Friday, May 21, 2010

Everybody was a baby once: a Poetry Friday book review

Today, a quick review of Everybody was a baby once: and other poems by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman. My review copy was sent to me by the kind folks at Candlewick Press, who published it earlier this year.

Do not let the title fool you. This is not a collection of poems about babies; it is instead a collection of poems perfect for the preschool and elementary school set.

I am extremely fond of the poem that forms the Introduction to this collection, which precedes even the title pages:

I hear its whirring engine
Glimpse its dipping wing
Against the sun-filled cloudless sky
Of early evening

A little flying poem
That circles down to land
On the runway in my head
And the page beneath my hand.
This collection of rhyming poems in various forms contains mostly short poems – some as short as a couplet, some taking a handful of short stanzas. The illustrations help the text along, and in at least one case ("The Summer Snowmen"), a wordless two-page spread cleverly stands in for the last word of the poem.

Here's an inside spread, featuring a poem about people who are "Dangerous to Know":

Fans of soccer (or, if you live outside the U.S., of football) will enjoy the multiple references to soccer games, including "Soccer Sonnet", "Cinderella", "Elephants vs. Insects" and "The Ping-Pong Song".

I enjoyed the playfulness of the rhymes in this collection, which is roughly bookended by "Monday is Washday" and "Friday is Fishday", both of which follow the same playful structure and end with a rather loud chorus of "___DAY IS ___DAY IN OUR TOWN!"

While the back of the book indicates that the book is for "the very young" and says it's good for "ages 2 and up", I tend to think that some of the poems might not make sense to the younger toddlers in the room based on situations and some rather sophisticated wordplay. It's a reason NOT to read the book to the younger kids, who will, I'm certain, enjoy hearing them nevertheless, but I see this as for the preschool to early elementary set, if I'm being honest. (And really, you wouldn't want me lying about that, would you?)

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