriage takes place, the sight is glorious with exotic animals and people as they all celebrate.

 

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Beasts, by Emily Gravetts, reads like an encyclopedia of terrifying animals. Each description of these animals is a four line rhyme but Little Mouse has some astute ways to defy the bear, shark and more.  For instance, the Bear might be too scary for the reader.  So Mouse makes him less intimidating by covering post its all over the double-sided page.  They read to remove the roar, cover their paws and if those don’t work: turn the page.  There are clever origami parts, tabs to open and parts that look ripped out.  I love Ms. Gravetts’ ingenuity.

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