[crunchy review] Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast by Jack Prelutsky

Hungry? May I interest you in a few angry carrots, a slice of sunlight cake, maybe a cherry pie baked by a butterfly or a dish of red-hot ice cream?

Inaugural Young People’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky serves up all these tantalizing treats and more in his latest anthology, Hard-Boiled Bugs For Breakfast: And Other Tasty Poems (Greenwillow, 2021).

To whet your appetite, wrap your lips around the title poem:

Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast

Hard-boiled bugs for breakfast,
Hard-boiled bugs for lunch,
Hard-boiled bugs at suppertime,
Crunchy! Crunchy! Crunch!

Hard-boiled bugs are tastier
Than spiders, flies, or slugs.
There’s not a doubt about it --
I love those hard-boiled bugs.


Pretty tasty as long as you don’t get bug legs stuck in your teeth. 😀

Whether you’re a seasoned Prelutsky fan or a curious nibbler with an uncanny appetite for riotous rhymes, inventive wordplay, and preposterously punny poems, this chewy collection of over 100 verses is for you. 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all about food. Though there’s a respectable smorgasbord of kooky cuisine, kids will find oodles of other subjects infused with Prelutsky’s signature whackadoodle humor to get them giggling and nodding their heads in recognition — poems about faking illness to skip school, lamenting homework, growing light bulbs in a garden, being allergic to your pets, being forgetful or a chronic complainer, even cautionary quips about squeezing electric eels or being carried away by giant bubble gum (there’s a giant Easter Bunny too). 

Animals, real and imaginary, also get their fair share of the spotlight. Consider a lizard who can play the mandolin, an inch-tall, pink-tinted purple-dotted elephant who can tie her trunk in knots and play the violin with her tail, a giraffe that gives voice lessons, or a horse that floats in the air. Who wouldn’t love to have any of these pets? 

Prelutsky indulges his penchant for portmanteaux with imaginary animals such as the Shrimpala, Orioleander, Kangarooster, and Fantelope, who “you may be sure,/Will soon reduce your temperature.” Morphing too much of a mouthful? Meet the Wazawa, the Leemies, or the Sludd (who rolls in mud). 

For the reader who likes to daydream or simply muse about all manner of things, try “If I Were King of Everything,” (a hundred shoes and socks for everyone!), “My Friends and I Went Bowling” (don’t use a ping pong ball), and this gem:

Once a Week at Noon

Once a week at noon,
I eat a neon sign
Without a fork or spoon --
Light lunches are divine.


Tee hee. And you gotta love this one:

The Leaves Are Drifting

The leaves are drifting to the ground,
I’m thoroughly ecstatic.
They do that every single fall . . . 
It’s sort of autumn-atic.


You get the picture. The entire book is a hilarious, rollicking rhyme fest (I’m convinced Prelutsky eats, sleeps, and dreams in rhyme) except for half a dozen animal haiku about midway through that gives the reader a chance to take five-seven-five to cleanse his palate. 

Kudos to illustrator Ruth Chan, whose appealing, cartoony black-and-white drawings perfectly complement the poems with her own brand of zany humor. Though there are many clever and inventive illos, for some reason this one really gets to me:

Simple, but the dog’s expression says it all.

But getting back to the food, must mention a few more favorites. Prelutsky does a slightly different take on the picky eater in his poem, “Bananas,” where the narrator lists some of his quirky eating habits. He can’t eat bananas unless he’s upside down, can’t swallow waffles until he blows his nose. Can’t touch tangerines unless it’s Tuesday.

The last stanza is my favorite:

I never dine on carrots
Until I take a nap,
And cannot stomach peanuts
Unless I swim a lap.
I can’t have avocados
Unless I’m smeared with jam,
But I can feast on chocolate
Exactly as I am.

Hear, Hear!

And though I’ve no personal experience with this particular situation, I could empathize with the narrator’s frustration in “I’m Mad at the Baker”:

I’m mad at the baker,
He sold me a cake
That tasted like fish heads
And pieces of snake,
Like plaster of paris
Plus elephant trunks,
With flavors from donkeys,
Gorillas, and skunks.

Ewwwww! You’ll have to read the whole poem for the funny ending. 🙂

Now, since you’re giving me that lean hungry look, take a bite out of a few more. Nothing like a little platter of versified victuals to make life all the sweeter.

The Stir-Frying Pandas

The STIR-FRYING PANDAS, with little ado,
Fry succulent shoots of the finest bamboo.
Their system is simple, yet somehow complete . . . 
They eat all they fry, and they fry all they eat.

The STIR-FRYING PANDAS are quiet and shy.
They'll probably vanish if you happen by.
It's only a fortunate few who have viewed
The STIR-FRYING PANDAS preparing their food.


My Family's Last Picnic

At my family's last picnic
We knew at a glance,
We'd soon be invaded
By armies of ants.
They swarmed over tree trunks,
They marched over rocks,
And soon found our blankets,
Our shoes, and our socks.

They ate all our crackers,
Our chicken and cheese,
They swallowed our burgers
With nonchalant ease.
They ate all our hot dogs,
Including the mustard,
Then downed our bananas
And coconut custard.

Those raves ants
Were exceedingly rude,
And didn't depart
Till they'd finished our food.
A picnic does not
Stand a ghost of a chance,
When it's at the mercy
Of merciless ants.


My Carrots Are Angry

My carrots are angry,
My scallions are sore.
My beans are so mad
They can't laugh anymore.
My radishes sulk,
And my artichokes fret.
My pumpkins are peeved,
And my peas are upset.

My cabbages grumble,
My broccoli glares,
My onions are sullen,
My celery stares.
Confounded, confused,
I don't know what to do
When all of my vegetables
Are in a stew.


written by Jack Prelutsky
illustrated by Ruth Chan
published by Greenwillow Books, 2021
Poetry for Children ages 8-12, 144 pp.
**Starred Reviews** from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal


The lovely and talented Catherine Flynn is hosting the Roundup at Reading to the Core. Take her a few bugs and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Happy October!

*Interior spreads text copyright © 2021 Jack Prelutsky, illustrations © 2021 Ruth Chan, published by Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, 2021. All rights reserved.

**This post contains Amazon and Bookshop Affiliate links. When you purchase an item via either of them, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee at no cost to you. Choose Bookshop to support independent bookstores. Thank you!

***Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

36 thoughts on “[crunchy review] Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast by Jack Prelutsky

  1. What a great review! This looks like Jack Prelutsky is as good as ever. He’s a favorite with my students! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a huge Prelutsky fan (wordplay and puns, much?) and your review did him and his latest book justice, Jama! I echo your observation about Chan’s illustration for “I’m Stuck to a Magnet” – the dog’s expression really does say it all. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I love Jack Prelutsky so, so much. He took up where Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein left off, and I daresay he lapped them and kept going. The clever wordplay is THE BEST.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jama, as a Prelusky fan, I was smiling after each poem because of his whackadoodle humor as you said. Every year I taught reading in an elementary building of grades 1-4, I had a Harvest Read-Aloud and served a bunch of Jack Prelutsky poems for all the children that flowed through my room. If there are any universal type of authors for all types of children, Dr. Seuss and Prelutsky always came out on top. Is he quirky, yes, but you got to love his undeniable humor. Thanks for the wonderful roundup of poems, all beautifully prepared for a tasty treat.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! So many funny poems. For sure I need this book in my middle school library. We need poems that are entertaining AND make kids think. This really fits the bill. Thanks for the review. I’m so glad Prelutsky is still going strong!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a special talent to be able to write age appropriate humor. A year older (or younger) can make a difference in what kids find funny. You have to hand it to Prelutsky for longevity too.


  6. I had to swear off Jack for a good while in order for other kinds of poetry for children to take their rightful place, but I’m ready to grant him star status again. Thanks for the fulsome buffet!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. For a change in my life, I actually know a couple of right-aged people who would like this book,maybe this year. THanks for introducing me to this author.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you so much for this delicious review that’s left me hungry for more Prelutsky! You’ve shared quite a tempting array of choices and the illustrations are the perfect garnish. I’m definitely keeping my eye out for this clever book! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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