snoring bear

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman.

No complaints here – lyrical rhymed iambic dimeter with lots of anapestic substitutions, occasionally running into trimeter. A cute cozy story with charming illustrations, enhanced by a short moment of growling tension that is amicably resolved. For ages 3-7, so Whale Child is on the older end for it, but he loves it and can listen to it endlessly.


Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks. This is a re-issue of a collection of poem about kids in Chicago’s Bronzeville area that was originally published in 1956. The illustrations are by Faith Ringgold and the poems are about different kids living different everyday moments in the neighborhood.

As a whole, the collection was not a hit with Whale Child or with me. Although Ringgold in general does very very attractive work (check out her website at the link), these illustrations did not grab us. There was none of the wackiness that would appeal to a six-year-old (the book does say ages 7-10, so that may be part of it) and to me they were frankly somber, if not downright depressing, with a lack of movement and brightness — all the faces so impassive, if not actually sorrowful-looking — that is very interesting from an adult perpective but just did the book in as a children’s book, in my view.

The pieces themselves are in rhyming di- or tri- or tetrameter, many of them in ballad style, with some old-fashionedness both of diction and of activity described, which is to be expected, given that they were written in 1956. There was a little too much about fairly prim little girls in frocks and ribbons and white ankle-socks for Whale Child’s taste. We’ll revisit this one in a year or two and see.

This is just to say


This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. One of several kid poetry books I ordered for Whale Child in a fit of guilt a while ago.

Okay, this one is very cute. As usual, super-fab illustrations – wacky kid-friendly sketches with all kinds of oddball details that fascinated Whale Child. The collection is supposedly written by a group of sixth-graders in response to a class assignment. They all end up saying sorry to someone, whether in class or out of it, whether human or not; and get responses too. Mostly pretty light free verse and easy to read like dramatic mini-stories, which Whale Child enjoyed. A whole book of sorry poems sounded a bit morbid to me at first, but each poem strikes a different note and there’s lots of humor involved. Some were more serious than others (one about having to put a sick dog to sleep), but all a nice read. Each piece stands on its own, but they all refer to someone else in the class or in the family groups of the class, so in the end you get a nice sense of community.

a hundred horrible heads


Mother Earth now brought forth two terrible monsters, Typhon and his mate Echidna, and sent them against Zeus. They were so fearful that when the gods saw them they changed themselves into animals and fled in terror. Typhon’s hundred horrible heads touched the stars, venom dripped from his evil eyes, and lava and red-hot stones poured from his gaping mouths. Hissing like a hundred snakes and roaring like a hundred lions, he tore up whole mountains and threw them them at the gods.
…………………………………………………..D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

Not really kid poetry, but oh well. Poetry food. That bit’s a favorite of Whale Child and his brother before him and I must say the idea of tearing up whole mountains and throwing them at the gods is taking. Not to be read extensively in long sittings, but judiciously, here and there, with most emphasis on the gory and the wacky. The boys have both have liked the minor odd-ball characters best – Typhon, the Centaurs, Argus, Cerberus, the Hydra, etc. If you have a baby, just buy this book and stash it on the bookshelf now. A good background book that keeps giving over years and years.

animal poems


Animal Poems by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Came in the mail for Whale Child today (why am I getting these books in dribs and drabs, I wonder. More irritably than not.) Stay tuned.

*Update*: Like the other kid poetry book we reviewed recently, this one has fab illustrations — paper-cuts, simply and  elegantly done. However, this one has much better poems. Conversely, though, they are therefore less easily attractive to Whale Child — no friendly thumping di- or trimeter, no in-your-face alliteration, and more complex thoughts and vocabulary. In Bat, for example, we read:

He cleaves to
The cave roof
Like a grim
flake of flint

and a bit later on:

Knowing no better
Than hardheaded
Earth does,
That in his
Own blind
Veins run
The lighthearted lavas
Of the sun.

Some new words for a six-year-old, as well as some combinations (“hardheaded Earth” and “lighthearted lavas”) that we spent a while discussing.

In sum, this is one to pick up to read a poem or two at at time, rather than running through most of the book at a single sitting.

Comets and Stars


Here’s a thing. We got the first of the kid poetry books I ordered in a fit of guilt a week or so ago. It was Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian.

The artwork is really cool – vivid with a nice earthy palette, interspersed with medieval astronomy-related imagery and interesting to a child in a grabbing petroglyphy kind of way. The poems are a bit cheesy (sorry, Douglas) and elementary in a very one-layered kind of way (think top-end General Forum, maybe). I flipped through the book when it first arrived, and admit that, overall, I wasn’t too excited about reading it with Whale Child. It has a poem apiece for the earth, the moon, the galaxies, our solar system (with a special nod to the demoted planet), etc.

Surprise. He loved it. First, the pieces’ very marked dimeter, trimeter or tetrameter (nothing longer, obviously). He insisted I mark time with my hand as I read. And then, he seemed to really love the sounds independently of their meaning. He cracked up (literally) when I read such simple alliteration as: Jupiter’s jumbo/Gigantic and it’s plainly prolific.

Reminds me of how at the same age his older brother collapsed laughing when I read him a story that had the word “silver spikes” in it.

So my question is: How come no-one made laugh with stupid sounds when I was six?

Or maybe they did and I’ve just forgotten.