Illustrated by Juan Wijngaard.
Toronto, Macmillan, 1983.
64pp., paperbound boards, $9.95.
Preschool and up.
Reviewed by Joan Weller.
Volume 12 Number 2
Lee cuts through the fuzzy images and the intellectualizing surrounding much boring poetry for children. He reaches children in a direct physical way that only an example can illustrate. During my recent library program, "Time For Twos", I had eighteen subdued toddlers cradled in the arms of adoring parents. Suddenly, "Pizza, pickle / Pumpernickel / My little guy / Shall have a tickle" . . . was greeted with squeals of delight, especially when moms and dads supplied the desired "nose," "toes," and "tummy" tickles. Seeing the same group wriggle their, dare I say, bottoms, and transform the quiet library floor into the nearest thing to a two-year-old disco club with "Bundle-buggy Boogie" only reinforced this direct communication Lee has with children.
Many of the rhymes are patterned directly on Mother Goose nursery rhymes, familiar schoolyard counting and skipping ditties and fingerplays imbedded in our older selves but now released in new garb for our children, to stay etched in their memories as long as they read or hear such easy to memorize verses as: "One for coffee / One for tea / And one to run / To Calgary" or "Knock, knock / Who's that? / Jacques Cartier / In a tall silk hat."
This lilting ease of repetition and memorization reflects well not only on Lee's creative skills but also on his editing talent, which raises his poems to their perfect cadence. Not all the poems, however, are as simple to recite. Some, such as, "Double-barrelled Ding-dong-bat," "Dirty Georgie," and "The Queen of Sheba's Daughter" will need practice. Aiding the poet in covering so many delights relished by children, schoolyard antics, food, dinosaurs, robbers, animals, fellow kids, scary things, and sleepy things, are the action-packed illustrations by England's Juan Wijngaard, winner of the 1981 Mother Goose Award. His pictures literally dance with the poems as they spread over the pages. The odd British overtone will be no real drawback to children who will pore over his detailed illustrations circling many of the poems or his large double-page spreads reflecting changing moods. They can watch too, for repeated "Jelly Belly" motifs in the book.
Adults don't feel too neglected. You too will enjoy old rhymes in new dress and witness the reactions of children as you perform your intermediary role. Smiles and giggles behind, rocking your child to sleep to one of several lullabies included in the book is a time to be cherished as you "Rock me easy / Rock me slow / And rock me where / The robins go."
On behalf of all young ones in the audience:
Thank-you Dennis, Thank-you Lee, For giving what comes naturally . . . for me . . . anywee.
All the kids
Would love to be
In the sun
Sitting at your knee . . . listening and clapping to your rhythmical rhymes, laughing unabashedly at some of your rather rude verses, or rocking gently to your lyrical lullabies.
Joan Weller, Ottawa P. L., Ottawa, ON.