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If it’s silly, is it still poetry?

Kids and poetry — do they go together?

Or is poetry something that can only first be properly absorbed during the emotional highs and lows that start in the teenage years? I know that as a teenager, I sure wrote my own share of poems on unrequited love for the older boy next door! It was also that time that I was able to start to appreciate how a few words strung together could evoke so much. 

But I’m also starting to realize that at the age of 8, a child is both deeply mature and deeply immature. The things my daughter can express often leave me utterly breathless. And then within five minutes, she’ll be reciting a fart joke.

Lately, she has taken an interest in poetry. She has been reading some classical children’s poetry from her school library and seems to have a real knack for taking the words to memory. Not long ago, she came home begging for a poetry book from the most recent Scholastic catalogue from the school. The book was all of $4.99, but my husband and I asked her to buy it with her allowance since her bedroom bookshelf was already creaking from weight of all the books she already had. When she happily compiled, we knew it must be a book she really wanted. 

The other day, she had her nose in a book from the minute she got home from school. The order had come in from Scholastic (oh, how I remember those days fondly from when I was a kid too!). And here is the title of the “poetry” book: The Tighty Whitey Spider and More Wacky Animal Poems I Totally Made Up. Authored by Kenn Nesbitt, the cover features an illustration by Ethan Long of a spider wearing jock-style underwear. Definitely not the opera, my friends!

She has been reading it cover to cover, over and over, and I hear her giggling to herself when she’s reading it in bed. Here’s a sample poem from this book:

Banana Dan

In the middle of the jungle,
in the tallest of the trees,
there’s a monkey named Banana Dan
who’s quaking on his knees.

It’s a sad and sorry story,
but it’s one that must be told,
as it used to be Banana Dan
was confident and bold.

He was once the monkey master
of a half a dozen sports.
When he played the game of basketball,
he used to rule the courts.

He could not be beat at racquetball
or bowling or lacrosse.
When it came to golf or volleyball,
Banana Dan was boss.

And whenever he would win a game,
bananas were the prize.
Yes, a hundred ripe bananas,
and you should have seen his eyes.

He would never take his winnings,
and he wouldn’t even stay,
but instead Banana Dan would
always scream and run away.

Now he doesn’t drive or dribble,
and he doesn’t shoot or score,
and you’ll never see him playing
in the jungle anymore.

He just sits up in his treetop
where he’ll whimper and he’ll pout,
as he has bananaphobia;
bananas freak him out.

If you think your child might like a few silly poems to giggle with, Nesbitt has a website where he posts his newest poems (and lets readers rate them!). The site is www.poetry4kids.com. Enjoy!

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