Jack Prelutsky; James Stevenson (Illustrator)
How delicious, how delightful, how utterly sensational it is to have a chunky-sized new book of Prelutsky poems. Our first Children’s Poet Laureate does not disappoint, with a rousing compendium of 105 rhyming verses about a dog who can s-p-e-l-l; an underwater marching band, impossible to hear and perennially wet; and weird creatures you never heard of but are glad to meet, except maybe the Zeenaleens who are fond of beans. Prelutsky is known for his prodigious vocabulary, scattering words like “ostensibly unique” and “unprecedented plight” and “equine transformation” in the poem “My Current Situation,” about a girl’s sudden mutation into a zebra, and making them perfectly comprehensible. Prolonged reading, memorizing, and reciting of his waggish verse may well trigger a rise in your children’s verbal SAT scores down the road.
“Because I don’t like lima beans, I dropped them in my juice,” begins one sensible poem. “I often mow the bathtub, and I bathe upon the grass,” starts another. Then there’s Sandwich Stan whose alliterative list of tempting culinary creations includes “Jalapeño Hockey Puck.” Each poem will put you in mind of an idea. Look at “Homework, Sweet Homework,” a boy’s tribute to “the work I adore.” Hey, wait a minute! Wasn’t there another, earlier poem that started, “Homework, oh homework, I hate you, you stink”? Indeed there was, in Prelutsky’s The New Kid on the Block. Readers can compare and contrast the two contradictory attitudes to their own deep feelings about doing homework.
Prelutsky’s poems can often be set to common tunes. Hand out the words to your crew for a bit of “Singer’s Theater,” and try warbling your way through “My Brother Poked a Porcupine,” to the tune of “Camptown Races.” After comparing Prelutsky’s words in “The Snoober” (with its eleven heads, legs, tails, eyes, wings, and beaks) with the accompanying black and white, pen-and-ink-and-watercolor-wash picture by the masterful James Stevenson, kids can try their hands at writing and illustrating their own poems about invented animals.
Go to www.jackprelutsky.com for a plethora of ideas, including a kid-friendly essay on “How to Write a Funny Poem.” In his book, Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem, Prelutsky instructs us gently and with great humor through his 20 easy-to-follow poetry-writing tips, based on his own life experiences with verse. In Writing Tip #4, he says he always keeps a notebook for ideas, a pen, and a thesaurus handy, and that he rewrites his poems at least once, but often dozens of times. You’ll find writing tips to improve your kids’ writing, but I’m betting you’ll find plenty to strengthen your own as well.
Reviewed by : JF.
Themes : HUMOR. POETRY.
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- “With more than 100 poems sung by Prelutsky as well as original songs written and performed by the author, listeners will want to hear these silly selections again and again.” School Library Journal
- “Two grand masters team up to produce a decidedly goofy illustrated poetry anthology.” Kirkus
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
- Florian, Douglas. Laugh-eteria: Poems and Drawings. Harcourt, 1999.
- Koontz, Dean. The Paper Doorway: Funny Verse and Nothing Worse. HarperCollins, 2001.
- Moss, Jeff. The Butterfly Jar. Bantam, 1989.
- Prelutsky, Jack. It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles. Greenwillow, 2000.
- Prelutsky, Jack. The New Kid on the Block. Greenwillow, 1984.
- Prelutsky, Jack. Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem. Greenwillow, 1996.
- Prelutsky, Jack. A Pizza the Size of the Sun. Greenwillow, 1996.
- Prelutsky, Jack. Something Big Has Been Here. Greenwillow, 1990.
- Silverstein, Shel. A Light in the Attic. HarperCollins, 1981.
- Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends. HarperCollins, 1974.
- Viorst, Judith. If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries. Atheneum, 1981.
- Viorst, Judith. Sad Underwear and Other Complications: More Poems for Children and Their Parents. Atheneum, 1995.