Children’s Poet Laureate Monthly Book Picks

Each month, the Children’s Poet Laureate recommends a book of poetry for children. Selections include classics of children’s literature, adult collections that are well-suited to children, as well as newly published books.

Ode to a Commode: Concrete Poems

Kenn Nesbitt’s September 2014 Book Pick

Ode to a Commode: Concrete Poems

by Brian P. Cleary

Millbrook Press August 2014

Concrete poems – poems that take the shape of the object they are about – are fun to write (or draw!) and Brian P. Cleary shows us how it’s done in this second book of his Poetry Adventures series, Ode to a Commode: Concrete Poems.

Cleary begins with a simple description of what a concrete poem is, instructions for creating them, and a list of “idea starters” (basketball, cat, kite, sailboat, etc.), making it as easy as possible to get started. He then provides 24 fun and clever concrete poems that are not only enjoyable to read, but provide motivation and encouragement to budding poets.

The poems themselves are funny, rhyming verses that could easily stand alone as traditionally typeset poems. But the fact that they are shaped like their subjects, with meticulous hand-lettering by illustrator Andy Rowland, makes them even more fun to read. Each poem becomes something to explore; a path to follow. For example, “A Twisted Tale,” a poem about a pretzel, loops around on itself, while the title poem, “Ode to a Commode” is written in a spiral of watery letters. Rowland compliments each verse with illustrations of tiny people engaging with the poem; climbing the staircase, running from the boa constrictor, swinging from the tree, and so on.

Whether reading for inspiration or simply for the joy of it, Ode to a Commode is a delightfully silly collection for young students.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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