Review of Orangutan Tongs, by Jon Agee

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Orangutan Tongs

Poems to Tangle Your Tongue

by Jon Agee

Disney/Hyperion Books, 2009.  48 pages.

Starred review.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #2 Picture Books

This book is entirely too much fun.  I brought it home and read it to my teenage son, and, as I suspected, he couldn’t resist trying it himself.  For Dr. Seuss’s birthday, we recently had a tweetle beetle binge from Fox in Socks, so it was fun to read to each other and laugh from a new book where I didn’t have the advantage of about forty years of practice.

Orangutan Tongs (Can you resist saying that title aloud?) is a book of tongue twister poems, with illustrations.  They are all quite silly and good for fun and laughter.

My son claimed that he had not been practicing, but I found it highly suspicious that when I came home from work the next day, he was suddenly able to recite the Peggy Babcock poem:

Peggy Babcock at work.  Peggy Babcock at play.

Peggy Babcock tomorrow.  Peggy Babcock today.

Peggy Babcock, repeated, is tricky to say:

Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock, ole!

Buy from Amazon.com

Review of Why War Is Never a Good Idea, by Alice Walker

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Why War Is Never a Good Idea

by Alice Walker, illustrations by Stefano Vitale

HarperCollins, 2007.  32 pages.

Starred Review

Though War has eyes

Of its own

& can see oil

&

Gas

& mahogany trees

& every shining thing

Under

The earth

When it comes

To nursing

Mothers

It is blind;

Milk, especially

Human,

It cannot

See.

Though War is Old

It has not

Become wise

It will not hesitate

To destroy

Things that

Do not

Belong to it

Things very

Much older

Than itself.

Here is a haunting and poetic, artistic and beautiful book. 

The language is simple.  The author talks of things that War cannot understand, but that it can destroy.

The artwork is haunting, memorable and symbolic.  On one page, the words are: Picture frogs beside a pond holding their annual pre-rainy-season convention.  They do not see War. Huge tires of a camouflaged vehicle about to squash them flat.  The illustrations show a close-up painting of frogs on the left, with a photo of a rusty wheel on the right side, wadding up pages of peaceful villagers falling underneath it.

The portrayal is not graphic, but symbolic, making it all the more striking.

Don’t read this book to your child if you want to make apologies for War, if you want to explain about necessary evils. 

However, if you think you can use some convincing, or want to express an unambiguous idea to a child, this book makes a powerful and persuasive case for why War is never a good idea.  The language is simple enough for a child, yet something that will linger in the mind of an adult.

http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/why_war_is_never_a_good_idea.html

Review of Poems for Life

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Poems for Life
Famous People Select Their Favorite Poem and Say Why It Inspires Them
compiled by the Grade V Classes of the Nightingale-Bamford School
introduction by Anna Quindlen

Reviewed September 18, 2007.
Arcade Publishing, New York, 1995. 107 pages.

This book was compiled by a group of students. A teacher explains at the beginning,

We wanted the students not only to be awakened to a world of poetry through other people’s choices, but to become aware of a world of need outside their immediate communities, one to which they could in some way contribute.

The proceeds from the project went to charity. 

For two years, the students wrote to well-known people in all fields. Every day, they awaited the mail with eager anticipation. When a reply arrived it was greeted with curiosity and excitement. Each letter and accompanying poem was read in class and the poem and poet discussed. We greatly enjoyed finding out why people had selected a particular work, and we learned from what they had to say about it. What most struck all of us was how important poetry had been in the lives of the contributors, who had turned and returned to poems for amusement, solace, wisdom, and perhaps most importantly, to find some part of themselves.

All of the poems in this book are someone’s favorite, which means it makes good reading. The students included the letters sent by the celebrities, in most cases explaining why they chose that particular poem. Then the poem itself is included.

Contributors include people like Mario Cuomo, E. L. Doctorow, David Halberstam, Angela Lansbury, Yo-Yo Ma, Joyce Carol Oates, Diane Sawyer, Beverly Sills, Stephen Sondheim, and Kurt Vonnegut. This collection provides pleasant, fun, and many times inspiring reading.

This review is on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/poems_for_life.html