— Jack Prelutsky
Jack Prelutsky joins Arnold Lobel on my list of Top Ten Creators of Children’s Literature. Prelutsky’s poetry is engaging and inventive, easily accessible and comprehensible without being dumbed down. His words are full of wit and wisdom. Oh, and did I mention, it’s poetry!
I have sensed fear–and a fair share of despair– among authors and educators that children’s poetry is going the way of the former planet Pluto. Let’s face it, how often do you see young boys gravitating toward a book of poems? Well, I say pull out the Prelutsky and get set for take off!
There are two books in particular to recommend. The first is The Dragons are Singing Tonight (illustrated by Peter Sis). The Dragons are Singing Tonight is one book, seventeen poems, and endless wonder. We have many favourites in this collection of poems about dragons, but our favourite favourite is I AM BOOM!
Enjoy the first of its three stanzas:I am Boom the thunder dragon, Taller than the tallest trees, I stir whirlwinds when I whisper, Mighty cyclones when I sneeze, Fishes shiver in the ocean When I tread upon the shore, I make earthquakes and volcanoes When I roar roar roar!
Remember, a reader contributes much to the experience of a story or poem. For instance, we discovered Boom’s thunderously loud voice that echoes as we read: I am Boom (BOOM!) the thunder dragon… Then, not much later, we discovered Boom’s teeny tiny voice. It has a slight lisp. The irony of an itty bitty voice with the thundering and electric phrases in the poem makes for much laughter. Have fun and enjoy your experience.
The second book, The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom, is a substantial collection of poems selected by Jack Prelutsky and brilliantly illustrated by Meilo So. The contents are divided into five sections: In Trillions We Thrive; Jubilant, We Swim; Dragons in Minature; Hollow-Boned Singers and Wrapped in Coats of Fur.
I love that we can turn to a page a read five poems on the antics of ants. Or turn to another, this time holding our breath in an underwater world of oysters, eels and octopodes. Or to yet another and discover that there are at least three others who know Crow as I know Crow.I like to walk And hear the black crows talk. I like to lie And watch crows sail the sky. I like the crow That wants the wind to blow: I like the one That thinks the wind is fun. I like to see Crows spilling from a tree, And try to find The top crow left behind. I like to hear Crows caw that spring is near. I like the great Wild clamor of crow hate Three farms away When owls are out by day. I like the slow Tired home-flying crow; I like the sight Of crows for my goodnight.
–Crows by David McCord
Reading through The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom is like catching God in the act of creation and then God saying, Come join the fun!
Check out more from Jack Prelutsky at his website. It’s stellar stuff!
Now it’s your turn. What’s your favourite poem? Do you think children’s poetry is going the way of Pluto? Do you like crows? Why or why not?