[review + giveaway] Keep a Pocket in Your Poem by J. Patrick Lewis and Johanna Wright

Keep a poem in your pocket
and a picture in your head
and you’ll never feel lonely
at night when you’re in bed.

~ Beatrice Schenk de Regniers (“Keep a Poem in Your Pocket”)

So begins J. Patrick Lewis’s brand new poetry picture book, in which he pairs 13 classic poems on a variety of subjects with his own inventive parodies. Beatrice Schenk de Regnier’s opening poem sets the tone by touting the delights of the imagination, while Lewis’s poetic response (“Keep a Pocket in Your Poem”) advises us to think up wondrous, concrete objects (“red hawk feather,/silver penny, pinkie ring”) to spark the creative process.

In his introduction, Lewis explains that writing a parody is the best way to pay tribute to someone else’s work. He’s clearly a poet who likes to tweak, twist and tinker — not only with words, but with ideas, thoughts, and emotions.

As old poem faces off against new, it’s interesting to see the different directions Lewis has taken as he echoes, mimics, and counters. With this side by side format, young readers are given great examples of how one might imitate a well-known poem, whether they choose to express a similar sentiment (Lewis’s “Winter Warmth” in response to Langston Hughes’s “Winter Sweetness”), or contrast the original (Lewis’s “Rats” vs. Rose Flyeman’s “Mice,” or Lewis’s “Hail” vs Carl Sandburg’s “Fog”).

Though we tend to think in terms of humor when we see the word “parody,” Lewis explores other emotions as well, from sad and serious (“Grief is the thing with tissues”), to reflective and wistful (“This little book is cocoa./It warms me when it steams”), to enchanting and wondrous (“She climbs late summer skies and sends/Important messages to friends . . . /Confetti blinkers on rear ends”).

Johanna Wright’s vibrant acrylic and ink illustrations (digitally fine-tuned) amplify the poems’ various moods with a predominantly blue and purple palette. Her naif drawings of children and animals lend an air of joy and playfulness to each spread, and kids will love picking out the endearing details (mice nibbling on chocolate chip cookies, a grey kitty peeking out of a second floor window, kids tucked into their tree branch beds).

Keep a Pocket in Your Poem (Wordsong, 2017), is both a nice introduction to a baker’s dozen of classic poems as well as a good mentor text for budding poets. Since one has to know the original quite well before attempting to imitate it, this is a sneaky way to make kids carefully study how and why these poems work with regard to structure, subject, and mood. ๐Ÿ™‚

Of course, there’s also the sheer pleasure of reading these poems aloud, while enjoying Lewis’s trademark wit, whimsy, and wordplay. He’s truly one of our most versatile and beloved children’s poets, and this new title would make a fabulous addition to any school or home library.

Today, I’m happy to share three poem-and-parody pairs. I would say Lewis’s response to Robert Frost’s poem is probably the most traditionally parodic in the book, but I also love his Tennyson and Stevenson “revisions.” Enjoy!

*

 

STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

*

STOPPING BY FRIDGE ON A HUNGRY EVENING
by J. Patrick Lewis

Whose mold this is I think I know.
My mother won’t admit it, though;
She hates it when I peek inside
To watch her fiendish fungus grow.

My little sister cried and cried
To see a pound cake . . . petrified!
That quart of milk’s about to blast.
The cottage cheese has multiplied!

The mustard’s green, the mayo’s past
The expiration date — not last
November?! No, it can’t be true.
The algae’s brown and creeping fast.

The eggs are black, the meat is blue!
There’s only one thing left to do:
Get the hose and hire a crew,
Get the hose and hire a crew.

*

 

THE EAGLE
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

*

THE FIREFLY
by J. Patrick Lewis

She climbs late summer skies and sends
Important messages to friends . . .
Confetti blinkers on rear ends.

Who knows which meadow she came from
Through cricket and cicada hum?
But look, she’s waltzed onto my thumb.

*

 

HAPPY THOUGHT
by Robert Louis Stevenson

The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

*

SLEEPY THOUGHT
by J. Patrick Lewis

The world is so full of a number of dreams,
I’m sure all our pillows should burst at the seams.

*

And here’s a bonus pair of haiku from the back cover:

 

The toad! It looks like
it could belch
a cloud.

~ Issa

*

The tiger! It looks like
the sun has been put
behind bars.

~ J. Patrick Lewis

*

 

KEEP A POCKET IN YOUR POEM: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies
written and selected by J. Patrick Lewis
illustrated by Johanna Wright
published by Wordsong, March 2017
Poetry Picture Book for ages 5-10, 32 pp.

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๐ŸŽ SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY! ๐Ÿ“•

The publisher has generously donated a copy of this book for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) May 2, 2017. You may also enter by sending an email with POCKET in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!

*

So —
Keep a pocket in your poem,
for imagination grows
from the deepest secret pockets
every pocket poet knows.

~ J. Patrick Lewis (“Keep a Pocket in Your Poem”)

*

JoAnn is hosting the Roundup at Teaching Authors. Sashay on over there and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend!


*Interior spreads from Keep a Pocket in Your Poem posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright ยฉ 2017 J. Patrick Lewis, illustrations ยฉ 2017 Johanna Wright, published by Wordsong. All rights reserved.

**Copyright ยฉ 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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59 thoughts on “[review + giveaway] Keep a Pocket in Your Poem by J. Patrick Lewis and Johanna Wright

  1. Jama, what a beautiful post and what a beautiful concept for a book of poetry. This is why J. Patrick Lewis is a favorite for keeping poetry alive. I would love to add this to my middle school library poetry shelves.

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  2. I would love to have this book to read to a friend of mine who “hates” poetry! I’ll bet a reading of several of these gems would change her mind!!

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    1. I like your plan, Joanne. Not many who can resist Pat’s wit and wordplay. People who claim to “hate” poetry haven’t been reading the right poems. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. My grandson is 4 and speech delayed. I’ve been reciting nursery rhymes to him and he’s learning them! I think this wonderful book would be great for him.

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  4. This looks so clever and fun! And, you’re right–an excellent way to introduce kids to some classics. It also reminded me of Jessica Swaim’s brilliant parody poems, Why Do I Chase Thee? And then I noticed her comment right above me. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. I just browsed this yesterday at my favorite bookstore, and now I wish I’d bought it. It’s so delightful and will make a beautiful mentor text for teachers, too. I enjoyed each one, “Grief is the thing with feathers” helps lift from sadness in a perfect way. And I love “sheโ€™s waltzed onto my thumb.” Thanks, Jama!

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  6. This new JPL title looks amazing! I love how he helps the world see poetry in a new light – especially when readers have to “study how and why these poems work with regard to structure, subject, and mood”. Thanks, Jama. =)

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  7. Love the warm illustrations and an excellent method to introduce poetry to poetry-shy children. Mentors at their fingertips with humor!

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  8. I have a new tradition of purchasing a poetry book on indie bookstore day. It’s in April every year. I hope my bookstore has stocked this title because I may have just found this year’s gift to me! Thanks for this lovely review.

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    1. I like your tradition, Ramona! If your indie store doesn’t have this title I hope you’ll ask them to stock some copies. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  9. Oh goodness how I want to gush
    and ooohhh and aaahhh til you say, “Hush!”
    This book is stocked with parodyโ€”
    I think this is the book for ME.
    But…
    I know that you cannot be bribed
    as random picking is prescribed.
    Even though I loved this post
    more than othersโ€”loved it most!

    Seriously, this sounds so fun. I do love J. Patrick Lewis’s work. He makes me smile with his spot-on sense of humor. Thanks for introducing me to more of his poetry ๐Ÿ˜€

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  10. My blog visits have been hit or miss as of late, but when I saw you were reviewing KEEP A POCKET IN YOUR POEM I had to run on over! I’ve been crazy keen to have a peek at this one. J. Patrick Lewis is, indeed, a tweaker, twister and tinkerer-extraordinaire! One of the many things I love about him… he keeps me on my toes with that playfulness and imagination. I’m particularly enamored with the Eagle/Firefly pairing. Thanks, Jama!

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    1. Yes, the Firefly poem was one of my favorites. It’s always fun to see what Pat will do next and how he keeps challenging himself to new heights. His humor is always razor sharp. What a mind!

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  11. Thank you for sharing this delightful book and your thoughtful reflections. It looks like Lewis must have had so much fun writing these. It not only makes me want to go out and get my hands on this book as soon as possible, it also makes me want to try some parodies of my own!

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    1. Good to hear — I’m sure that was Pat’s intention — enjoy these poems, but feel inspired to write your own parodies. Sometimes it looks like he’s having too much fun. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  12. What FUN What FUN What FUN! I agree with Janet’s assessment, too – “preK-University”-worthy. Can’t wait to see it all, and thanks for the generous peek. Illustrations are terrific.
    Another Wordsong Winner!

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    1. Love your enthusiasm — and rightly targeted at Pat’s literary genius. Janet does make a good point at how this book would suit all ages.

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  13. Did you MAKE those little felted toys of baby and bear especially for this post? What a fabulous fun idea for a book! (Can’t you imagine the things that this could, in turn, inspire kids to write?)

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    1. Oh no, didn’t make them — don’t have the patience or aptitude. They somehow find their way to my house, though, knowing I’m willing to adopt. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  14. Jama, I love this post, and all these parodies. Genius, every one. Even the haiku on the back cover. I can’t decide which I love the most. Such fun to read again favorite short poems and see them transformed. I love the fridge stocked full of laughs.

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  15. How have I not heard of this book? Thank you so much for enlightening me, Jama! I adore everything about it: the illustrations, the classic poems, and of course, Pat’s clever responses. I think the tiger is my favorite. The sun behind bars. What else could it be?

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