Author

Karen Ray

Children’s poetry doesn’t get any better, or sillier, than A Light in the Attic. Whether it’s Mr. Smeds and Mr. Spats with their 21 heads and 21 hats, or the babysitter who sits on the baby, Silverstein constantly finds new and irreverent subjects as well as fresh and startling twists to old ones. Children take to his silliness the way Mr. Spats’ hats take to Mr. Smeds’ heads. A+

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The paintings came first, poems second in the unusual collaboration in A Fine Fat Pig. All 14 poems about animals are designed to encourage audience participation. For example, the Splendid Lion has ”perky ears and button nose. And excellent mustachios.” Young children respond instantly to the vibrant artwork but can be befuddled by the sophistication in some poems. The snake, for example, is “perfectly moving, yet perfectly still.” Now there’s a slippery concept. B

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Veteran writer Eve Merriam (The Inner City Mother Goose) is one of the silliest poets around. Sometimes. She can mash syllables together in a way that’s as funny as it is unlikely. Her ice cream fountain has such intriguing flavors as “pistachio burp” and “slime of lime slurp,” “french-fried nectarine” and “drip-dry tangerine.” A few of the pickle poems in A Poem for a Pickle: Funnybone Verses shouldn’t have made the cut. The rest will make you smile. B

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Children’s poetry doesn’t get any better, or sillier, than Where the Sidewalk Ends. Whether it’s Mr. Smeds and Mr. Spats with their 21 heads and 21 hats, or the babysitter who sits on the baby, Silverstein constantly finds new and irreverent subjects as well as fresh and startling twists to old ones. Children take to his silliness the way Mr. Spats’ hats take to Mr. Smeds’ heads. A+

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This collection of old favorites The Pop-up Book of Nonsense Verse is sure to become a new favorite. Nonsense rhymes by Lewis Carroll, Mother Goose, and the ever-popular ”Anonymous” are made funnier by Tony Ross’ outrageous illustrations. Pop-ups, lift flaps, and sight gags freshen even the most familiar verses. Pull the tab, and watch Humpty Dumpty turn into scrambled eggs. Read the book, and hear your children chuckle. A

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Meet Wilhelmina Wafflewitz, one of more than a hundred people, animals, and other fantastic creatures in Prelutsky’s newest collection Something Big Has Been Here. Poor Wilhelmina — ”Where do I want to go? I never seem to know” — can’t make up her mind about anything, but even she would find this book an easy choice. Author of more than 30 children’s books, Prelutsky has a zany imagination, and his use of rhyme and meter makes him one of the most memorizable silly poets. A

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In his previous life as head writer and composer for television’s Sesame Street, Jeff Moss wrote such kids’ favorites as ”Rubber Duckie” and ”I Love Trash.” The Butterfly Jar is his first book under his own name. His best poems, like the one about the monster who doesn’t like to eat toes, are clever little stories exploiting universal childhood imaginings. Moss is obviously a Shel Silverstein wannabe, and in his better poems he comes close to the master. Unfortunately, he occasionally turns gimmicky, or worse, pretentious. B+

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What form of verse is five lines long and always silly? The limerick, or in this case, the pigerick. In The Book of Pigericks, Arnold Lobel’s delightful porcine rhymes explore the outer limits of piggish behavior. There’s the pig ”whose suspenders and belt were the sort that would melt.” One pig wears hundreds of bracelets around his middle; another plants socks in a window box. And every child will sympathize with the small porker who spouts tears when his mom cleans his ears. A-

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The verses in Surprises don’t all zoom past the red line on the silly meter, but they’re just right for early readers. They’re divided into child-friendly subjects like “Body Parts,” “Good Night,” and “Boats, Trains, and Planes.” The wide range of authors — Christina Rossetti and Carl Sandburg as well as such contemporary poets as Jack Prelutsky — make these collections more surprising than most children’s anthologies; the large type and paperback format make them especially approachable and affordable. A-

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The verses in More Surprises don’t all zoom past the red line on the silly meter, but they’re just right for early readers. They’re divided into child-friendly subjects like “Body Parts,” “Good Night,” and “Boats, Trains, and Planes.” The wide range of authors — Christina Rossetti and Carl Sandburg as well as such contemporary poets as Jack Prelutsky — make these collections more surprising than most children’s anthologies; the large type and paperback format make them especially approachable and affordable. B+

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