Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Reviews: Back to School with Rovetch, Ashman, and Elliot

In my neck of the woods, it’s time to head back to school. It’s still 98 degrees here in Texas, but for many kids, summer is already over! So, let’s take a look at three new poetry books that are kid-friendly collections with poetic forms that kids are sure to imitate. Strong on rhyme and humor, with odd or interesting illustrations, these are worth checking out.

There Was a Man Who Loved a Rat; And Other Vile Little Poems by Gerda Rovetch

This slim collection is very repetitive, with many rhymes beginning “There Was a Man” which kids will enjoy imitating and riffing on. Much in the spirit of Edward Lear, with humorous ink drawings on paper plates (paper plates!) by the poet’s daughter, Lissa Rovetch, here’s a sampling:

There was a man in Abilene
who loved a little lima bean.

He kept it in a velvet bag

and only took it out to brag.

Rovetch, Gerda. 2008. There Was a Man Who Loved a Rat; And Other Vile Little Poems. New York: Philomel.

Of course, being from Texas, this poem particularly appeals to me (since Abilene is a Texas town). But I can also see using this limerick-like quatrain form with kids, as they try their hands at creating nonsense poems. Put a lima bean in a small velvet (jewelry) bag and present it mysteriously before reading the poem aloud.

M is for Mischief; An A to Z of Naughty Children by Linda Ashman

I wrote about another new book by Linda Ashman earlier this summer (June 20), Stella, Unleashed; Notes from the Doghouse (Sterling, 2008), and amazingly Ashman has a second poetry book out this year. M is for Mischief is an ABC book that provides a poem for a child named for each letter of the alphabet. It’s illustrated by Nancy Carpenter with inventive images that are suggestive of the rambunctious Eloise. Each poem is boxed in a color square, with cartoon kids cavorting across the pages. Here’s my favorite example:

Vile Vern

by Linda Ashman

Look at Vern: he’s always venting.

Vicious temper, unrelenting.

Vern’s explosions, most volcanic,

Put his victims in a panic.

Aimed his venom at a snake.

Vexed the viper.

Vern’s mistake.

Ashman, Linda. 2008. M is for Mischief; An A to Z of Naughty Children. New York: Dutton.

There’s a long tradition of rhymes and verses about “bad” kids including X. J. Kennedy’s wonderful/horrible “Brats” collections. And of course kids may enjoy seeking out other ABC books that use first names as their structure—like A my name is Alice, Alice to Zinnia, etc.

On the Farm
by David Elliott

For our very youngest poetry fans, On the Farm is a delightful collection of animal poems with a fun, modern feel. I have to admit that the wonderful woodcut and watercolor illustrations by Holly Meade completely captivate me and pump up the volume on these simple rhymes. The large scale (poems in a big font, images oversized) makes the book ideal for group sharing and reading aloud. And kids will learn the poems quickly and join in. Just try one:

The Rooster
by David Elliott

Crows and struts.

He’s got feathers!

He’s got guts!

Oh, the rooster

struts and crows.

What’s he thinking?

No one knows.

Elliott, David. 2008. On the Farm. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.

This Elliott and Meade collaboration reminds me of the large image, oversized picture books of Flora McDonnell, particularly I Love Animals (Candlewick, 1996) a perfect companion to this book. Or look for the classic Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown or Mother Goose collections of animal rhymes. And of course young children will love making animal noises and animal movements to accompany the read aloud.

For more Poetry Friday poetry, go to Big A Little A-- thanks for hosting, Kelly!

Picture credits:;;


Becky said...

I reviewed On The Farm last week for Poetry Friday, and I'm with you. I just loved, loved, loved the illustrations. And it is one of my favorite poetry picture books that I've seen this year.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to awful children's abecediaries, The Gashly Crumb Tinies by Gorey can't be beat.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Yes, those Meade illustrations are GORGEOUS and take the whole collection to another level. Glad you agree, Becky!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Ooooh, I love Edward Gorey! Thanks for that connection, Kelly!

lissa rovetch said...

My mom and I are SO thrilled you like our vile little book. And cool idea about starting a lesson plan with a lima bean in a velvet bag!
Lissa Rovetch