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National Poetry Month: The New Kid on the Block

April 20, 2010

When we explored poetry in my college English lit class, I was pretty excited at first, since the reading assignments were relatively short, and I wouldn’t have to spend that much time on my homework.  Well, I did my reading and went to class feeling well prepared.  When we started discussing one of the assigned poems, I shot my hand up and felt very smug as I attempted to explain the poem’s meaning.  Well, I have to tell you that my professor told me that I was wrong, and not only was I wrong, but I’d made an ignorant error and tried to take the poem too literally.  I was embarrassed and I’ve been afraid of poetry ever since.

When Vance was born I tried to make sure he wouldn’t feel the same way about poetry, so I always made sure he had some available, starting with simple nursery rhymes.  He loved the poems of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, and when I saw Serena was organizing a tour for National Poetry Month, I knew I wanted to review one of their books.  I settled on The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky.

In 2006, Jack Prelutsky was named the inaugural winner of the Children’s Poet Laureate Award and I can see why – his poems are just plain fun!   Prelutsky doesn’t really tackle any issues in The New Kid on the Block, but he’s sure to make youngsters (and oldsters like me) laugh with poems like:

You Need to Have an Iron Rear

You need to have an iron rear
to sit upon a cactus,
or otherwise, at least a year
of very painful practice.

This book has great drawings by James Stevenson.  There are also two great indices in the back – one lists poems by title and the other by first lines.  Reading The New Kid on the Block brought back memories for me, because Vance loved:

Homework! Oh, Homework!

Homework! Oh, homework!
I hate you! You stink!
I wish I could wash you
away in the sink,
if only a bomb
would explode you to bits.
Homework! Oh, homework!
You’re giving me fits.

I’d rather take baths
with a man-eating shark,
or wrestle a lion
alone in the dark,
eat spinach and liver,
pet ten porcupines,
than tackle the homework
my teacher assigns.

Homework! Oh, homework!
You’re last on my list,
I simply can’t see
why you even exist,
if you disappeared
it would tickle me pink.
Homework! Oh, homework!
I hate you! You stink!

Vance memorized that poem and use to recite it to me all the time.  I think he even used it for a homework assignment once!  There are over a hundred poems in this book and I think most early readers (and their parents) will enjoy it.  Be sure to check out the other blogs on the National Poetry Month Tour.

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43 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2010 6:06 am

    I had a similar experience while at college! And though I’d always written poems and continued to write poems I grew more and more afraid of poems. Thank goodness for books like these (and for people like you).

  2. April 20, 2010 6:24 am

    I always thought poetry classes brought out the worst of what I hated about literature classes in general: way too much minute critiquing. Ugh. I loved poetry when I was kid, but I don’t read much of it now.

  3. April 20, 2010 7:24 am

    First, you had a horrid teacher! No poetry teacher should ever tell a student their interpretation is wrong because there are no wrong answers when reading poetry. Poetry speaks to each person differently, although there are elements that can be broken down because of their symbolism as passed through the literary canon, etc.

    Second, thanks so much for participating on the tour. I’ve included your link in my posts and in mr. linky. If you could email it to susan at winabook for me, that would be great…she’ll get it posted.

  4. April 20, 2010 8:13 am

    I love poems, but at the moment, I don’t really have the time to read poetry. Your post reminded me that I really need to read more poems. Thanks!

  5. April 20, 2010 8:51 am

    What fun! Thanks for bringing these to our attention.

  6. April 20, 2010 9:36 am

    Jack Prelutsky is a wonderful introduction to poetry. You go, Mom!

  7. April 20, 2010 9:55 am

    Your story broke my heart. I thought the beauty of poetry was that everyone could interpret it in their own way.

    I wasn’t familiar with this poet, but my kids would love him!

  8. April 20, 2010 10:31 am

    What a fun post!

  9. April 20, 2010 10:38 am

    Serena’s right, that teacher was pretty awful! These poems remind me of Shel Silverstein. I’ll have to check out this book for The Girl. I think she’ll love the homework poem!

  10. Let's Read permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:43 pm

    I don’t even remember when I last read poetry !!!Though I enjpyed them when I was young.
    Lovely post ..

  11. April 20, 2010 1:16 pm

    What kid wouldn’t love poetry if they could express themselves via Homework! Oh, Homework! We also shared lots of poetry with our children but tried to never put our own interpretations on them. Good post, Kathy.

  12. April 20, 2010 2:10 pm

    thanks for this fun poem.

  13. April 20, 2010 2:39 pm

    I am horrified at that prof. I say that as someone who taught college-level English and always played with the idea of teaching a class called “Song Lyrics as Poetry.”

    I’ve got this posted at Win a Book. Thanks for the link, doll!

  14. April 20, 2010 2:56 pm

    I’m aghast at that college professor of yours! Hopefully you are now ready to get back into poetry!

    Children poetry can be enjoyable, even for adults :-). I have this great collection of poems for the young (I know I have it somewhere) that my kids enjoyed so much when they were younger.

  15. April 20, 2010 4:28 pm

    What totally fun poems! The “Iron Rear” poem is perfect for me, since I back into a cactus several times a year, and now, it hardly bothers me at all!
    :–) I’ll have to memorize that so I can say it when it happens!

  16. April 20, 2010 4:55 pm

    lol – I love those poems! 😀

    And booo to your college professor. I’m not a fan of professors who do that.

  17. April 20, 2010 5:28 pm

    This terrific post made me smile, Kathy! 🙂

  18. April 20, 2010 6:27 pm

    Thank you for this homework poem. I am going to give it to the kid I tutor – he’ll get a kick out of it.

  19. April 20, 2010 6:43 pm

    Fun post! And I like the poetry. Shame on that professor!

  20. April 20, 2010 8:09 pm

    In my college class, I kept managing to compare the poems to death, until the professor asked for interpretations that didn’t have to do with death.

  21. April 20, 2010 8:21 pm

    Very cute! I especially love the second poem.

  22. April 20, 2010 9:06 pm

    Great post Kathy! Now poetry like this I can enjoy! lol.

  23. April 20, 2010 9:13 pm

    He is a fun author to read…and no matter the age 5th grade to 8th grade his books get checked out a lot!

  24. April 20, 2010 10:11 pm

    I’m reading this aloud to my kids right now – we read the Homework poem this morning, and my kids loved it – especially since all of their schoolwork is “home” work. LOL

  25. April 20, 2010 10:33 pm

    What a horrible professor! Prelutsky’s poetry sounds like a lot of fun. I will definitely pick up a copy of his poetry to share with my children.

  26. Christine H permalink
    April 20, 2010 11:33 pm

    I love poetry and use to write a lot when I was in school.

    chirth7@yahoo.com

  27. April 20, 2010 11:58 pm

    What lovely poems. Thanks for the introduction.

    My son finally learned to love poetry when he went to college.

  28. April 21, 2010 8:37 am

    The homework poem is so cute! It’s so funny, I love it!

  29. April 21, 2010 9:07 am

    I love the poems you mentioned. I avoid all poetry like the plague. It just isn’t my thing.

  30. kaye permalink
    April 21, 2010 9:07 am

    I love the cactus poem. That’s great and should inspire kids to learn to read poetry.

    boo hiss on your old professor!

  31. April 21, 2010 9:13 am

    These poems are great! I bet that my kids would love them! So great that you got your son into poetry so early on. I haven’t managed to accomplish that yet!

  32. April 21, 2010 11:51 am

    I take poems literally too! Took me a long while to realize that people would write prose if they want to be literal, poetry is to disguise meaning. 😛 Ok, that’s putting it blunt, from someone who has never been able to understand poetry. I used to be scared of poem paraphrasing in school. Used to give me hives. LOL! This sounds like a fun book. I ought to check out the tour, maybe make an attempt to reduce my poetry phobia.

  33. April 21, 2010 2:09 pm

    What a horrible teacher! I’m not good at the symbolism and what-not, but I just love the sounds of poetry, the feeling.

    My daughter’s 10 and right now her fave poem is The Raven by Poe. She doesn’t get most of it, but I think she’s sure it’s suitably creepy.

  34. April 21, 2010 3:23 pm

    I’m laughing, because I find that college students today have been taught so much symbolism in high school that I have to teach them to read more literally!

    Seriously, though, poetry should be something everyone can enjoy–I like Serena’s technique of asking people for one line that speaks to them.

  35. April 21, 2010 7:43 pm

    Love these! This is poetry that EVERYONE can get behind!

  36. April 21, 2010 9:49 pm

    You definitely had the right idea when picking for your book. I should have thought of that! I didn’t really get much of the one that I read with Serena.

  37. April 22, 2010 10:45 am

    What darling poems! Thanks for sharing them.

  38. April 23, 2010 1:33 am

    That sounds like a really fun book! I loved fun bits of verse as a kid.

  39. April 23, 2010 3:04 am

    This is a great book! I remember this one fondly.

  40. April 23, 2010 8:52 am

    What a fun book! My sister had this when she was little(r). I had forgotten all about it until I saw your review.

  41. April 25, 2010 2:55 pm

    This was a great post, I love reading children’s poetry too from time to time.
    You gave me a new book to check out 🙂 Thank you!

  42. April 30, 2010 10:31 am

    We have just started exploring the world of children’s poetry starting with Prelutsky’s compilation, Read Aloud Poems for the Very Young. I look forward to reading his poems with my children and will look up this volume you mentioned.

  43. October 21, 2010 12:48 pm

    i loved it. i ecspecially love the one the new kid on the block.
    your fan randy haus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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