Throughout April, I’m tackling 26 A to Z topics related to children’s literature. We’ve made it all the way to P, and I’m joining plenty of other bloggers by honoring poetry today since April is National Poetry Month. So let’s take a look at my favorite children’s poet, shall we?
Rhythm and rhyme. They go together like any cliche favorite you can think of: Macaroni and cheese. Peanut butter and jelly. Peas and carrots. (Although I’ve never been much of a peas and carrots person myself.)
Rhythm and rhyme are a perfect pairing. But they also work out well in a trio. When children’s literature joins the duo, they create a powerful mix.
For young readers developing literacy skills, rhythm and rhyme assist with memory. One of the earliest books I ever read was “The Foot Book.” The following passage sticks with me even though I haven’t read the book in years, simply because the rhythm and rhyme made it easy to commit to memory:
Left foot. Right foot. Feet. Feet. Feet. Oh, how many feet you meet!
The rhythm, rhyme, and repetition of poems make them perfect for developing readers. And poetry written for children has an added benefit: It generates an early appreciation for the writing form that hopefully will excite them to sample other types of poetry as they get older.
Although many books I read as a child featured rhyme schemes, there was only one children’s poet in my early literary diet. To this day, Shel Silverstein remains one of my favorite poets. For years, he was the only one I knew.
Shel Silverstein was a man of many talents. Not only is he a beloved writer whose books are recognized by both name and style; he also was a cartoonist who illustrated his own books, a singer-songwriter, and a screenwriter.
And let’s admit it: He was a pro at looking like the toughest children’s poet on the block. Just check out that mug.
“Shel invited children to dream and dare to imagine the impossible, from a hippopotamus sandwich to the longest nose in the world to eighteen flavors of ice cream to Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out,” says the biography on his website, shelsilverstein.com. “He urged readers to catch the moon or invite a dinosaur to dinner — to have fun!”
His website biography says Shel did not originally plan to write and draw for children — but millions of readers are eternally grateful he ended up on that path.
His poetry collections are recognizable on any bookstore or library shelf: white covers, black line art in Shel’s signature cartoon style, bold titles.
Like “The Foot Book,” many Shel Silverstein poems are memorable to me because of their rhythm and rhyme. But the content made a difference, too. Their humor and wackiness made them a joy to read.
My favorite Shel Silverstein poem, “Twistable, Turnable Man,” comes from “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” The first time I heard it was when an elementary school teacher read it aloud to the class. We insisted she read it over and over, faster and faster, until she was too tongue-tied to manage it again.
Since we can’t properly celebrate National Poetry Month without reading a bit of poetry, I’ve shared “Twistable, Turnable Man” below.
If you have a favorite poet or poem, please feel free to share it below in the comments!