31 Days, Children's Books

Permanent Marker For The Brain, Or Poetry for Children

I am a reluctant poetry fan. I have favorite poems and poets, and I am glad to have poetry included in the literature I’ve studied. Tennyson, Rosetti, Frost, and so many other wonderful wordsmiths have enriched my thoughts through their works. However, I sometimes doubt that I ever would have read a poem on my own if it hadn’t been for my schooling. I’m not naturally drawn to it, even though I remember it’s an amazing art form once I start reading. There’s something about a poem that can lodge itself in your consciousness for life. “There was a girl who had a curl…” etc. My mom let us choose the poems we wanted to memorize for school, but memorize them we had to. I can’t say I remember an entire poem besides one or two of Emily Dickinson’s, but bits and pieces of many different poems pop into my head at random throughout life.

389956Poems can stay with you for a long time, but a poem with a picture to go with it is like a permanent marker for the brain. I was probably eight or nine (or maybe older?) when my mom got Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems by Mary Ann HobermanI loved those poems so much, I memorized them for fun. My favorite one was called “Vacation”:

In my head I hear a humming:
Summer, summer summer’s coming.
Soon we’re going on vacation
But there is a complication:
Day by day the problem’s growing-
We don’t know yet where we’re going!

Mother likes the country best;
That’s so she can read and rest.
Dad thinks resting is a bore;
He’s for fishing at the shore.
Sailing is my brother’s pick;
Sailing makes my sister sick;
She says swimming’s much more cool,
Swimming in a swimming pool.
As for me, why, I don’t care,
I’d be happy anywhere!

In my head I hear a humming:
Summer, summer, summer’s coming.
Soon we’re going on vacation
But we have a complication:
Day by day the problem’s growing-
Where oh where will we be going?

The illustrations by Marylin Hafner make the poems in the book come alive. I highly recommend it. And I highly recommend any book by Mary Ann Hoberman. The Seven Silly Eaters is particularly awesome.

Where the Sidewalk EndsAnd let’s not forget the classic triple threat of Shel Silverstein, who wrote poems, illustrated the poems, and recorded the poems (and won a Grammy for it). I loved listening to “Peanut Butter Sandwich” and my mom called me “Peggy Ann McKay” from the poem “Saturday” so many times! I wasn’t quite that level of a hypochondriac, but it always made me smile. Or at least want to smile. Yes, Shel Silverstein’s poems are a little weird. I can’t defend the man, but I’ll defend his poems (albeit weakly–how can you defend nonsense?) forever.

There are so many wonderful poetry books for little ones. Clearly, I prefer the ones on the sillier side. Or at least those are the ones that have stuck with me. I’m ashamed to say that not one verse from Robert Lewis Stevenson’s famed A Child’s Garden of Verses remains in my memory. Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” however…well, that just proves my point–my poetry taste is ridiculously unsophisticated. Maybe if I really think about it, the more wholesome and elegant poems will come to mind for a Part 2 of Poetry for Children.

This is Day 15 of  the series 31 Days of Picture Books. Catch up on the other posts in the series here.

4 thoughts on “Permanent Marker For The Brain, Or Poetry for Children”

  1. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook says:

    Great suggestions! We have A Child’s Garden of Verses with illustrations I don’t like, and I had it as a child with illustrations I did like…but the poems themselves are not my favorites. They’re okay. I’d rather read them mixed into a book like the big anthologies I reviewed here than read a whole book of them.

  2. Stacy says:

    I love the metaphor of “permanent marker for the brain.”

    My favorite book of childhood poetry is Eric Kincaid’s Book of Nursery Rhymes (published by Brimax). It’s a thick book, with both familiar and obscure rhymes, and gorgeous, imaginative illustrations. It out of print now, but you can still get used copies, and it is SO worth it. (Those poems and images are stuck fast for me.)

    1. MiaTheReader says:

      Just looked up Eric Kincaid’s Book of Nursery RHymes on Amazon and it looks so intriguing! I will have to keep my eyes open for it at used book sales. Thank you for the recommendation!

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