Flickr photo by dororai
Around my house, we love to laugh. We also love to rhyme, and we particularly like to put the two together. It’s a little known fact that both of these things, rhyming and laughing, were the inspiration behind my very first attempt at creating a children’s picture book. That picture book will never be published (trust me on this), but it started me on the path to writing for children. So I am rather fond of and grateful for fun rhymes.
Laughing over a silly poem is something my middle-grade kids and I have in common, too. It’s a great way for us to bond, especially when it comes to my reluctant readers, because sharing a short, silly poem together seems less threatening than sitting down with a thick novel at bedtime.
So, yes, we take funny poetry very seriously around my house. My kids memorize these poems religiously. (Someday you should hear my oldest recite A Tragic Story by William Makepeace Thackeray. Hil-arious.) Occasionally I recite a few I still remember from my own middle-grade years. (Eletelephony by Laura Richards is my favorite, in case you were wondering.) We also make up our own silly rhymes, which might not be complete works of poetry, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?
Luckily for us, there are plenty of great but wacky poetry collections available in bookstores or on library shelves. We turn to these for inspiration or in desperation, depending upon whether or not we need something to get us into a rhyming rhythm or something to get us out of a very bad mood. Here is a short list of some poetry collections that tickle our funny bone:
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Arguably the most well-known children’s poetry collection in the world (according to me, anyway), this book has been entertaining children for decades. Other well-known titles by Shel Silverstein include A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. Check out his website for a complete list of his titles.
(Not that you asked, but my favorite poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends is Peanut-Butter Sandwich.)
A Pizza the Size of the Sun by Jack Prelutsky
We’ve been fans of Jack Prelutsky for years. Though some of his books are listed for the younger crowd of 4- to 8-year-olds, older elementary students will still enjoy his wacky worldplay in this and his many other poetry collections. You can find a complete list of his titles on his website.
Vile Verses by Roald Dahl
Who doesn’t love Roald Dahl?! And now you can love him all over again when you pick up one of his poetry collections. This one compiles some of the poems published in his other books, such as the The Centipede’s Song from James and the Giant Peach, with new and deliciously vile verses kids in particular are sure to love. And some adults might like it, too. (Okay, plenty of adults already do.) Other collections you might also enjoy are Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts.
Exploding Gravy by X. J. Kennedy
We found this book purely by accident, when my grandmother decided to send it as a birthday gift for one of my children. It’s a perennial favorite now. Unfortunately, it’s out of print, but hopefully you can still find it online or at your local library. If not, I’m sorry. I’d let you borrow mine, but my kids won’t put it down long enough for me to sneak it out of the house.
If I Were In Charge of the World and Other Worries by Judith Viorst
A friend of mine highly recommended this collection, and I think I do remember reading it once when I was a kid. I haven’t shared it with my own kids yet, though. It’s on our TBR list now. From Booklist: “Viorst takes everyday situations that frustrate, bewilder, or bemuse and turns them into fodder for her audience’s personal laugh tracks. . . . (She) succeeds in bringing out the fun in human foibles and her poems that twist traditional fairy-tale endings are positively inspired.”
Do you have a favorite not on this list? If you do, please share the title below in the comments. My kids and I are always looking for more poems to love. Even though we prefer the ones that rhyme, we’d settle for some funny free verse, too. Thanks for laughing along with us!
Elissa Cruz loves wacky poetry enough that she writes it herself when she isn’t busy working on one of her novels. She is represented by Josh Getzler of Russell and Volkening, Inc., and her debut humorous middle-grade mystery is currently on submission. It doesn’t have any funny poetry in it, though. But it should.