Monday, April 28, 2014

Head On Over to the "Poem Depot"

Yes, National Poetry Month is coming to a close, but that doesn't mean we have to put away the poetry books until next April! For me, poetry is an all-around-the-year kind of thing, and I'm thrilled that one of my favorite kids' poets, Douglas Florian, has just published two new books of poetry.

One book is called "Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles" (Dial, $16.99, ages 7-12) and it contains 170 poems written by Florian, who also has contributed dozens of line drawings in his distinctively childlike style. The idea of a poem "depot" offers Florian lots of scope for his trademark pithy poetic style, and he has fun placing his poems in different aisles, such as "Aisle 5: Willy-Nilly Sillies" and "Aisle 9: Jokes & Pokes and Funny Folks."

Florian sets the tone at the start with "Welcome," the first poem in "Aisle 1: Wit & Whimsy." In that poem he says: "Welcome to Poem Depot/ With smiles in the aisles./ There's laughs galore/ Inside this store,/ And fun that runs for miles." Young readers will find that he fully delivers on this promise, with poems like "Shout Out" in "Aisle 7: Jests & Jives": "Leo let out/Such a stupendous shout/That his outsides are in/And his insides are out."

Then there's "Webbed" from "Aisle 8: Rib-Ticklers & Sidesplitters": "I do not have a website/ Web e-mail, or web log./ But what I've got is four webbed feet/For I'm a worldwide frog." Accompanying this poem, Florian has drawn a frog dressed in a suit, carrying a briefcase and, of course, wearing no shoes so as to better show off his webbed-ness.

I'm betting that a favorite among young readers will be "Peter Picked" from "Aisle 11: Miles of Smiles": "Peter picked his nose./ Pulled out a garden hose,/A herd of sheep, a flock of geese,/ Six chicken who could speak Chinese,/ Ten bumblebees, a speeding train,/ And NEVER picked his nose again." Florian's drawing, showing a boy with chickens coming out of his nostril, is pretty much guaranteed to draw guffaws from young readers.

Florian pairs up with poet J. Patrick Lewis in another new book of poetry, "Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems" (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $17.99, ages 5-10). Florian shares a similar quirky sensibility with Lewis, who just completed a two-year term as the U.S. Children's Poet Laureate, and the two clearly love to both play with words and to make kids laugh. In this poetry collection, presented in a picture book format, young readers will find 13 poems about unique vehicles, from a "dragonwagon" to a "Tyranosaurus wreck."

In a poem called "Caterpillar Cab," for example, the two poets write about the cab that: "From time to time it wraps itself/ Inside a silk cocoon,/ Then turns into a butterfly/ That takes us to the moon." The "Eel-ectric Car," meanwhile, features another rather unusual vehicle: "My spark plugs spark --/ now watch me peel!? I'm a battery-powered/ a u t o m o b EEE EE EE EEEL!"

The zaniness of the poetry by Florian and Lewis is highlighted in the illustrations by Jeremy Holmes. Done in watercolor and pencil and then digitally colored, Holmes' imaginative illustrations further expand the book's humor.

(Note: My reviews are based on copies of the books received from the publishers).

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