What do lost emails, fishermen’s tales, tentless campers, and windup toys have in common? They are all subjects of lighthearted poems for children and adults in this Shel Silverstein-esque collection by author/illustrator West (Longer than Forevermore, 2013, etc.).
After a short introductory poem on poetry, West introduces readers to feelings of loss of agency in “I Am Not a Wind-Up Toy”; the narrator says: “Conditions out of my control / Are winding up my key.” Though the theme resurfaces, and frequently narrators are exposed to topics outside of their control (whether a perfume atomizer being sprayed at them, a tent that’s blown away, or an audience that doesn’t believe a true story), what unites these poems is not a topic or theme but a tone. Whether she’s writing about family relationships or recipes renamed with the wrong ingredients, West writes in a lighthearted style, varying between alternate rhyme and limerick structures. Her rhyme schemes are steady, making lap reading pleasant. However, not all of the poems are of interest to children. “Son,” for example, closes with a mother’s wish: “I wish the wife he’ll have someday / Could share with me the joy / Of knowing him, as I do now... / This warm and cheerful boy.” The sentiment is lovely, but the poem is more likely to resonate with adult readers. Clever and humorous poems, such as “In the Moonlight,” in which the narrator anticipates being proposed to when really her beau just drops his keys, may go over the heads of young readers. While the diversity makes the collection hard to categorize, the poems are easy to enjoy, and the quirky, black-and-white sketched illustrations are amusing. Some of the best poems for children encourage creativity; one proclaims: “There is no Boss of Crayons.” In “Grandmother,” a young narrator describes her love for her grandmother, who “like[s] pretending things, / ‘Cause she remembers how.” These all-age poems are satisfying in a way that the adult poems aren’t, despite their clever sendups of emails that wind up in the ether.
A lighthearted collection that sometimes tackles weightier themes.