Apr 8, 2012


If I had any money to wager, I'd bet that poems kids recognize most come from collections by Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky. Whether poetry is ubiquitous or undercover in classrooms, few escape childhood without becoming acquainted with one or both of these fine poets.

Prelutsky's collections and individual poems are available in paperback, online, and even on YouTube. Way back before The New Kids On The Block hit the airwaves as teen-tween heartbreakers, Jack Prelutsky’s New Kid On The Block collection of poems landed on bookshelves and continues to be a hit with kids.

When that happened back in 1984 Jack Prelutsky was already an established success, and one or more of his energized, intensely metered and rhymed romps is likely to be a familiar favorite among generations of now-grown kids.

Since it's April (Poetry Month, remember?) I can't resist calling attention to a pair of his titles that deserve just as much attention. Both are illustrated by the incomparable Paul O. Zelinsky. If you think the ogre in The Dreamworks version of SHREK was appealing, wait until you meet the Ogre starring in AWFUL OGRE'S AWFUL DAY.
This oversized, over-the-top collection of poems constitutes an ironically sensitive diary of a day in the life of the inimitable Awful Ogre. After he rises with his beloved tarantula, buzzard, and other pets, his face is scrubbed with weasel grease, he breakfasts on Scream of Wheat, and his busy day commences. Zelinsky's illustrations elaborate on the richly detailed verses with intricacies and extensions that merit close examination and provide additional laughs.

Awful Ogre first appeared in 2001, then returned to celebrate Prelutsky's year as Children's Poet Laureate in 2008. In AWFUL OGRE RUNNING WILD he's off on a series of wild and crazy adventures totally in character, yet utterly bizarre.

True to the Ogre we met in the first book, he is a renaissance fellow who paints, cooks, meditates, travels, and dragon-watches, among his other refined hobbies. In his first book he wakes screaming from a nightmare featuring disgustingly sweet images that would rival the most romantic rococo artist. In this latter title Ogre ends his day with insomnia which he cures by indulging a case of the munchies with snacks only an ogre could stomach.

In each case both the poems and the illustrations are refined, comic, and appallingly appealing. Explore a site hosted by Scholastic to share some interactive poetry coaching by Prelutsky.
Don't miss a chance to explore more of Zelinsky's classic and current books and adventures on his website, too. Kids who love "search" challenges and the eye-spy books (isn't that all kids?) will adore the labyrinthian layers of his illustrations.

While you're at it, slow yourself down and read Prelutsky's collection of animal haiku poems, IF NOT FOR THE CAT, illustrated by Ted Rand.

Do you have a favorite Prelutsky or Zelinsky title? Or other books that you worry might be overlooked?

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