Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin




Thursday, April 27, 2017

What Words Are Stored In Your Pocket Today

Today is one of those very special days during the month of April when we celebrate National Poetry Month.  This year Poem In Your Pocket Day, if it could speak, would boast about being in existence for fifteen years.  To think people all over the United States and Canada, who officially recognize this day, are reading or reciting poems to each other is marvelous.  Maybe there are people highlighting this day in other countries around the world.  

Children's Poet Laureate (2011-2013) J. Patrick Lewis has penned a truly outstanding collection of poetry designed to honor thirteen poems we have read or heard throughout our lifetimes.  They according to the Introduction by J. Patrick Lewis are among those

that appealed to the tinkering part of my brain.

Keep A Pocket In Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies (WordSong, an imprint of Highlights, March 28, 2017) written by J. Patrick Lewis with illustrations by Johanna Wright will fill your heart with joy and put a smile on your face.

To open this display of wordplay Keep a Poem in Your Pocket written by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers is given the spotlight with Keep a Pocket in Your Poem on the opposite page.  We are reminded how the little secret treasures we gather literally and in our imaginations can find themselves in a poem.  I wonder what Robert Frost would think about Stopping by Fridge on a Hungry Evening.  You will shudder at the items still on the shelves in this appliance.

Langston Hughes little house of sugar becomes a little book of cocoa. Readers might prefer an ogre over a goblin.  One has an appetite for macaroni and cheese more than one for mischief and children.  In the dark of night would you like to listen to Mice or Rats?  Trust me when I say, the poetic description of rats found here will send shivers down your spine.

What could a Cocoon and an Armadillo possibly have in common?  They have absolutely nothing in common but that's what makes the contrast funny.  Hope and grief are at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum but even in sadness there is a touch of humor and ...hope.  Thank you Emily Dickinson.  From the majesty of The Eagle to the delight of The Firefly we travel; both times in awe.

Who really ate who in the parody of Infant Innocence?  The message is clearly not to mess with the child who has an empty stomach.  If the fog comes on little cat feet what comes on furious hooves?  We all have a special spot to call our own; a place where we contemplate the wonders of the world.  For J. Patrick Lewis it is This Is My Tree, a reply to David McCord's This Is My Rock.  We close with Robert Lewis Stevenson's Happy Thoughts and drift off to sleep with dreams multiplied tenfold.  This readers is not the final poem though.  In a bit of cleverness a final (or first) pair is found on the back of the dust jacket and matching book case.  A hat tip is given to toads and tigers.


The thirteen selected poets and their poems certainly worked their spells on J. Patrick Lewis's poetic mind.  The results are thirteen poems brimming with contrast and comedy revealing essential truths and connections.  You can't help but nod your head knowingly as you read each one.  J. Patrick Lewis gets to the heart of the poets and their poems spinning replies which readers of all ages will fully understand.  Here is his parody of Langston Hughes Winter Sweetness.

Winter Warmth
This little book is cocoa.
It warms me when it steams,
And from its toasty pages
Spiral my marshmallow dreams.


When you open the matching dust jacket and book case you can't help but be happy.  The soft background of blues and purple with cloud shapes floating above, the smiling children lying on the grassy hill and the toad and tiger on the back all equal total and complete bliss.  The tiny lines used for the children and animals and the delicate plants and flowers are a declaration of the artwork on every page.  A bold, bright spring green covers the opening and closing endpapers.

Rendered in acrylic paint and ink on canvas, then scanned and digitally fine-tuned the drawings by Johanna Wright show children enjoying the simple things in life; playing a guitar, reading a book, swinging on a swing, looking at a ladybug, writing, or making a parade.  Whether the original, classic poem is specifically written for children Wright includes a child in the representative image.  A little girl is holding the horse in Robert Frost's poem.  Sometimes one picture will span both pages joining the poems together and other times totally different single page illustrations heighten the difference in the poem and the parody.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is for Winter Sweetness and Winter Warmth.  The background is a soft gray with large snowflakes drifting down.  On the left a small cottage sits in the deep snow, drifts covering the peaked roof.  A cat peeks out from the upper window and below a little girl looks to the right out the window.  A steaming hot drink is next to her.  On the outside of the house a snowman looks to the right too.  On the right another girl sits on a bench in the snow, reading a book as steam rises from the pages.  The pictures are as calming as the poems.


You will want to read Keep A Pocket In Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies written by J. Patrick Lewis with illustrations by Johanna Wright over and over again, silently and aloud.  I know I have.  You could read this any time of the year or any part of the day but today at the close of the school day or right before bedtime, this book is utterly perfect.  Plan on multiple copies and one for you at home.

To learn more about J. Patrick Lewis and Johanna Wright please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  J. Patrick Lewis is interviewed and on video at Reading Rockets.  This title is showcased at Jama Rattigan's delightful Jama's Alphabet Soup.  She includes several interior spreads in her post.

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