The sorrows and consolations of childhood—strict moms, dull music lessons, enchanted beings, revolting cuisines—are plumbed in this collection of poetry.
Combs, a music teacher, has a nice feel for the way small things, horrid or gratifying or both, loom large in a kid’s life. There is the sad predicament, in “A Dreadful Day,” of being sick in bed: “I’m bored and tired / but Mom will say / ‘Inside all day—in bed you’ll stay / and drink the fruit juice on your tray.” There’s the “Piano Time” search for something to liven up the practice-hour ordeal: “But since I don’t know / what ‘willpower’ means / I’ll play with the frog / I hid in my jeans.” There is the tragedy of conceitedness limned in “I’m the Richest, Smartest, Prettiest Girl,” in which said paragon wonders why no one will play with her. But such travails are balanced by imaginative delights. One can commune with creatures both ordinary, such as the friendly ungulate in “Bruce the Moose,” and extraordinary, such as the lurid flying ungulate in “The Purple Gnu” or the tiny pranksters of “Shy Shuggles,” who tease spiders by spinning green webs. And there is the giggly joy in sheer grossness, explored by the identical twins in “Ollie? or Dollie?”: “So, Ollie ate slugs / Dollie ate bugs / Followed by slime juice in each other’s mugs.” Combs’s poems feature strong meters and rhyme schemes and a rich vocabulary, and are a good fit for four- to eight-year-olds; they can either be read aloud, with parents explaining unfamiliar words, or attempted alone by novice readers with the assistance of the author’s evocative drawings. (Included are a number of music-themed poems in which characters discover the thrill of playing the timpani or conducting the orchestra, learn new terms like “euphonium” and “fortissimo,” and get introduced to Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and Sousa.)
A winsome blend of whimsical subjects and beguiling verse, sure to hook young minds.