I have always been a list writer. Lists help me focus, and crossing things off my lists makes me feel as if I have accomplished something. In all the years that I have been writing lists, it never occurred to me that they could actually be creative. I was therefore tickled pink when I came across today's poetry title. It turns out that a list can actually be a poem! Who knew.
Underneath my bed: List Poems
Brian P. Cleary
Illustrated by Richard Watson
For ages 6 to 8
Millbrook, 2017, 978-1-4677-9343-8
A list is just a list, right? There is nothing creative about a list because it is utilitarian; unless it is a list poem. A list poem is a list that is turned into something more. The words in such poems can rhyme or not, and they can “range in tone from serious to silly.”
In this excellent introduction to list poems the author begins by telling us what list poems are. Then he presents us with lots of samples of this poetry form to read. For example, we visit a bus stop where we meet a group of people, all of whom are doing different things. Tonya is texting while “Tony twirls like a ballerina.” Chloe is reading, and “Luke listens to tunes.” This list may not seem like much but after you read the poem a time or two you realize how effectively it captures a moment in time, giving us a picture of the people who are who are waiting at the bus stop.
Further on in the book we encounter a poem called Summer Camp. In it a narrator lists all the woes of summer camp life, which include, among other things, the stinging and biting insects, the “corny songs and no TVs,” and let’s not forget the bunkmate who cries every night due to an acute case of homesickness. There is no doubt that camp can really be “a bummer,” and yet the narrator still “can’t wait till I come back next summer!”
The topics covered in these poems will certainly resonate with young readers. There is a poem about the ties a teacher wears to school, one about the stuff a child stashes under his bed, another about the reasons why dinosaurs went extinct, and much more.
All in all this is a wonderful poetry collection. Perhaps best of all, young readers will see that something as mundane as a list can be turned into something creative, amusing, or thought- provoking.