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KNOCK ON WOOD by Janet S. Wong


Poems About Superstitions

by Janet S. Wong & illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-689-85512-5
Publisher: McElderry

So, does wearing one’s hat backwards bring good luck or bad? What, if anything, do itchy ears, or a broken mirror, portend? In 17 short poems, alphabetically arranged, Wong ruminates lightheartedly on superstitions both common and less well-known, from that ominous black cat or the supposed effects of garlic—“All you bloodsuckers / this is your last chance: / I am one bite / away— / from a hunk / of Mother’s famous garlic chunk chicken”—to the spirits that purportedly dwell in trees and umbrellas. Paschkis frames each poem, and a playful, stylized illustration opposite, with swirling monochrome borders made of mirror-image motifs; the effect is both eye-filling and a touch mystical. Wong gets into the spirit of things by slipping in a newly minted superstition—“Stand bareheaded in the rain / to cure a baldness of the brain”—then closing with a spread of tongue-in-cheek commentary and a personal source note. Poet and illustrator both capture just the right tone to keep young readers from taking the topic too seriously—knock on wood. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)