‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe
The poem is known for its nonsensical word choice. At first glance, readers may throw their hands up in exasperation. “T’was brillig, and the slithy…what?” and “Did gyre and gimble in the where?” After spending more time with the poem, and even reciting the lines aloud, the standard plot development and proper sentence structure make it possible for the reader to glean meaning from this epic tale of a boy slaying a ferocious beast. Readers will have no problem envisioning the terrifying Jabberwocky as Carroll’s words paint a vivid picture of the antagonist as the drama unfolds.
Stephane Jorisch’s illustrated version of Carroll’s classic poem, the first in a series of graphic poetry books, brings the 1872 poem into the 21st Century by incorporating contemporary issues and themes. For example, the boy’s father is a neglected war veteran, the general population is under surveillance by Big Brother and the female character appears to conform to rigid gender stereotypes.
Another theme Jorisch develops throughout the text is media’s role in creating an atmosphere of perpetual fear in society. Sound familiar? Jorisch takes this notion to the next level with his final illustration, which happens to be the only illustration not accompanied by text. In the image, boys appear to be toying with the slain Jabberwocky, which is nowhere near as fearsome as we have been led to believe, which raises the following question: Maybe we have nothing to fear but fear itself?
Jean Little is a Canadian author, who was born with scars on her corneas, which cause her to have limited sight. She has written many children’s books, which often focus on characters with physical disabilities and the trials and tribulations they go through in their daily lives.
Hey World, Here I am by Jean Little is different from many of her novels.. It is a poetry book written from the perspective of one of Jean Little’s character’s Kate Bloomfield. At the beginning Jean Little introduces you to Kate.
“I first met Kate Bloomfield when she walked into a book I was writing. The book was later published by Harper and Row under the title Look Through my Window. It is about a girl named Emily Blair, and when Kate arrived the evening before school began and stood in the shadows of Emily’s lawn, I thought she was just another minor character. I also imagined that I had created her and would remain in control of her. I had a lot to learn.”
I remember reading this book of poems as a young girl and really enjoying them. I read them over and over again because I could relate to Kate and how she thought.
I can’t turn cartwheels. I’ve tried and tried.
I can start. I can get about halfway…
Then I buckle over somehow and collapse sideways.
I told Mother. “Practice, she advised.
I said I had. It didn’t work. I just plain couldn’t do them.
“Well you can write poems”, she said,
“And you’re good at Math…”
She went on and on and it was all very nice.
I appreciated it.
I still can’t do cartwheels.
Kids Pick the Funniest Poems
Reading this story by Dr. Seuss is like eating warm, chewy chocolate chip cookies with a cold glass of milk – it makes me want more. When my son, Ryan, was a toddler, I introduced him to the imaginative writing of Dr. Seuss. Some of the books that I read aloud to him included Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb; Oh, the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss’s A B C (the interactive version on CD). The A,B,C book has an astonishing amount of amusing alliterations, such as;
One day when Ryan was about six years old, I was trying to convince him to use a napkin to cover his shirt while he was eating a plate full of spaghetti. My conversation with him inspired me to create this poem:
Last year I had the good fortune of teaching a group of nineteen grade five students -fifteen of whom were boys. On one particular day, I asked pairs of students to browse through an assortment of poetry books and to choose a poem to read aloud to the class. Two boys chose The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven, but as they read the poem to the class they were doubled over with laughter, and they could barely spit out the words. On that day, the classroom was full of energy and laughter, thanks to Mr. Prelutsky’s poetic imagination.
The story begins with a young boy who arrives to a desolate land and immediately encounters a street entitled “The Street of the Lifted Lorax”. The death and bareness of the land is clear to the reader from the very beginning. Through the words of the Once-ler the boy learns the causes for the current state of the land. Throughout the story the boy listens to the words of the Once-ler, who we never get to see (other than his arms).
The Oncer-ler begins his remorseful tale by speaking of a time when,
“…the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean, and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space…one morning , I came to this glorious place. And I first saw the tress! The Truffula Trees! The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees! Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.”
Enchanted by the beauty of the Truffula Tree tufts, the Once-ler greedily chops one down to create the very first “Thneed”. With the “Thneed” being an immediate success, mass production begins. Factories are built and the land is quickly invaded. Throughout the story the Lorax tries to speak for the trees and tries to protect all of the creatures that inhabit them from the greedy Once-ler, but it is no use. Here is just one example of the numerous pleads from the Lorax to the Once-ler:
“’I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I am asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs’- he was very upset as he shouted and puffed- ‘What’s the THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft? (…)Sir! You are crazy with greed. There is no one on earth who would buy that fool Thneed!’”
Well he is wrong and the Once-ler is able to very quickly create a very successful business. Just as quick as the business is built the trees disappear. Throughout the story due to varying circumstances the creatures are force to leave the desolate and now scorched land.
“They loved living here. But I can’t let them stay. They’ll have to find food. And I hope that they may. Good luck boys,” he cried. And he sent them away.”
Throughout the story the Lorax warns the Once-ler repeatedly of the dangers of his actions but his greed gets the best of him. Toward the end of the story the Lorax himself must leave, leaving only a small pile of rocks engraved “UNLESS”. Over the years the Once-ler tries to figure out the meaning of the word “unless” and when the boy arrives it seems the Once-ler has become clear.
“Now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax is perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
The Once-ler then tosses the boy the last Truffula seed and says:
“You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seed. And Truffula Tress are what everyone needs. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back”
I believe this story sends very simple but clear and powerful messages about our current environmental situation, greed, empowerment and the world in which we are living. Children become enthralled with this story and seem to clearly understand the messages. They become motivated and enthusiastic about their ability and obligation to be more aware and responsible. It is a MUST read and share!!!!
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
All of Shel Sliverstein’s poems in this book encourage the reader to explore the unknown and enable the reader’s imagination to run wild. One of my favourites is ‘Ickle Me, Pickle Me Tickle Me Too’. It is about three individuals Ickle, Pickle and Tickle who go for a ride in a flying shoe. Ickle is the captain, Pickle was the crew and Tickle served coffee and mulligan stew. They fly over the sun and beyond, but never return to the home they knew. It leaves readers with not knowing what ever happened to Ickle, Pickle and Tickle. However, it allows you to imagine the adventures that they may have had in their flying shoe and perhaps experience what it might be like to fly in a shoe. It is a poem that is very catchy and I have often heard my own students reciting it very quietly to themselves after I have read it aloud to them.
Shel Silverstein can also take fear about a certain situation and add a humorous tone to help defeat or help conquer that fear. ‘The Crocodile’s Toothache’ is an example of this. The crocodile has a toothache and goes to the dentist. The dentist starts his work, by pulling out the crocodile’s teeth one by one until he finds the right one. The crocodile does not like this and asks the dentist to stop, but he will not listen. Suddenly the crocodile has had enough and he snaps his jaw shut eating the dentist. I sure some readers of this poem would like to have had that opportunity at one point or another, when visiting the dentist.
These poems and many more in the book Where the Sidewalk Ends allows readers young and old to experience the world of imagination and gives life to things that might be impossible.
For some, poetry is a form of literature that allows us to escape to another world where there are no limits or boundaries. Just like two people can look at a piece of art and see completely different images, so can two people read a poem and find intertwined amongst the words, completely different meanings. There are poems I have read multiple times where I have been unable to conjure any meaning or accompanying feeling beyond confusion. The idea for some to compose a poem is often a daunting task.
I like to say my daughter’s favourite poets are Sandra Boynton and Dr. Suess. Her almost 2-year-old mind is unable to read on her own, but already she has come to love and recognize the whimsical and rhythmic verses in her prized little board books. I take great joy in seeing her sit quietly in her big, comfy chair, carefully turning the pages, one book at a time.
She was the local Brown-Owl, so knew a thing or two about reading aloud. Her rendition of Lee’s whimsical poems was like a magic potion that lulled us into a peaceful trance. Lee’s imagery shot out of her mouth, speeding up and slowing down, leaving us hanging on every emotion-filled word. Her silly and enthusiastic delivery of Lee’s repetition, rhythm and rhyme, made for an irresistible night cap.
Another feature of Lee’s anthology that gripped me was the subject matter. What child wouldn’t be tantalized by the weirdness of alligator pie, mysterious ookpiks, grundiboos, potamuses and crankabeasts, not to mention psychapoos? I loved that the lines in his poems were for pure fun and entertainment. There didn’t seem to be a moral or hidden agenda in anything Lee wrote. Mumbo Jumbo, Bump on Your Thumb, Windshield Wipers are just a few of the titles in this anthology that show the randomness of this collection of poems.
One last aspect of Alligator Pie that is etched into my brain is Frank Newfeld’s creepy and slightly grotesque illustrations. They may not be as rich in color or as detailed as some of today’s children’s literature, but they are just as memorable. In Kamloops, a poem about the narrator traveling across the country and eating the reader, one body part at a time, features a book shelf containing a knee, a bowl of “toesters”, a clothesline of thumbs and a head upside down in a salad bowl. How gross…and yet strangely irresistible!
Give it a shot. Read the following excerpt from one of my favorites, On Tuesdays I Polish My Uncle:
…we had ants in our pants, dirt in our shirt, glue in our shoe , beans in our jeans, a bee on our knee, beer in our ear and a bear in our hair, a stinger in our finger, a stain in our brain, and our belly-buttons shone in the dark.
What fun! For me, reading these lines aloud brings me right back to the captain’s bed.