Friday, March 31, 2023

Poetry Friday- The Red Ear Blows Its Nose

Schechter, Robert and Federico, S. (Illus.) 
The Red Ear Blows Its Nose: Poems for Children and Others
April 1, 2023 by Word Galaxy
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I'm notoriously picky about poetry; Timothy Steele is my favorite, and I prefer formal verse with rhyme and meter, which is not published very often. I was a bit skeptical about this work by Schechter, but I was nicely surprised. 

There are almost 100 poems in this first collection of Schecter's, which is important: when teachers were assigning poetry collections, students needed books with a good amount of poems. Also, there are many of the poems which have at least 100 words, which was the minimum a poem had to have when students were required to memorize one. A little silly, I know, but when I had to provide poetry books for 125 7th graders in one day, I needed to make sure that the books met these criteria. It also helps that these poems have a lot of humor; one of the first questions I would ask students when helping the select books was "Do you LIKE poetry?" Those who didn't tended to do better with funny poems, and there are only so many Shel Silverstein books I am willing to have on the shelf. (Four. That would be four. Not my favorite, and I haven't replaced them when they've fallen apart because all the students have read them in elementary school.)

While a lot of these poems are on goofy subjects (like the titular one, which I can appreciate even though I'm sure people have mentioned "nylon bowling socks" at various points in time), there are a surprising amount of them with a STEM focus. Planets, sky, sun, moon, the senses, insects and various creatures, and ponderings about the powe of the brain will delight science teachers who are trying to work literature into their classes. 

The best part of these poems was the fact that they are technically brilliant. It is painful to me to read poetry with lines that don't quite scan, or where the author has gotten lazy with a near rhyme. It's not that hard, people. Well, it is hard. It takes time. But if you can't get it right, why are you bothering to write poetry? Schecter has taken the time, polished these verses, and produced poems that would be worthy of putting in language arts textbooks opposite some of Ferico's illustrations to start a chapter on poetry. If there were print language arts textbooks being used any more, which I doubt. 

None of the teachers do poetry units anymore, which I understand. I will buy a copy of this, though, just in case. I haven't seen many poetry books that I've liked lately; the last few were Viorst's What Are You Mad About? What Are You Glad About and Trillin's No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood (both 2016) , Dean Koontz's surprising The Paper Doorway (2001), and anything by Jack Prelutsky. 

My favorite poems were probably "Dancing" and "They Say" and those would be great poems to memorize. For just a sample of why you should pick this book up, here's the first stanza of "The Cold Poem". Doesn't it make you want to find out how it ends? And how nicely does it spill off the tongue?

This poem regrets it did not put
a thicker sweater on. 
It dreamed of spring and quite forgot
that winter's not yet gone. 

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