Essay on Children's poetry

No Nightmares, Please

Why is so much children's poetry full of sadism and doom?

by Jeff Gordinier
One day it dawns on you that your kid has watched too many episodes of Dora the Explorer. Every time the Dora character known as “Map” shows up on screen and sings, “I’m the Map I’m the Map I’m the Map I’m the Map,” you entertain private fantasies of dousing him in lighter fluid, torching him with a match, and giggling uncontrollably while he flails in agony. If a cartoon inspires this much raw hatred before you catch the train to work, it’s probably not a good idea for your kid to watch a ton of it.

So maybe you want to expose your children to fine poetry instead. Which is great, except that you live in a country where some moron makes way more money than you do by writing lyrics like “I’m the Map I’m the Map I’m the Map I’m the Map,” so you’re sort of on your own. And when you come right down to it, reading poems to your adorable offspring is, like breastfeeding, much harder than you think.

When I first tried to introduce my daughter to the wonders of verse, I thought I would kick things off with a couple of haikus, mostly because they are super-short, so she wouldn’t have time to run away. I picked up a collection by Basho, the magnificent Japanese poet of the 17th century, opened the book at random, and flipped to this:
Nothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die
Ummm. Gosh, I thought . . . impermanence, death, a melancholy beauty—couldn’t we wait until kindergarten before we got into all that? (Now, if only it was the Map who was about to croak . . . ) I flipped around, and up came this little gem:
Whore and monk, we sleep
under one roof together,
moon in a field of clover
Uh, no. Won’t be reading that one.

I like to think I’m an open-minded person, so it was distressing to find myself playing Official Household Censor. If you don’t happen to have kids, maybe you consider me a wincing prude for steering clear of dying bugs and concubines, but I’m pretty exhausted at the end of a working day, and the idea of trying to explain to anyone, let alone a little kid, why the whore and the monk can happily coexist—well, look, I’m not even sure I understand what that monk is up to.

See, the idea of “reading poems to children” sounds really sweet in the abstract, but a surprising number of poems turn out to be too dark and twisted for tots. I love Yeats as much as the next guy, but trust me, you don’t want a kid running down the hallway at four in the morning howling in fear about a rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem. I get too little sleep as it is.

Yeah, sure, you can throw in the towel on Yeats and Basho. There are plenty of books written specifically for children. The problem is, they won’t necessarily blow away the clouds of doom and despair, either. In fact, when you become a parent you learn pretty fast that a lot of the most popular and poetic books for children are the grimmest, saddest, nastiest, scariest, most soul-crushing things you will ever read in your life.

Take The Lorax. Do you know it? No, really, have you read it lately? Penned by our beloved rhyming uncle of the absurd, Dr. Seuss, The Lorax is a parable of environmental catastrophe so savage and hopeless that it makes Al Gore’s movie look like a Union Carbide infomercial. The book begins with a little boy wandering around an apocalyptic wasteland. He meets up with the Once-ler, a Charles Foster Kane–like tycoon who has holed himself up in a mansion because his greed has turned him into a bitter, shriveled wreck.
I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads. . . .
The Once-ler tells the boy a story about how the wasteland used to be a blooming psychedelic paradise, but then the Once-ler went off and cut down all the Truffula Trees, which left the Brown Bar-ba-loots with no Truffula Fruit to eat, and then his massive factories caked up the air with smog, so the Swomee-Swans couldn’t sing their beautiful songs anymore, plus the poison goo from the Once-ler’s machines polluted all the ponds and gummed up all the gills of the Humming-Fish, and . . .

. . . and, well, the only person who tried to stop this ecological nightmare was an orange-mustached guy called the Lorax, but nobody listened to him, so everything was ruined. The end!

Now look. If my kids grow up wanting to do something about protecting the environment, I will be very, very proud of them. But really, I don’t think this Lorax stuff is going to do the trick. I can’t speak for my daughter, but I know for a fact that reading The Lorax scarred me for life. It did not rouse me to positive action. It traumatized me. As soon as our reading time was done, I tucked my daughter into bed, went down to the kitchen, opened the freezer, and grabbed a bottle of Stoli.

And don’t even get me started on The Giving Tree. It was written by poet Shel Silverstein, but if you told me that its real author was the Marquis de Sade, I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked. In fact, there’s a photo of Shel Silverstein on the back of my hardcover copy of The Giving Tree in which he looks utterly evil. He’s got a shaved head, a dark beard, a chipped front tooth, and the kind of piercing stare that you’d expect to get from the leader of a prison gang on Rikers Island. When someone first sent this book to me and my wife as a present for our daughter, I couldn’t comprehend why any publishing house would put such a menacing picture on the back of a happy book for preschoolers.

Now I get it, because The Giving Tree is a tale of bottomless woe and horror, and the publishing house was obviously trying to warn us. In short, it’s about a little boy who loves a tree. He climbs the tree, he eats apples from the tree, he’s happy, but then one day he starts to grow up.
“I am too big to climb and play,” said the boy.
“I want to buy things and have fun.
I want some money.
Can you give me some money?”
“I’m sorry,” said the tree, “but I have no money.”
Huh? Wait. Here I was halfway through the book, reading it out loud to my daughter and wondering, What the hell is going on? This is not a nice book! Why has the boy suddenly turned into such a scumbag?

It only got worse.

The grown-up boy gathers some apples and sells them, and then he gets older and chops off the branches of the tree to build a house, and then he gets even older and crankier and chops down the entire trunk of the tree to build a boat.
“I am too old and sad to play,”
said the boy.
“I want a boat that will
take me far away
from here.”
Jesus! Maybe I’m overprotective, but isn’t three or four years old a bit early for a kid to be introduced to the grisly concept of a midlife crisis? At the end of The Giving Tree, the “boy” has become a wrinkled, whiny, soulless husk, and there is nothing left of the tree, so the boy sits down on the stump to rest his arthritic joints. The end!

You know what? Screw that. I’d rather read Tropic of Cancer to my kid than take another spin through The Giving Tree. At least Henry Miller seemed to be having a little fun. Believe me, I’m a civil libertarian to the core, but the next time some wacko right-wingers in Kansas want to burn a pile of books, I will happily toss them our copy of The Giving Tree.

Some poems are just too sad, and therein lies the problem: Yeah, I would love to see my daughter grow up and become a lifelong reader of poetry, but that doesn’t automatically mean that I want her to grow up and become Sylvia Plath. (Well, considering “Daddy,” I suspect most fathers feel the same way.) I don’t want her to be cosmically bummed out all the time.

I would like her to be a reasonably happy and well-adjusted person, and sometimes I can’t help wondering—guiltily, and usually at the very back of my mind, where I also nurture a secret fondness for the music of John Mellencamp—whether too much early exposure to poetry actually winds up working against that goal.

Whether we’re talking about Emily Dickinson or Dr. Seuss, poetry often rises to real greatness when it gets at a core truth about human misery, and how much misery can a tiny brain take? Will too many sad poems turn my kid into a hopeless head case? Has anyone, like, looked into that? Isn’t it about time that we had a bunch of expensive, confusing, contradictory studies about the effect of poetry on toddlers?

Not long ago I picked up the Poetry Speaks to Children anthology and quickly learned from it that one of the great poems in the English language, a poem that in our suburban household has risen to a literary status equal to that of “The Waste Land” or “Song of Myself,” is Mary Ann Hoberman’s “Rabbit.” Here is how it begins:
A rabbit
bit
A little bit
An itty-bitty
Little bit of beet.
Then bit
By bit
He bit
Because he liked the taste of it.
Believe me, this poem never fails to leave my kid in stitches. Just seeing the cartoon picture of the rabbit is enough to make her fall out of bed laughing. When she’s older, my daughter and I can sit down together to contemplate environmental disasters and existential despair. For right now, laughter will do.

Cover illustration by Karen Kirchhoff.
Originally Published: December 27, 2006

COMMENTS (38)

On December 28, 2006 at 11:10am Peggy Jaeger wrote:
When my son was a preschooler, I introduced him to the book Spring - A Haiku Story selected by George Shannon and illustrated by Malcah Zeldis. No death or darkness here. I'm not sure what he liked most , the haikus or the pictures, but he was always amused when I would read the names of the authors such as Shiki, Basho and Issa. His favorite:

A willow tickles awake a big dog. -ISSA

I think its important that the poetry read to small children have fun sounds and words along with colorful illustrations.

On December 29, 2006 at 12:45pm Krista Schwimmer wrote:
I grew up to be both a lover of poems and a poet. My earliest influence is still one of my favorite children's book, "A Child's Garden of Verses," by Robert Louis Stevenson. My mother read this book to me before I could read; I still have some of the poems memorized ("My Shadow" and "The Swing")

The copy I now own is also beautifully illustrated by Charles Robinson. Most likely, the one I had as a child was illustrated. My parents bought books for us with wonderful illustrations, something that inspired me to want to draw and paint without realizing it. (I still wish more adult books contained illustrations -- but that is another topic for another day.)

Even as a child, I felt this book captured my experience of both the world around me, the world at night, and magical thought. Take, for instance, a verse from the "Land of Nod", about the dream world:

"All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do --
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams."

It is also one of the few rhyming books of poetry I still enjoy.

If you have not already found this treasure, I hope you do. And I hope it brings you and your children the delight it still continues to bring me, years later.

On December 30, 2006 at 12:52am Vickie Eaton wrote:
I really miss poetry- the way it used to be-full of beautiful thoughts and images. And with a lovely rhythmic flow and soothing sound of rhyme. Now it has become so abstract there's nothing pleasant about it.

On December 30, 2006 at 9:29pm Susan Ring wrote:
I understand the feeling. I am a grandmother
with a grandson who loves poetry, and actually
can write some.
I found that book Poetry Speaks to Children
and he loves it. Some of the "fear"poetry of
which Jeff speaks actually does speak to
children of some fear they carry and have not
told anyone.
So it is a grab bag after all!

On December 31, 2006 at 10:27am Dwight Overturf wrote:
Yellow sun, blue sky,
Softly, Summer breezes sigh.
Outside, children play.

On January 1, 2007 at 12:24am Lisa Roettger wrote:
Most of us who are parents and poets can relate to Jeff Gordinier's experiences; we just could never relate them to others in such an entertaining way. Well done, Jeff. Thanks for both the humor and the nostalgia.

On January 3, 2007 at 3:14pm childsupport wrote:
Life has a way of quickly acquainting children
with fear, ambiguity, and injustice in spite of a
parents best attempts at providing a safe
environment.
The Lorax and the Giving Tree might actually
be great allies in helping a child through the
inevitable changes in awareness that can come
from something as simple as watching a bit of
the evening news. It helps give them a frame
of reference.
I'd rather introduce a child to the concept of
finite natural resources with brilliant illustration
and clever wordlplay than have to explain out
of the blue why all those birdies on the tv are
covered in black stuff and dying.
I don't want to disparage the urge of a good
parent to protect a child but I think that
occasionally and carefully dosing ones kid w/a
bit of the darkness is actually a good thing. Art
is one of the best tools we have.

Ofcourse MY dad took me along to see "The
Elephant Man" when I was 5. After that, Shel
Silverstein was a breeze.

Disclaimer: In no possible way am I endorsing
the showing of David Lynch's "The Elephant
Man" to 5 year olds.

On January 3, 2007 at 10:25pm Diane Diaz wrote:
This article appeals to my own sense of sarcasm and satire and I am amused by it, but I am also a retired school teacher who was always on the search for good poetry--haiku, and any and every form I could find at my students level--in order to interest them, motivate them, get them to appreciate this wonderful form of expression. Shel Silverstein was finally an absolute winner. There were others, too, but I hear that there is no time to read to children in the classroom now--we have to do the "no child left behind" thing. Oh, for the good old days.

On January 5, 2007 at 9:42am Cary wrote:
I agree with Vickie Eaton. The more poetry I come across these days the less music and quality I see and hear in it. I also feel the same as Jeff Gordinier--I have a sister half as young as myself and never could get her into poetry because the majority of my books were too sad, fearsome, or political. Most were beyond her understanding. I see nothing wrong with rhyme, flow, or happy ideas in children's or adult's poetry. Nowadays it seems these very things are sourly looked down upon. What happened?

On January 5, 2007 at 5:05pm William J. Higginson wrote:
As a poet and translator, the author or editor of a number of books of or about haiku, including a collection for children, I must respond that Jeff Gordinier has it right, but that his "it" is only a very small part of the larger world of haiku. Just as I don't select my own most depressing poems to share with my 5-year-old granddaughter, I probably would not have selected these haiku to share with her either. He might have found better translations of more interesting haiku--or at least more appropriate haiku--in some of the many haiku books actually for children, by such authors and illustrators as Dawnine Spivak and Demi on Basho, or Matthew Gollub and Kazuko G. Stone on Issa, an equally famous Japanese haiku poet. In any case, thanks for a few chuckles.

On January 13, 2007 at 6:50am anonymous coward wrote:
children, though, live in a different
world than adults. they can be
assaulted without recourse to
attorneys and so forth (spanking by
parents, bullies at school), they are
more likely to suffer from weird
diseases that spring suddenly, their
bodies are changing shape and size all
the time, their brains are changing
too. everyting is out of their control.
life is basically more scary for kids
than it is for adults, and they have to
deal with school cafeteria food.

On January 13, 2007 at 11:10am Vicky wrote:
Kubla Khan: A Pop-Up Version of Coleridge's Classic by Nick Bantock has worked very well for both of our children to initiate them into the world of poetry.

On January 15, 2007 at 9:19am Diane Davis wrote:
As a writer of poetry for children, I can say
there is wonderful, wonderful poetry for
children out there. Have you seen the Jane
Yolen Dinosaur books? Have you checked out
picture books by Lisa Wheeler? You don't have
to look in the poetry section to find great funny
poetry.
And when your daughter gets older, middle
grade books in verse novel form (although
dealing with difficult topics) will help her
through some of her own questions about life,
and uncertainties about what is happening
around her.
Poetry for children is alive and well, and varied
in spirit and emotion. It's a joy to read, in all its
forms, even the heavy handed ones.

On January 23, 2007 at 5:54pm Chuckie wrote:
Jeff Gordinier rules
Shel's Poetry gives me hives
In the great green room

On January 23, 2007 at 7:49pm Rosi Fontana wrote:
Jeff is absolutely right...and while we are on the topic of nightmarish children's literature, how about Hansel and Gretel? Grimm's Fairy Tales are truly grim, as are the un-sanitized versions of the Three Little Pigs.
Suffice to say, a parent is best off simply making up original stories and poems with their children as the "stars". Works every time.
Lita Rosi

On January 28, 2007 at 8:20pm Andrea wrote:
I absolutely loved this article, which had me laughing out loud in the doctor's office. However........
Don't besmirch "The Lorax". I am a tree-hugging preschool teacher from way back, and I have used "The Lorax" for years in my classroom as one of the best teaching tools about the environment. It draws a parallel between our own world and the magical world of the Truffula trees, and what can happen if we are not careful.

While the book can be considered depressing, as we watch the Once-ler destroy the world around him, the book does end on a more positive note. The Once-ler gives the boy a Truffula seed, and thus, the power to restore the land to its former beauty. That's empowerment if ever I've seen it. The boy is given instructions by the Once-ler (who had undoubtedly learned from his mistakes) to plant the seed, care for it, and protect it in the hopes that the Lorax will return. Can he do it? Undoubtedly he can.

This is not a tale I'd read to a three-year-old, but fours and up can understand the concepts, and maybe they will feel empowered to make changes in the world around them, if only one seed at a time.

Now, about "The Giving Tree"...... that's one of the most depressing stories I've ever read. I hated it when I first read it, and I always will. And yes, that image of Shel Silverstien on the back cover is downright scary. The image on "Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?" is much better.

Lastly, as for Dora's map...... need a match?

On February 1, 2007 at 2:42am Matt wrote:
I couldn't disagree more with this article. No
nightmares? Life is full of nightmares, so
what's the point of sugarcoating reality when
children will eventually have to confront the
dark aspects of life anyway, whether they want
to or not? Actually, I think kids are more
morbid than you think. When I was little, I
absolutely loved Roald Dahl, with his surreal,
gothic, but funny tales. One of my favorites of
his was "The Twits," in which a very nasty and
disgusting old couple coats tree branches with
glue to trap birds, which they then bake into
pies. At age 7 or 8, I remember being
completely repulsed by that image, feeling a
kind of horror I'd never known—and loving that
feeling (though I wasn't consciously aware of it
at the time). And who can forget the demonic
boat ride through that scary tunnel with Gene
Wilder in the original film adaptation of "Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory"? I still get creeped
out by it, happily. And I think the very reason
why Grimm's Fairy Tales (not to mention the
wonderful—and dark—early Disney films based
on them) have survived is because of the
darkness, the truth behind it—an
acknowledgment of mortality and suffering,
and maybe a way to deal with it. Maybe
acknowledgment itself is a way to deal with it.
It would certainly be much more difficult, I
think, to cope with the death of a loved one,
say, if you've never experienced any kind of
precedent in art. One of the many things art
can do is provide some kind of solace through
these precedents, saying, "You're not alone in
your suffering. Others have been there too.
It's okay to feel the way you do, because
everyone does at some point. It's a natural
part of life." I'm sure I was "scarred for life"
by a lot of the stories I read or saw when I was
a kid. But a scar is a good thing—it shows
you've been involved in something painful and
survived. It's a sign of healing. Without
(metaphorical) scars, you're left defenseless
when something terrible happens to you,
vulnerable to the kind of real-life emotional
scarring that is far more crippling than that
caused by even the darkest fairy tale.

On February 8, 2007 at 4:30pm Cain wrote:
A poet, no matter the poet, is going to have -some- melancholy aspect shine through at some time or another. It's not hard, however, to pick through those into things that have true, affirming spirit.
Whitman- Noiseless Patient Spider, I have a child cousin who loves this poem, or Carl Sandburg, some of Tennyson's less intricate pieces, Wordsworth, etc, etc.
There are many affirmative verses in the world.

On February 21, 2007 at 2:52am David Swenson wrote:
As as child growing up in the 1960's I had a Childcraft series of books. My favorite book was a collection of poems, which entertained me for years. It included lots of pictures and fun rhyming poems that appealed to me as a young child such as "The House That Jack Built" or image poems like "Jabberwocky". As I got older I enjoyed more grown-up poems like "The Raven", "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere", "The Highway Man", "The Wreck of the Hesperus". When I got married and had a child I read this book to my son and he too loved this book. The book was destroyed, when loaned to a relative's children and it's been hard to find a copy. Since then, I haven't found one book that comes close to capturing the magic of poetry that book did but what wonderful memories I have.

On May 1, 2007 at 9:09pm kaydmic wrote:
It is wonderful to learn that other sane parents think this way. Daily I hear about young children watching Disney (yikes) and my 5 year old wants so badly to see this stuff. I comb through books at the library, making sure what we bring home to read is not too dark or sad. I thought I was alone. He watched Jumanji a few months ago with a cousin, and said he really liked it. We have been dealing with a recurring nightmare about a plant monster two to three days a week since then. I can't wait to pick up some of the recommended poetry here. He will love it.

On May 23, 2007 at 12:46pm jwtheyhey wrote:
okeedokee!!!

On September 26, 2007 at 8:58am P. T. Hallard wrote:
I've been searching for the poem

The jolly giant Joe Bean

Went for a walk on the green.

It was in Volume One of the Childcraft collection that I cherished in 1940. Gave it to my grandchildren and never saw the set of books again. It is not in the newer editions of the Childcraft collection.

Do you, per chance, have a copy of the poem?

Lots of love and laughter,

Pauline

On February 22, 2008 at 9:16pm Y. M. Homan wrote:
I wonder if P.T. Hallard ever found her Jolly Giant Joe Bean poem.

The 1st 2 lines are actually:

Hi Ho said the Jolly Giant Joe Bean,

I think I'll go for a walk on the green.

The Childcraft books she references are in our family, but I am

uncertain of the exact location but am inquiring.

On February 26, 2008 at 10:30am Joan Tiffany wrote:
looking for Jolly Giant Joe Green-just a copy of the poem or story would be wonderful as it holds a wonderful memory. Please, someone must have copy. Thanks

On February 29, 2008 at 3:31pm L. Green wrote:
I too am searching for Giant Joe Bean - went so far as to hit up used and children's bookstores AND the NYPL for assistance. Even they couldn't help. Would love to know if anyone finds it - Thanks!

On March 13, 2008 at 12:32pm Gail wrote:
Hi,

I'm looking for the old poem, Jolly Giant

Joe Bean. The first and second lines are:

Hi Ho, said the Jolly Giat Joe Bean, I

think I'll go for a walk on the green...

Can anyone help me? Thanks. Gail

On April 1, 2008 at 2:45pm penny wrote:
Hi Gail,

I am looking for the same poem. I know it is in the childcraft books that were published sometime in the late 30's or early 40's. If you find it please let me know. thanks, Penny

On April 1, 2008 at 4:14pm Rhea wrote:
"Why are children's stories full of sadism and doom?" It's a long tradition, remember the Brother's Grimm? The Lorax and the Giving Tree are cakewalks compared to that. (Though poignant I didn't like The Giving Tree much as a child either... and I did find it a little sad..) The Lorax, of course, is a cautionary tale, so consequences of behavior have to be shown in order to hammer the lesson home, and it does end on a hopeful note, you forget that. The future is in the boy's--and by extension, our--hands. Something better can be made or achieved.

I don't think those two stories are quite as gruesome as you make them out to be.

On July 1, 2008 at 8:28pm Randal Metz wrote:
Looking for Giant Joe Bean?

Children's Fairyland in Oakland, CA had a

set built in 1951 to the story of Giant Joe

Bean. Did he use a telephone pole for a

walking stick? A Cloud for a pillow?

The Set no longer exists, but I think the

enamel sign with the poem still does.

Let me know if this is what you want.

On July 2, 2008 at 8:23pm Randal Metz wrote:
Yes, I do have a copy of the poem.

The Giant Joe Bean.

"heigho!" said the jolly old giant Joe Bean;

"It's time that I went for a stroll on the

green!"

To contact me call Children's Fairyland at

(510) 452-2260. Ask for Randal at the

puppet theater and I can fax you the

whole poem from our files. Thanks,

Randal.

On June 16, 2009 at 8:57pm Catherine Young wrote:
The Giant Joe Bean

"heigho!" said the jolly old giant Joe Bean;
"It's time that I went for a stroll on the
green!"

I am trying to obtain a copy of this poem.

It was published in Vol I of the 1947
Child Craft Books.

On December 24, 2009 at 4:52pm Catherine Y wrote:
The Giant Joe Bean
If someone has it, could they please put it the internet.
I loved that poem - It was in a Childcraft book (vol 1 or 2, I believe, of an edition in the 1940's)
I would like to read it to my 3 year old grandson.

On December 27, 2009 at 7:17am David Ream wrote:
I echo the request for the posting of "Giant Joe Bean" on a convenient web site. In 1942, when I was age 6, my older sister taught me the poem and made me recite it, with appropriate gestures, at every family gathering. I have mixed feelings when I recall those early public performances, but would like to repeat them just once. My sister will have her 80th birthday on 29 December. I would like to send her the belated gift of a CD with me reciting the poem. Since her stroke she has needed cheering up, and this would help. Thanks to the person who finds and posts the poem!

On January 13, 2010 at 1:46pm Nancy Dozier wrote:
Did anyone ever get a copy of the Jolly Giant joe Bean poem?....I too grew up iwth it & would LOVE to have a copy....if there's a copy on a web site, could you please let me know?
Thanks so much !
Yes !!....he DID use a telephone pole for a walking stick & use a cloud for a pillow !!

On March 14, 2010 at 8:55pm Colleen wrote:
It's not just poetry that is so disturbing. I bought The Rainbow Fish for my daughter and was appalled. It's not scary but it seems to be saying that you should give away pieces of your body (or whatever makes you different) to be liked. When I read The Giving Tree I got a message that was close to that - if you love someone you should do anything for them; up to giving away your whole self.

I can deal with reading things that are a little disturbing to my daughter. I read her Little Red Riding Hood; Goldilocks; Three Little Pigs, etc. and we talk about why it's scary and how you should beware of certain things. Since she's 2 I sometimes soften it a little.

I do have a horrible problem with some of the underlying messages of these "modern classic" books. I have even more of a problem that it is subtle enough that I found these books and others like them on numerous "Best Books for Children Lists." I've even had a discussion with a librarian where I was recommended The Giving Tree because it was a beautiful story - he didn't see anything even mildly wrong with the part of the story where the tree is utterly destroyed by not saying no.

I'll try some of the books recommended in the above comments and thank you for letting me know I'm not the only one who has problems with this.

On July 3, 2010 at 12:23pm Catherine Young wrote:
Did anyone ever find a copy of the "Giant Joe Bean" poem from the Childcraft books?

If someone has it, could they post a copy.

On October 21, 2010 at 3:10pm Allen Humphrey wrote:
Great Comments All !
However The most important point overlooked here ,I am willing to bet that everyone of us writing here today , think " Hey I am OK , I turned out fine" and I am willing to bet that everyone of us were exposed to way more perverse acclimations than borderline risque poetry.
Give our kids some credit, they are going to outperform each of their mentors eventually . It is inevitable children adapt and overcome even our best intentions . If you really want to conceptually perceive a way to benefit both them and you , Push down as hard as you can everday on their heads to keep them from growing up and revel in their prescious ways, for both of your sakes, for as long as you can and they will appreciate your efforts ,one day .

On July 19, 2011 at 3:16pm Joan wrote:
I'm with the crowd looking for The Giant Joe Bean. During the summer, our two grandchildren join me for "Poetry Friday" where we each choose a poem to memorize (even if only the first stanza) and then read to each other the rest, or another poem. This has rekindled in ME a love for the poems of my childhood, and I would feel completed, in a way, if I could find this one again. Is the distinction between verse and poetry important at a young age? -- I think not.

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 Jeff   Gordinier

Biography

Jeff Gordinier is the author of X Saves the World and has written for a variety of magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Details, Esquire, GQ, Elle, Spin, Creative Nonfiction, and Entertainment Weekly. His work has been included in anthologies such as Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best Food Writing, and Best Creative Nonfiction. He lives close to the Hudson River with his wife and two children.

Continue reading this biography

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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