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.

The Big Book of Nonsense: Poems to Make You Laugh Out Loud

Kenn Nesbitt’s November 2014 Book Pick

The Big Book of Nonsense: Poems to Make You Laugh Out Loud

by Colin West

Hutchinson Children’s Books (an imprint of The Random House Group Limited) 2001

Colin West’s The Big Book of Nonsense is an absolute tour de force from a master of the art of humorous poetry for children. Published in 2001 by Random House in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, this book is sadly now out of print, though it is still possible to find used copies online, even here in the US.

Like Jack Prelutsky’s “big books,” The Big Book of Nonsense contains a huge variety of funny poems on every topic imaginable, including people, animals, tongue twisters, monsters, and just plain silliness. And like Shel Silverstein’s poetry collections, Colin West is both the author and the illustrator. But where Prelutsky and Silverstein’s books are illustrated in black-and-white and typically include 100-150 poems, The Big Book of Nonsense sets a new bar with 225 poems, all with full color illustrations, spanning 254 pages.

Of course, the sheer volume of poems and illustrations wouldn’t mean a thing if they weren’t a pleasure to read and pore over. West more than delivers. His poem are witty, clever, and charming from beginning to end, and his illustrations are wonderfully bright and whimsical. Moreover, his meter is impeccable and his rhymes are inspired. Open this book to any page at random; you’re sure to get a smile, and you may not be able to put it down until you’ve finished the entire collection.

Immense, imaginative, and ingenious, this book truly belongs in every classroom and library, and on every young reader’s bookshelf.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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