Monday, April 19, 2010

The Wonder Book

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by

Paul Schmid

HarperCollins, 2010

$17.99, 9-12, 80 pages

Funny, irreverent and hopelessly cute, Rosenthal's book is a gem from start to finish.

Matched with the whimsical line drawings of Schmid, her poems capture all the charm and naivety of being little, and, in tone, remind me of sketches in Maurice Sendak and Ruth Krauss 1952 classic "A Hole is to Dig."

Every poem in the collection is a delight to read aloud, but most you won't want to recite without sharing the pictures, as there are lots of little details that add to the fun.

Take this funny twist on Shakespeare's line, "A Rose by Any Other Name," a little poem about intestinal gas.

Beside the poem, a girl stands pigeon-toed with a look of dread on her face for what just happened, as a skunk looks on at her from the next page, smitten by her malodorous mistake.

It begins, "In Spain it's called a pedo / In Hungary you'd pass a fing / In Dutch you'd say en wind lateen / When your bottom sings," and ends, "No matter where you come from / Or what language that you speak / It's just really really funny / To hear a tushy squeak."

Throughout the book, there are clever little plays on words, and smart collaborations between verse and pictures.

On one two-page spread, a scientist in oversized glasses points to a Periodic Table of how to behave. Above him the title reads, "For Those Who Periodically Need Reminding About Table Manners,'" and to his right, a chart of atomic numbers list the manners 1-13, each with its own symbol, such as "Bu" for "Refrain from burping at the table."

Some poems play out in short comic strips and one even comes with a funny warning.

Leading into a poem about spoiled children, a two-page spread shows a path meandering out of woods and past an arrow sign pointing to the next page. Across the fold, you read, "Take a Deep Breath… You are About the Enter Brat City."

On the following page, readers come nose to nose with a big sour face. A girl is sticking out her tongue and her eyes are scrunched into slits. Then on the opposite side you find out about "Brat City," where children have no city limits and whine all the time.

There are also silly palindromes, a poem to celebrate being half-way through the book and an instructional poem on how to sneak a cookie without mom seeing.

Clever bit: Who can resist this little verse, as a little boy wading in the ocean looks awkwardly at his tush. "Tinkle / Tinkle / In the sea / Don't look under / While I pee…"

Whether you love silly questions or are just in the book for the ride, this collection is sure to spread giggles around the room.

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