Sing a Song of Popcorn
When I polled my kids for their all-time favorite book of poems from when they were little they singled out Sing A Song Of Popcorn: Every Child’s Book Of Poems.
I can totally see why: not only does it have a great mix of poetry styles, subjects and forms, it also features wonderful illustrations by several artists, including Caldecott medalists Maurice Sendak!, Arnold Lobel, and Leo and Diane Dillon.
The poems range from silly to seasonal to spooky, from haikus to nonsense rhymes; it would be hard not to find something to like. What’s really remarkable, however, is that my kids also agree about their favorite poem in the book. The winner, hands down, is “The Jumblies” by Edward Lear, who also wrote “The Owl and the Pussycat.” The poem’s illustrated by Sendak, a perfect pairing.
It’s a longish story poem about completely silly children who are totally committed to doing a completely foolish thing, and end up not only having a fabulous time but return home safely and are greeted as heroes.
“The Jumblies” has six sections; this is the first:
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, “You’ll all be drowned!”
They called aloud, “Our Sieve ain’t big,
But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!
In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!”
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.
As you can hear, the poem has great music, and even though my family hasn’t memorized the whole poem, we know those last four lines by heart. They’re extremely satisfying to say, especially when one or more of us seem determined to launch into a potentially ridiculous scheme. We also love saying “the hills of the Chankly Bore” for no reason whatsoever. Read the poem, you’ll see what I mean. It’s just fun to say.
I can’t help thinking “The Jumblies” is really about being an artist, but maybe I just want it to be. In any case, it certainly celebrates rule breakers, and I imagine that from a child’s perspective, it’s delicious to read a poem about a bunch of kids who ignore the dire warnings of the adults in their lives and do exactly as they please.
I have to admit, as the overly anxious adult issuing the dire warnings (careful! slow down! stop at the corner! ) and the one unable to leave the house without a diaper bag stuffed with vital emergency clothing, drinks and snacks (even for a trip to the library) I found the poem refreshing, too.
In the book’s introduction, one of the editors quotes the writer Jorge Luis Borges on reading: “It should be for happiness.” Even if the Jumblies isn’t your cup of tea, there’s more where that came from in Sing a Song of Popcorn. I leave you with another of my kid’s favorites from the book by Pauline Clarke:
My Name Is…
My name is Sluggery-wuggery
My name is Worms-for-tea
My name is Swallow-the-table-leg
My name is Drink-the-Sea.
My name is I-eat-saucepans
My name is I-like-snails
My name is Grand-piano-George
My name is I-ride-whales.
My name is Jump-the-chimney
My name is Bite-my-knee
My name is Jiggery-pokery
Pure nonsense. Pure happiness!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy’s the mother of two children who seem to enjoy poetry, for which she’s extremely grateful. Her first book, How I Got Lost So Close To Home, was published by Alice James Books and poems have appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals. She’s a former Associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center at Mt. Holyoke College, where she looked at the impact of motherhood on the work of women poets. In addition to her life as a poet, Dryansky works for a land trust, teaches in at Hampshire College, leads workshops in the community and writes about what it’s like to navigate the territory of mother/poet/worker at her blog, Pokey Mama. Her second book, Grass Whistle, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2013.