Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hypnotize A Tiger

Hypnotize A Tiger
Poems About Just About Everything
By Calef Brown

This collection of playful and whimsical poems with the characteristically quirky Calef-Brown-esque illustrations are more for the middle-grade readers than younger ones.

Organized into categories like The Critterverse, My Peeps, Schoolishness, Facts Poetic, Word Crashes, Miscellaneous Silliness and so forth, the poems tackle anything from creepy crawly insects and creatures large and small to Edible rarities and culinary peculiarities.

The joy in reading works by Silverstein and Kenn Nesbitt and Prelutsky is that the beauty of words strung together is seemingly nonsensical but manage to excite the young readers' imagination nonetheless. Much the same way, the 10 year old got the poems for the most part, and enjoyed some of the sillier ones like Big-Hair Cats,
When cougars and lynxes
get fur stuck in their larynxes
they cough up hairballs
like an ordinary kitty.
It isn't very pretty,
not in the least,
to see a gob of gooey fleece
released by such a noble beast.

and Greta,
Greta can't make up her mind
if she should make up her bed
or practice gymnastics instead.
She likes to jump on the mattress, you see,
which often ends in catastrophe,
with pillows and blankets everywhere,
and then her parents are there
giving her a blank stare.
"Are you aware," they ask,
"that is it one a.m?"
"Yes," she replies, "I am."

I think she identified most with Carsick:
Car rides have always
been awful for me.
I try not to look,
but as soon as I see
that the needle is pointing
to forthy-three
on the ol' speedometer,
I'm a vomiter.

The seven year old enjoyed some of the animal poems and especially the off-beat outlook in poems like The Vulture where it introspects with,
This is my diet?
If it died, I try it?
A normal dinner would feel so nice.
Grilled asparagus and wild rice
without the wretched carrion.
Something vegetarian."

and Pupae:
Just because we're the pupae
people give us the poop-eye.

How can you go wrong with "poop-eye" and the younger reading crowd?

But what I liked even better was the bottom edge of pages: they are packed with mini-poems and absurd observations of sorts that were quite amusing. A few of my favorites:

I only eat cuttlefish from Cuddalore.
Sure, they cost a little more,
but ones from Delhi are sometimes smelly.

I prefer Swiss chard from Mumbai,
which is hard to come by.

Oh no! Now there are geese loose in the ghee sluice!
Ghee is butter. 
Thanks for clarifying.

Forcing compliance through orders and decrees?
Oh, please!

The last one in the book is Q&A with Calef Brown answered with enough jest and yet a good glimpse into the writer.

Tell us about your early days.
My life began in a tree fort
in Shreveport, Louisiana.
A sort of breezy cabana
with one of those fantastic lawns--
the kind with gnomes and plastic swans.
I was a weaselly child,
easily riled and wildly erratic,
full of dramatic "tin-drum tantrums"--
the loudest kind...

The kooky illustrations and off-center perspective on everyday things certainly amused the kids and me. To be able to pick a page at random and just enjoy the wordplay and the perspectives is a simple pleasure that this book offers in plenty.

[MacMillan View Inside the Book]

[Image source: MacMillan]

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