riding the scary-go-round with jessica swaim

#7 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011.

Jessica (center) with friends Kate Morton (Madame Ratowski) and Caroline Stutson (The Kid).

At every party, there’s always at least one guest who knows how to make a dramatic entrance. 

Behold Jessica Swaim as Count Dracula’s bride, bedecked in lace and ready for a spooky delicious time. She’s brought along her ghoul friends, Madame Ratowski and The Kid, straight from the pages of her latest picture book, SCARUM FAIR, which was a 2010 Cybils Poetry Finalist. She’d love us to have some blood red punch (Types A, B, and O), a fur-lined cup of steamy, stinky Cat-Hair Stew and a Devil’s Food cupcake. Perfect way to channel the spirit of her creepy carnival and wake up the dead.

         Flamingo Bakery/flickr

Up for an eerie coffin race, a bug tattoo, a ride in a terrifying teacup? Madame Ratowski will gladly read your palm for a piece of Swiss cheese. Personally, I’d like Dr. Crunch to straighten out my creaky cranium.

Wait. Is that steam coming out of your mouth? Ack! Your forked tongue’s on fire! Just couldn’t resist that second cupcake, could you? Good thing Jessica brought some “I-Scream” to cool things down. She says it’s sure to make the kiddies shiver and was easy to invent, since she’s cold all the time. Brrrrrrr!

by Jessica Swaim

Step right up and get your cone!

One scoop will chill you to the bone!

It’s made with ears of Arctic hare

and topped with chopped-up polar bear

with just a pinch of penguin beak

to numb your throat

so you can’t speak.


Your kneecaps shake,

your nose turns blue,

your lips take on a purplish hue,

your liver gels by slow degrees,

your thumbs go numb, your tonsils freeze –

a bitter fate, but here’s the sting:

the crows will thaw you out next spring.

~ from Scarum Fair (Wordsong), © 2010 Jessica Swaim. All rights reserved.

Jessica: Some years ago, my sis-in-law spotted this award-winning recipe in a magazine, and it instantly became a family favorite. Make it your own by experimenting with different crusts and ice cream flavors.

(makes 32 servings)

2 cups crushed chocolate graham crackers (about 20 squares)

1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 gallon chocolate-chip/mint ice cream, slightly softened

1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces or 1/2 cup milk chocolate pieces and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 8-oz. container frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed 

In a bowl, combine crushed graham crackers, 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine and sugar. Press into the bottom of a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. Set in freezer to chill for 5 minutes.

Cut ice cream into ½-inch thick slices and lay over the crumbs. Cover and return to freezer.

For chocolate sauce: In a saucepan, melt chocolate and 1/3 cup butter or margarine. Add powdered sugar and milk. Cook and stir for about 20-25 minutes till slightly thickened. Stir in vanilla. Cool sauce completely.

Pour chocolate sauce over chocolate-chip/mint ice cream and return to freezer for about 30 minutes or till firm.
Spread thawed dessert topping on top; freeze again till serving time.
Care for a monster finger to go with your I-Scream?
Watch out, THE HAND may grab you!


  Mad Hausfrau/flickr

Besides Scarum Fair, former librarian, author and poet Jessica Swaim has published two other picture books: Hound from the Pound (Candlewick, 2007), and Nate by Night (Portunus Publishing, 2000). Most of Jessica’s stories are about dogs, which is no surprise considering how much she loves and identifies with them (short and feisty herself, she often channels her inner Jack Russell). Some might say she has way too much fun dancing with her golden retriever Sprocket or cheering on her sheep-herding border collie Kiva. When you visit her official website, don’t be surprised if you find her napping by the fire, walking on a loose leash, rolling belly-up in the grass, and of course, writing more funny books. I love that one of her dream jobs is to be a taste tester at the Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory. AH-ROOOOOOOOOO!

Okay, that’s a wrap (and a dramatic exit)!

*Spread from Scarum Fair posted by permission. Text copyright © 2010 Jessica Swaim, illustrations © 2010 Carol Ashley, published by Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.



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