Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: 3/13/2012
Book Kvetch culminates Children’s Book Week by reviewing a collection of poetry for children. Yes. Poetry is a category in nonfiction.
Libraries shelve poetry books in the nonfiction stacks by Dewey Decimal. The recently published I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic would be catalogued in nonfiction under call number 811.54 Pre.
Nothing gives this reviewer more consternation than the prospect of evaluating a book of poetry. How profoundly do the poems convey ideas in the words and space allotted? How poignantly are the senses or emotions or intellect engaged?
Qualifications and unfortunate experiments reading poetry aside… this reviewer accepts the futility of analyzing Prelutsky’s verse.
Prelutky’s award-winning collections of poetry—The New Kid on the Block, The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders and If Not For the Cat—can only be appreciated when read aloud. As the first U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, he continues to inspire kids to commit favorite stanzas to memory and even write their own verse.
Urbanovic, the bestselling author and illustrator of Max the Duck books, has free rein in I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus. Here, she illustrates the haiku “Camel,” “Frog,” “Mole,” “Oyster,” “Peacock” and “Zebra,” while inking hilarious chickens for the concrete poem, “On the Road to Undiscovered” and designing a brilliant page spread for “I’m Gazing through My Telescope.”
The locomotion of each poem in I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus is classic Prelutsky. His signature craft is smithing words together so they sound exquisite when read aloud.
It helps me with my homework
And it even irons my shirts.
It shines my shoes, it combs my hair,
It serves me eight desserts.—from “My Octopus is Different”
Prelutsky invents words using a variety of poem forms, but conveys more silliness than profound or edgy ideas.
Wiguanas are dapper,
Wiguanas are chic,
Each wearing a wig
That’s completely unique.
They wander through woodland
Through valleys and glades
In pigtails and ponytails,
Beehives and braids.—from “Wiguanas”
The most poignant emotion drawn from Prelutsky’s verse is fittingly giggly with the grandest hammered out of “The Blumpazump’s Birthday.”
The neighbors are all in attendance,
It’s truly a splendid affair.
The Brubbs rub their blubbery noses,
The Lubbs comb their lavender hair.
The Gliggs and the Sliggs sing in chorus,
The Grounts eat a mountain of cheese.
The Snoshes cavort in galoshes,
And the Twees uncontrollably sneeze.
Superb for memorizing, the stanzas of “Shopping at a Dragon Store” are replete with rhythm and visual prompts as in Jabberwocky. Read. Repeat. Chunk. Recall. Recite.
They’ve dragons here of every sort,
Of every dragon breed.
But so far they’ve all fallen short
Of being what I need.
I see one sitting on his bed,
I do not know his name,
But when I pet his scaly head
He breathes a gentle flame.
I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic is a worthwhile read aloud for mentors training youthful ears to listen to poetry.
Category: Juvenile Nonfiction, Poetry