Finding poems that appeal to children is not easy. They have to be just the right length, have the right tone, and the right kind of rhyme. Thankfully, there are people out there who are willing to do what it takes to find out what works for children. One of these people is Bruce Lansky, and today I have a review of a book that he worked one, a book that is packed with poems that children chose.
Selected by Bruce Lansky
Illustrated by Stephen Carpenter
For ages 6 to 8
Meadowbrook, 1991, 978-0671747695
Most of the time the poems in poetry anthologies are chosen by adults. For this collection the editor, Bruce Lansky, asked children what their favorite poems were. He then read through all the poems that were chosen, twenty thousand in number, and then chose five hundred that he thought would best interest young readers. Bruce then presented these five hundred poems to a panel of three hundred elementary school children and they told him which of these they liked best. The interesting thing about this process is that all the poems that were chosen are funny. Some were written by famous poets such as Dr. Seuss and Ogden Nash, while others were written by wonderful poets who are not as well known.
The collection is divided into nine topic sections, each one of which focuses on one particular subject. The topics chosen include parents, siblings, friends, disasters and monsters, which are the kinds of subjects that children are interested in.
We begin with poems about “Me,” which are all written from the point of view of a child. In the first one the narrator is “glad that I am me.” Even though people stare at him when he behaves in ways that other people consider odd, he is determined that he is “not going to change and be someone I’m not.” In another me poem another child daydreams about all the things he would like to do and say to the grownups who inflict things on him. He’d like to “give the nurse the shot” and “send my mother to her room,” and best of all he dreams of being able to say “‘Cause I said so!”
The next topic in the book is one that all children will appreciate because it is about parents. It explores the ways in which parents curtail children’s activities and make them do things that they, naturally, think are very unreasonable; things like eating liver and learning good manners. Some of the poems tell deliciously funny stories about parents whose children somehow get the better of them.
The humor found in these poems is sometimes subtle, and sometimes it is just all out funny. Children will enjoy dipping into the book to find an amusing poem that lifts their spirits and that helps them to remember that though life has its trials, it is also full of good times, good books, and wonderful poetry.