More Poetry for April: From the Frothy to the Freaky

h1 April 27th, 2009 by jules

“No human being can survive / The cold of Drifig Prime, / For there your body freezes / In abbreviated time. / You soon lose all sensation / In your fingers and your feet, / You feel your heart grow weaker, / Then completely cease to beat.

Your bones are icy splinters, / And your blood solidifies. / Your flesh becomes so frigid / It begins to crystallize. / Your eyes are sightless marbles, / And your brain, turned brittle, splits. / You topple onto Drifig Prime, / And shatter into bits.”

I hate it when that happens. Remind me not to vacation in the outer reaches of the solar system again.

I’m here today, during this last week of National Poetry Month 2009, to share some poems from new picture book poetry collections. That opening poem is from Jack Prelutsky (with art from Jimmy Pickering), but I’ll get back to that in a moment. I’m here to talk just a bit about each title, but I’d rather let some art from each book—as well as some poetry, of course—do most of the talking.

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“Little Mabel blew a bubble, and it caused a lot of trouble… / Such a lot of bubble trouble in a bibble-bobble way. / For it broke away from Mabel as it bobbed across the table, / where it bobbled over Baby, and it wafted him away.”

This first title, Bubble Trouble (Clarion Books, April 2009), is the oddball in this post in that it isn’t a collection of poems: It’s a picture book written in verse from acclaimed New Zealand author Margaret Mahy, who also writes for young adults, and it is THE title you can hand the next person who says he or she is struggling with meter. Mahy doesn’t miss a beat in this delightful, wonderfully weird, briskly-paced tale—a study in consonance and alliteration, if I’ve ever seen one—about a baby who, as you can see in the above spread, gets caught in a bubble and floats all over town, as the townsfolk do what they can to save the wee tyke. You know those Russian nesting dolls? Yeah, it’s like that: The rhymes seemed to be nested in one another, as you can see from these spreads, and the book begs and pleads to be read aloud and/or used during story times. The art is by British illustrator extraordinnaire Polly Dunbar; regular readers may remember she’s one of my favorite illustrators. Here’s another spread; click to enlarge each one from this title, which Kirkus calls a “frothy, effervescent gift.”

“After them the Copple couple came cavorting at the double, / then a jogger (quite a slogger) joined the crowd, who called and coughed. / Up above the puzzled people—way up toward the chapel steeple—rose the bubble (with the baby)
slowly lifting up aloft.”

I see over at Read Roger that this title has been given a starred review in the May/June issue of the Horn Book, as well as this next title . . .

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Button Up!: Wrinkled Rhymes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2009) by Alice Schertle with illustrations by Petra Mathers is for the sartorially-minded, a collection of fifteen poems from the points-of-view of your well-worn duds. From “Emily’s Undies” to “Bill’s Blue Jacket” and many other items in between, these are, yes, the voices of your clothes. Sounds odd, this personification of everything from galoshes to jammies, but it really works. Schertle has fun with perspective—and humor—and switches up her rhyme scheme, keeping readers on their toes. Mather’s exuberant illustrations of anthropomorphized animals (from Joshua, the alligator, to Bertie, the otter) are detailed and fun. (And the textures! Check out that cover art above.) Pictured up and left here is Jennifer and her shoes. Here’s Violet, one of the illustrations from the spread about her hiking hat:

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And…back to Prelutsky. The Swamps of Sleethe: Poems From Beyond the Solar System, illustrated with delightful mischief by Jimmy Pickering, was released in March by Alfred A. Knopf. Prelutsky offers up nineteen poems about nineteen terrifying stops in the solar system. There’s the titular swamps where “{m}alignant beings thrive”; the bugs on Gub, “your final resting place,” where the bugs will “bite and chew / until there’s nothing left of you”; the Demon Birds of Lonithor (need I say more?); the depression-inducing planet of Swole and hilarity-inducing Skreber (the insane kind of hilarity, it probably goes without saying); the Beholder in the Silence (who is just undeniably creepy); Sarbro, where you morph into a tree; and much, much more. Dark these poems are. Some of the planets are asterisked (I just made that a verb), and those indicate anagrams of words or phrases that describe an aspect of the planet to which the poem is dedicated. In the opening poem of this post, for instance, “Drifig” is anagrammed (I just made that a verb, too) from “frigid.” The final poem, a warning to child readers, is grim: The little, green Strovilean Explorers set down their rocket ship on planet Earth, only to find it a ruinous, trashed wasteland. As Kirkus writes, “this is Prelutsky in an uncharacteristically dark vein.” And this, methinks, is particularly for your budding science fiction fan.

I’ll close today with “The Waters of Wonthoo,” because you know I like my dark and menacing and freaky children’s lit, too. Mwahahahahaha. Mwaha. Ha. Mwa…. Ha….Ha… Oh, I’m puttering out here.

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BUBBLE TROUBLE © 2009 Margaret Mahy, illustrations © 2009 by Polly Dunbar. Published by Clarion Books, New York. All rights reserved.

BUTTON UP!: WRINKLED RHYMES © 2009 Alice Schertle, illustrations © 2009 by Petra Mathers. Published by Harcourt Children’s Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), New York. All rights reserved.

THE SWAMPS OF SLEETHE: POEMS FROM BEYOND THE SOLAR SYSTEM, © 2009 Jack Prelutsky, illustrations © 2009 Jimmy Pickering. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. All rights reserved.

All spreads posted with permission of publishers.

10 comments to “More Poetry for April: From the Frothy to the Freaky”

  1. What a wonderful juxtaposition of poetic perfection! I can’t decide which poems and illustrations I like the most (although the “bugs on Gub” would be my “1984” Room 101 nightmare), so I will choose them all. What a feast for the eyes, Jules – highly enjoyable!

  2. WONDERFUL poetry here! And you know what? Consciously or unconsciously, the books you’ve selected have something in common: they’re very Poe-like in rhyme and rhythm; and one (the planets one) even sounds like something EAP would write about, if you sat him down in a chair, spun him around a few times, and launched him into the 21st century with vague instructions along the order of Kids. You’ve never thought to freak out KIDS, have you…? (Happy 200th birthday again, Mr. Poe!)

    Plus, I think I need to adopt Violet’s Hiking Hat as the official cadence count for my blog.

    Noticed the gold logo on Jack Prelutsky’s book cover: “Children’s Poet Laureate.” Was all, y’know, Huh? (translation: “Huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?” etc. — it takes a lot of huhs) at first. Then I read more (aside to link-following geeks: two links there). Had no idea there even WAS such a thing. A big kudos to the Poetry Foundation!

    Off-topic, kinda: While at the Poetry Foundation, I also ran across this article, “More than Mother Goose,” by a certain pair of favorite kidlit bloggers… I know you long-timers here already knew about this; it just tickled the heck out of JES-come-lately me, though.

  3. I remember a year ago or so, Prelutsky came out with another collection and someone said something like, “Oh, he just does the same thing all the time,” in a very dismissive fashion.

    Methinks ol’ Jack heard them.
    Good GRIEF this is not the lighthearted, funny rhyme-y verse of yore. This is pretty cool. The Drifig artwork scares the peas out of me.

    Bubble and Button are adorable, though!

  4. I took one look at the BUBBLE book and squeed, recognizing Polly Dunbar’s art at once. And then the bit of rhyme you posted had me grinning big-time: perfect meter (and borrowing, in that instance, from Betty Botter, I think).

  5. Thanks, you all! Hey, I like posting late at night and waking up to folks ready to talk about books with me.

    Jill, word. up. The bugs on Gub would also be my own personal nightmare. Glad you like the art; it’s all particularly good today, isn’t it? I LOVE me some Polly Dunbar art, in particular.

    Tanita, yes. I remember that, too. It’s been almost fashionable to pick on Prelutsky, I’ve noticed, for doing the same ol’ thing. This is definitely a departure for him with regard to tone, though folks who are way more attentive to mixing things up with meter could better speak to whether or not he’s writing in the same types of rhymes. And Pickering’s art? It’s creepy-good.

    Kelly, you will LOVE the Bubble book. I truly believe this. Like I said, Mahy nails the meter.

  6. Oh, thanks for sharing all these poems and spreads. Such a treat! At this moment, I am quite taken with Bubble Trouble. 🙂

  7. John, missed your comment….Spam tried to have it for breakfast, and I just saved it.

    Yes, Prelutsky was the first children’s poet laureate. It’s a two-year-term, I believe, and Mary Ann Hoberman is next in line. I’m sure not if she’s currently reigning or will take the throne soon?? I should know this and will have to look it up. Sorry. And, yes, Eisha and I wrote twice for the Poetry Foundation. Was very fun. Both of those articles, I guess you’d call them, are linked at the blog under the “freelance writing” page. I enjoyed those few freelance writing gigs very much and should be probably be more proactive about trying to find more writing gigs that can go on the ol’ resume. But now I’m rambling.

    Thanks, Jama! Polly’s art makes me happy. But then I’ve said that precisely seven skerjillion times here at 7-Imp.

  8. Jules, How fun to click and find a trio of out-and-out reviews of stuff I CLEARLY NEED for the library. Thank you!

  9. Oh, Jack P can be wonderfully wicked.
    I doubt Jack has any trouble turning the
    other cheek if and when he’s picked on —
    as they (similarly say) ‘all the way to the
    poet laureate’s podium/bank’.)
    Also, his Dragons and Troll books have
    a delightful, often wicked wordplay to them,
    as his newer Wizard poem/picture book.
    I for one always look forward to Jack’s new work,
    and this newest (w/art, SIGH, by Pickering!) looks

  10. […] of my deep and abiding love for British illustrator Polly Dunbar’s work. There’s been this post and this interview and this post and Penguin (I love that penguin and the blue lion who eats […]

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