Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don't Forget Your Etiquette written by David Greenberg and Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

This is the first book of poetry that I have looked at that is aimed at the little ones out there, and I must say that I enjoyed it. One thing that I am going to have to get used to as far as children's poetry is concerned is that it seems to have a different purpose from adult poetry. Children's poetry, from what I have so far gleaned is much more lighthearted and more story based. Whereas most adult poetry I have come into contact with is about emotions and matters of the heart and generally heavier topics. I have also noticed that adult poetry tends to be a little bit abstract in that you have to think about the meaning that the author is wanting to convey. And in my opinion, I can only take rhyming poems seriously if they are for the little ones. Of course this just could be because I have a general dislike for a certain someone that I knew who's poetry always rhymed- hey bias is bound to come out somewhere! At any rate, this particular book of poetry was centered around that idea of etiquette for children, only it isn't real etiquette. Instead, it is silly backward etiquette written by a woman named Miss Information (very clever).

The Etiquette of Kissing
With emperors and empresses
you only kiss their cheeks.
With giant thrashing octupi
you only kiss their beaks.
At diplomatic parties
you just kiss fingertips.
With fierce komodo dragons
you only kiss their lips.
Principals and teachers
require slurpy smooches
kind of like the type
you get from friendly pooches.
This poem goes on, but I thought this was a good place to stop because frankly this last stanza made me wrinkle my nose. This whole book is based on sarcasm, and we would know that, but what if there was a child out there reading this who didn't understand that? Sarcasm after all is a bit abstract. I wouldn't want students coming into my class the first day thinking that I would expect a big wet kiss! This sort of thing happens in other places too, for example in lines where it talks about the etiquette of sitting and it says: "You must not breathe, so hold your breath even if this causes death." Perhaps I am not giving children enough credit here, but I just feel like some of them might not get this and it would be disturbing to them.
All in all though I thought this was an amusing book and I think that given the possibility for misinterpretation, I would recommend this one for older grades. The library suggests 6 and up but I think that I may raise it a little to 8 and up, I really don't know why but I feel strongly about it. Maybe it could be used in a mini-lesson to discuss sarcasm.

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