Friday, October 17, 2008

CPL#1 Prelutsky 08

As Jack Prelutsky passes the mantle of Children’s Poet Laureate to Mary Ann Hoberman, it’s a good time to take a quick look at some of his new poetry out this year:

My Dog May Be a Genius (Greenwillow)
Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry; How to Write a Poem (Greenwillow)

Billed as a collection of “more than 100 silly poems,” My Dog May Be a Genius is Prelutsky’s fifth collection of humorous poems in the vein of The New Kid on the Block, his best-selling collection of 100+ poems illustrated by cartoonist James Stevenson with understated comic genius on every page. With poems that are nearly childhood standards now, like “Homework! Oh, Homework!” and “Bleezer’s Ice Cream,” the music of Prelutsky’s verse is irresistible and continues in My Dog May Be A Genius with “bookend” poems such as “Homework, Sweet Homework” and “Sandwich Stan.”

Since the publication of New Kid, equally popular companion books followed, including Something Big Has Been Here (1990), A Pizza the Size of the Sun (1996), and It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles (2000). My Dog May Be a Genius is a fitting successor to this comic legacy and includes concrete poems, puns, and even two poems about reading and the library (and you know how I love those!). [Indices to titles and to first lines are also included.] Here’s one sample poem that I think kids will love. What about putting it on a valentine next February?

If You Were a Rhinoceros
by Jack Prelutsky

If you were a rhinoceros,

I still would
be your friend.
And if you were a platypus,

our friendship would not end.

I’d like you as a walrus,
camel, cat, or kangaroo.
It doesn’t matter what you are—
I’ll still be friends with you.

From: Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. My Dog May Be a Genius. New York: Greenwillow, p. 42.

Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry; How to Write a Poem is Prelutsky’s offering to young, aspiring poets out there and to readers of all ages who might be interested in the back story behind many of his popular poems and his poetry writing process. This reader-friendly volume (targeting ages 7-10) consists of about 20 autobiographical anecdotes, 20 stand-alone writing tips, connected with poems referenced in both. Each is written in his inimitable, humorous style incorporating his personal experiences as well as responses from kids over the years. He also introduces poetry terms and concepts such as voice, scansion, meter, etc. with helpful sidebars. Most of the poems trade on his humorous rhyming verse, but he includes haiku and concrete poems, too.

The book ends with 10 “Poemstarts” that offer kids a formula for building poems based on patterns. A glossary and index are additional tools included. Teachers will appreciate Prelutsky’s emphasis on keeping a poetry notebook (or journal) and on the need for constant rewriting. Librarians will appreciate his sending young readers to the library for the thesaurus and other tools. One note for parents: Prelutsky offers a smorgasbord of food pranks (and others) that he and his brother pull on their parents. It’s hilarious, but… :-) This is an excellent addition to books on poetry writing for young kids, particularly since it helps us get in the head of a poet, so to speak.

Here’s one tiny excerpt from his first essay, “My Father’s Underwear” which ends,
“One of the things that I did to make my father so mad at me was to pin his underwear up on the wall. Before I did that, though, I decorated it. You see, my father wore really boring white underwear, and I wanted to make it pretty, so I painted it with finger paint. THEN I pinned it to the wall. My father didn’t like that at all.

Once I put
a bug in his coffee cup, and another time I put breadcrumbs in his bed. I did lots of other stuff too. I made a list of all the things like that I could remember, then picked some of them to put in a poem called “I Wonder Why Dad Is So Thoroughly Mad.”

From: Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry; How to Write a Poem. New York: Greenwillow, p. 3-4.

And for a “greatest hits” collection of another hundred Prelutsky poems (+ 15 new ones) gleaned from many of his most popular collections, look for Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face and Other Poems (Greenwillow), illustrated by Brandon Dorman. The CD of selections read by Prelutsky himself is an excellent addition. Kids who’ve never had the opportunity to hear him perform his poetry will love these singing, yodeling, yelling renditions of his poems, many with accompanying music.

For more on Prelutsky, look for my birthday posting about him and his work on September 8, 2007, or my entry for him in POETRY PEOPLE; A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO CHILDREN'S POETS (Libraries Unlimited, 2007).

For more Poetry Friday treats, go to my fabulous former student's blog: Becky's Book Reviews.

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