Lighthearted poems extol sport and human achievement—and the importance of losing.
Originally published in the Netherlands in 2013, van de Vendel’s 17 offbeat inspirational poems are handily translated into rhymed English verse by Australian children’s writer Colmer and accompanied by German illustrator Erlbruch’s expressively detailed digital renderings of familiar animals engaged in various human sports. Children will love Erlbruch’s zany depictions of dogs and pigs in swimsuits or a goose and a cat in racing and tennis togs, but what makes this collaboration shine is van de Vendel’s intense focus on the psychological effort central to playing sports and developing the resolve to accomplish goals in general. The delightful title poem talks about rooting for “you when you suddenly shine” as well as the “time you’re beaten”—not only “because this is my place, and I’m here to stay, / behind every finish and on every day,” but “because you must wait if you want to get great.” In “Here’s the Idea,” the speaker announces, “Today we’ll root for the losers. / Today we’ll cheer the other way round. / Today we’ll love everybody / whose somersault / never got off the ground,” promoting a similar message of steadfast support alongside a reality check.
Motivational and kind, these light poems and illustrations will embolden readers to take risks and “walk your own tightrope.” (Picture book/poetry. 5-11)