Thursday, October 05, 2006


Forgotten Bookshelf: Piping Down the Valleys Wild, edited by Nancy Larrick

It’s a good sign when three of the first five poems in an anthology are by Karla Kuskin:


It’s full of the moon
The dogs dance out
Through brush and bush and bramle.
They howl and yowl
And growl and prowl
They amble, ramble, scramble.

Oooooo, after reviewing the kinda-melancholy City Poems earlier this week, I’m raring for something as gossamer-lovely as Piping Down the Valleys Wild. I’m usually kind of reluctant to paw through a somewhat-thick poetry anthology – especially one that doesn’t have very many illustrations – but this little number is g-o-o-d GOOD. I’ve been flipping around in it for hours and I have yet to find a poem that’s a dud. And while there’s quite a few familiar names here (Eliot, cummings, Milne, Margaret Wise Brown, Updike, Nash, Farjeon, Gwendolyn Brooks) almost everything is something that I haven’t stumbled on before. It’s arranged thematically and similar in tone to many other anthologies – most notably Prelutsky’s Random House Book of Poetry – but I must say that I am impressed on how the bulk of the poems here are definitely a cut above. Here’s another quote from a Kaye Starbird poem:

I went away last August
To summer camp in
Maine,
And there I met a camper
Called Eat-it-All Elaine.

Although Elaine was quiet,
She liked to cause a stir
By acting out the nickname
Her camp-mates gave to her.

The day of our arrival
At Cabin Number Three
When girls kept coming over
To greet Elaine and me,

She took a piece of Kleenex
And calmly chewed it up,
Then strolled outside the cabin
And ate a buttercup.

Oooooo, lovely. The anthologist, Nancy Larrick, writes in the introduction that she personally road-tested all of these poems herself with kids of all ages, from nursery school on up. There’s poems in here for every age, but it isn’t condescending to the little ones or the big ones – this is simply a celebration of that most personal of art forms. Let me leave you with just one more, from Eleanor Farjeon:

Blow the Stars home, Wind, blow the Stars home
Ere Morning drowns them in golden foam.

It’s almost as good as chocolate, isn’t it? Lucky for us, this book was reissued recently, so it's pretty easy to pick up a copy -- so what are you waiting for?

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