Wednesday, March 5


Poems by Alan Katz
Drawings by Edward Koren
Margaret K. McElderry / Simon & Schuster 2008

Okay, once again just to make sure we're all on the same page: do not give your book a title that can be used against you in a review. You would think editors would be the first to understand the rules of making a book review-proof. Of course, it's also a good idea to make sure the content followed the same rules, not just the title.

Katz is no Shel Silverstein (he's not even Jack Prelutsky), but so much about this book feels like that's what the guilty parties were trying for. It's 179 pages of short, silly poetry accompanied by line drawings is squarely aimed at those who have worn out their copies of Where the Sidewalk Ends and It's Raining Pigs and Noodles.

All the usual topics are covered -- too much TV, failing grades, turns of phrases, wordplay -- but so much of it falls flat. Rhymes and near-rhymes have the feel of having being culled from a reference book with the rest of the poem built awkwardly around them. There are ways to break the meter within a poem, and then there are just broken feet. And some of these poems seemed designed to deliver a punchline but don't have the substance to prop them up. I think there's a picture-book's-worth of poems here that are good -- maybe a couple dozen or so -- and the rest reads like contractual filler.

I know kids in their poetry phase can't ever get enough of the humorous verse, and this will easily break up the monotony of rereading the same six or seven books for this crowd, but I don't suspect it will get the same level of repeat readings.

Question: where are the women poets who write volumes of humorous poetry? Is nonsense considered the province of male poets, and is this why boys stop reading poetry?


Anonymous said...

I noticed that Kirkus gave this book a starred review--saying it is excellent. It was also picked as a Book Sense best book of the spring. I haven't seen it yet, but as a teacher, I appreciate books that will get kids to enjoy poetry. Lighten up.

david elzey said...

Well, I declare! Lighten up indeed!

You haven't even seen the book, yet you can pass judgment on me based on someone else's say-so?

As a former teacher I never had a problem getting kids to enjoy poetry. The key is putting good books in their hands so that they don't come to equate bad books with all books.

And sign your posts before telling other people to lighten up