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The Study of Poetry and Literature for Children & Young Adults

Poetry

Shoe Magic by Nikki Grimes
 
Days Like This by Simon James
 
The Sheriff of Rottenshot by Jack Prelutsky
 
Monster Motel by Douglas Florian
 

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Grimes, Nikki. 2000. Shoe Magic. Ill. by Terry Widener. New York: Orchard Books. ISBN 05313328612

 

Shoe Magic is a delightful romp in a variety of shoes seen through a child eyes. Similar in style to Nikki Grimes, It’s Raining Laughter: Poems, Shoe Magic takes the reader on a journey through childhood. The book opens with a poem entitled The Shoe Rack and closes at the end of day with Slippers bringing the reader full circle through many different children’s dreams, goals and activities.

 

The easy to read rhyming verses illustrate the ability of children to experience happiness in whatever they attempt to do, be it hiking, swimming, skiing or nursing. Each poem expresses an exuberant joy and determination as the child races toward the future. The bright acrylic paintings of Terry Widener expertly complement the poems showing multiracial children with very big shoes intensely focused on a specific sport or activity. The children’s long skinny arms and legs, big shoes and sweet round faces seem to symbolize the intense reach for the future while still young in age.

 

I especially enjoyed Hockey=Joy. “Joy carves the ice. She shows no fear. She grips the stick. Her mind is clear. She eyes the goal. She’s got the puck. She knows that goalie’s Out of luck.”

Not only is Joy involved in a nontraditional sport for girls, she is excelling in it joyfully.

In Golf Shoes for Lu and Yu, the poem ends with, “We’ll be the best, Kid Golfers yet. No jocks will tease us, Then, I bet!” This poem contains a message of determination in reaching goals; it isn’t without practice and hard work but still within grasp.

 

Reviewer Gillian Engberg of Booklist points out that “the poetry is uneven, mixing tightly rhymed couplets and loosened rhythm and rhyme with occasionally forced results; many poems work better out loud.”  I found that I enjoyed these both silently and aloud, the bright corresponding pictures draw the reader in while the rhythmic verses beat a staccato of positive thoughts and messages.

Engberg, Gillian.. 2000. It's Raining Laughter: Poems.. (book review). Booklist. September 15, 2000. p. 234

 

Grimes, Nikki. 2000. It's Raining Laughter: Poems. Ill. by Myles C. Pinkney. New York: Dial Books. ISBN 0803720033

 

Grimes, Nikki. 2000. Shoe Magic. Ill. by Terry Widener. New York: Orchard Books. ISBN 05313328612

 

 

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James, Simon. 2000. Days Like This. Ill. by Simon James. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick. ISBN 0763608122

 

This collection of nineteen simple but vibrant poems captures childhood in its purest essence. The mostly rhyming poems are short with uncomplicated verse. The poem Rain is a perfect example.

 

Rain on the green grass,

And rain on the tree,

And rain on the housetop,

But not upon me.

 

 

The full double page line-and-watercolor illustration shows a little girl smiling contentedly as she looks out from a gabled window watching the rain. I identified with this poem, as a child I loved watching the rain from the safety of the porch.

 

Simon James’s writing and illustrating style is reminiscent of James Stevenson. The simple happy line and watercolors evoke a simpler time showing children having picnics, sleeping under the stars, playing a one-string guitar in the moonlight and bouncing on the bed.

 

The poems are mostly lyric being melodic or songlike in cadence. Though one entitled Two in Bed is a concrete poem as the poem takes the shape of the subject.

 

When my brother Tommy

Sleeps in bed with m

He doubles up

And makes

himself

exactly

like

a

V

And ‘cause the bed is not so wide

A part of him is on my side.

 

This poem I sent to my sister Sharon who used to do the exact same thing to me. This book is recommended as enjoyable for all ages but especially for elementary school age as they will identify not only with the poetry but with the bright appealing illustrations. The sense of innocence and fun as seen through a child’s eyes is obvious in the smiling faces of the children pictured.

 

Simon James won a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year for his book Leon and Bob.

 

James, Simon. 2000. Days Like This. Ill. by Simon James. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick. ISBN 0763608122

 

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Prelutsky, Jack. 1982. The Sheriff of Rottenshot. Ill. by Victoria Chess. New York: Greenwillow Books. ISBN 0688002056

 

The Sheriff of Rottenshot is another wonderful and warped example of children’s poetry from Jack Prelutsky. Similar in writing style to Awful Ogre’s Awful Day the book begins with a table of contents followed by the poem from the title of the book. Each successive rhyming poem features an interesting individual or animal. Jack Prelutsky’s exceptional writing style encourages the reader to see people and animals in an entirely unique and fun way. The poems have a clear beginning, middle and end, allowing the reader to easily visualize and follow the character action involved in the poem.

 

The poems vary from Eddie the Spaghetti Nut, who cannot resist spaghetti; he ends up sitting in a vat of spaghetti with his lovely bride Nettie, to The Centipede who is featured riding a velocipede wearing a bonnet, pearls and white gloves.

 

The humorous poems flow easily with excellent meter. They are made to be read aloud even if you are all alone.

 

“Jogalong Jim didn’t know how to fight, his boots were too big and his britches too tight, he wasn’t too bright and he wasn’t too brave and he need a haircut, a bath and a shave.”

 

The pen-and-ink illustrations by Victoria Chess perfectly complement the verses. Even if you couldn’t picture the Sheriff of Rottenshot from the above verse, he is brought to life standing in his too big boots and his finger in his mouth looking confused. His swaybacked horse appears equally puzzled and unkempt on the opposing page.

 

Children will enjoy reading about Twicham Tweer “who ate uncommon meals, who often peeled bananas and then only ate the peels…” Discussions of uncommon meals are sure to follow. After reading this book to a group of kindergarteners and receiving happy peals of laughter as they thoroughly enjoyed each individual poem’s antics, I was told by a pretty little girl that she loved to eat sand; she especially liked the crunching noises it made. Perhaps a future poet?

 

Recommended for children of all ages, the verses are easy to read aloud, fun and rhythmic, the illustrations complement and add to the poetry while the content is so wacky the reader cannot help but crack a smile.

 

Prelutsky, Jack. 2001. Awful Ogre’s Awful Day. Ill. by Paul O. Zelinsky. New York: Greenwillow Books. ISBN 0688077781

 

Prelutsky, Jack. 1982. The Sheriff of Rottenshot. Ill. by Victoria Chess. New York: Greenwillow Books. ISBN 0688002056

 

 

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Florian, Douglas. 1993. Monster Motel. Ill. by Douglas Florian. New York: Harcourt Brace. ISBN 0152553207

 

The Monster Motel by Douglas Florian is a creative use of language and illustrations detailing creatures that I never knew existed. The book begins with the poem The Monster Motel and the accompanying illustration is of a friendly monster bellhop. Done in vivid watercolors with strong use of black outlines; the picture pops off the page echoing the greeting in the poem.

 

Welcome to the Monster Motel

Where mostly monstrous monsters dwell.

They crawl the walls and gore the floors,

They shred the beds then saw the doors…

 

The verses contain simple words, are rhythmic and easy to read. The poetry collection consists of the introductory poem followed by 13 monster specific poems. Each monster is very detailed and the illustrations perfectly match the monsters descriptions. The sing song nature of the poetry encourages the readers to chant the poem aloud.

 

In The Tweet, the reader discovers that he “has a fleet of feet, with which it marches into town…” The accompanying illustration shows a tweet, which resembles a very long humpless camel with at least 26 legs and feet of all varieties. The expression of happiness on the Tweet’s face illustrates that it must a great deal of fun to have so many feet.

 

Children will relish the subject matter. These monsters are not threatening and appear to resemble more of a mischievous friend than a scary under the bed type monster. The Brilly is a perfect example, the illustrations shows him happily ensconced in a tree with shoes on his hands watching the cows float by.

 

The Brilly is a silly beast;

It has no sense to say the least

It wears its shoes upon its hands

And ties its feet with rubberbands.

It climbs up on a tree branch high.

To count the cows  that float on by…”

 

 

I enjoyed this book and plan to read it to my five year old nephew, a great fan of monsters but who doesn’t like things too scary.

 

Florian, Douglas. 1993. Monster Motel. Ill. by Douglas Florian. New York: Harcourt Brace. ISBN 0152553207

 

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