Poet Kenn Nesbitt is celebrating his birthday today, as well as the imminent release of what is sure to be a hit, My Hippo Has the Hiccups, a new poetry book-plus-audio-CD produced by Sourcebooks. This Silverstein-Prelutsky-influenced collection of 120 poems caters to kids’ voracious appetites for humorous story poems, with plenty of silly pet poems, fairy tale parodies (another Cinderella poem for my collection!), and funny school poems, many topics with strong kid appeal. Nesbitt relies heavily on formulaic rhyming quatrains that kids will quickly chime in on—especially after listening to the CD performed by Nesbitt himself.
Once again, the audio is one of my favorite components and I’m so glad to see Sourcebooks continue to offer poetry for kids in audio form. Nesbitt is a strong performer of his own works, with a strong, clear delivery and pacing that is just right for the poem and the audience. The pause between tracks is also helpful for listeners and Nesbitt manages to make each track distinctive, using a variety of voicing and sound effects. Even without the text in front of her/him, the young reader can easily follow the poem—and that’s not as easy as it sounds.
There are 39 (out of the 120) poems available on the CD including most of the best of the collection, IMO, like “I Played a Game” which begs for kid pantomime or movement to accompany the audio, “(I’m Always in Parentheses)” which actually gives voice to the ignoble parentheses, and “Pet Shopping” with a lively backdrop of animal noises, to name a few. Kids will surely want to plug the CD in the car and join in—and I think the CD will hold up to repeated listening.
My favorite poems are probably those that diverge from the ever-present rhyming pattern (like the list format of “The Contents of My Desk” below) or incorporate clever wordplay (like “Anna Graham” = anagram) or punctuation-play (like “Hap-the-Happy-Hyphenator”). I hope Nesbitt will venture further into this inventive territory in the future.
The Contents of My Desk
by Kenn Nesbitt
A twisted-up slinky.
A ring for my pinky.
A blackened banana.
A love note from Hannah.
My doodles of rockets.
The lint from my pockets.
A fork-like utensil.
[Wouldn’t it be fun to gather a few of these objects mentioned in the poem and put them in a box, set the box on a table in front of the kids, and then take each object out as you refer to it in reading the poem aloud? Poem props! Or challenge kids to create a comic strip or storyboard, with a drawing for each line of the poem, using each line as a caption or speech bubble.]
My Hippo Has the Hiccups is illustrated with black and white cartoon sketches by artist and animator Ethan Long. They have just the right touch of zany looseness to suit the poems and engage kid readers—and aspiring cartoonists.
Kenn Nesbitt’s web site, Poetry4Kids is one of the most popular and visited sites for kids on poetry, offering a multitude of resources and opportunities for kids to interact. He clearly has a heart for kids and their funny bones. He writes, “I know it always makes me feel good when I read a funny poem or hear a funny song. So, in my own small way, I'm trying to do my part to help people laugh, and just maybe make the world a happier place.” Happy birthday to YOU, Kenn. Thanks for hiccupping hippos!
P.S. Congratulations, Sourcebooks: The 40th NAACP Image Awards were given out last week and Hip Hop Speaks to Children, edited by Nikki Giovanni (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky) won for Outstanding Literary Work—Poetry, the first time that a book for CHILDREN has won in this category. Congrats, Nikki and Sourcebooks! (I blogged about this anthology last Nov. 4. Love that audio, too!)
Join the Poetry Friday crew at the holly and the ivy.
Image credit: Sourebooks