A playful primer on insincerity for budding poets.
Taking as a springboard William Carlos Williams’ famous pseudo-apology, “I have eaten / the plums / that were in / the icebox […] Forgive me …,” Newbery Honor–winner Levine and illustrator Cordell unleash their darker sides in offering children several imaginative occasions for issuing false apologies. One glance at the volume’s contents listing poems all taking Williams’ title “This Is Just to Say,” and readers instantly clue into Levine’s glib project, which she then explains and invites others to imitate some 20 pages into the volume—much, she admits, to her editor’s chagrin. While many a poet has spoofed Williams in similar fashion and chosen this found poem’s simple form to introduce children to imagistic self-expression (Kenneth Koch most memorably), what distinguishes Levine’s project is her clever use of the form to debunk famous children’s icons like Snow White, Humpty Dumpty and the Little Engine that Could to literalize common expressions familiar to young readers. Cordell’s signature spare line drawings prove particularly effective in conveying the latter, as in “While you were buying / doll dresses / I sanded off / your Barbie’s face […] Forgive me / her beauty / was only / skin deep,” while a girl comes screaming across the page spread as a delighted boy kneels intently over the scribbled-out, faceless doll.
Macabre, sometimes downright mean, this mischievous collection is sure to engage the devilish side of readers of all ages. (Illustrated poems. 6 & up)