[leggy review] Animals in Pants by Suzy Levinson and Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell

What? You’ve never seen animals in pants?!? 

Slip into your sweats and get ready for a good giggle with the likes of pelicans in pedal pushers, polar bears in snow pants, and yaks in slacks. 🙂

These are just a few of the curiously clad critters in this hilarious new picture book, Animals in Pants by Suzy Levinson and Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell (Cameron Kids, 2023). 

Debut author Levinson has fashioned 23 pithy, playfully perky poems, tailor-made for discerning munchkins who like their animals tastefully trousered. After all, there’s nothing like a rollicking pants parade to get a leg up on the latest trends. 

Levinson’s menagerie includes both domestic and wild animals thriving in a variety of habitats (farm, suburb, range, ocean, jungle, North and South Poles). It’s uncanny how she’s able to capture each animal’s essence in such a short rhyme, delighting the reader with an element of surprise and brilliant comic timing. 

Of course a cat with an attitude would wear custom-made tiger-striped velour pants, a tracksuit would be the attire of choice for squirrels showing off their acrobatic skills, and monkeys would prefer cargo pants (gotta have those pockets to carry bananas). 🙂

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a little taste of Welcome to Monsterville by Laura Shovan and Michael Rothenberg

Feeling a little scared? How about sad or shy? Have you ever been surprised by a kind gesture or felt empowered by your dreams?

In Welcome to Monsterville (Apprentice House Press, 2023), Laura Shovan and Michael Rothenberg introduce us to sixteen fun and quirky monsters, each embodying a relatable human emotion or state of being.

The collection opens with this intriguing fellow:

Hello, children!
Please don't hide.
The gate is open.
Come inside.

We're glad you're here
in Monsterville.
Our tour today
is creature-filled.

Our residents
aren't ordinary.
They're friendly! Thoughtful!
Shy and scary.

They live with humans
side by side.
You want to meet them?
Come inside.

We soon sense our new monster friends are not only all around us, but within us. Have you ever stomped off to the green cave of anger? Want to be charmed by monsterflies, or revel in the pure joy of monster houses, who shiver and shake, kaboom and quake? 

Here’s a chance to consider, observe, and turn a feeling inside out via inventive personification, crackerjack wordplay, and imaginative art that makes the abstract visible. Here is validation and feeling understood. This book is an appealing reminder that poetry has the power to reveal as well as heal.

Michael and Laura

The backstory of this collection is interesting and poignant. On the eve of the pandemic, friends Laura and Michael (who sadly passed away last November) embarked on a ‘creative conversation’ after bonding over shared grief and confusion regarding their sons. Michael was unable to write for awhile, but found release and expression in art therapy.

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dream job: poet or engineer?

Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, London.
by Wendy Cope

'Why isn't there an Engineers' Corner in Westminster Abbey? In Britain we've always made more fuss of a ballad than a blueprint . . . How many schoolchildren dream of becoming great engineers?' ~ Advertisement placed in The Times by the Engineering Council

We make more fuss of ballads than of blueprints --
That's why so many poets end up rich,
While engineers scrape by in cheerless garrets.
Who needs a bridge or dam? Who needs a ditch?

Whereas the person who can write a sonnet
Has got it made. It's always been the way,
For everybody knows that we need poems
And everybody reads them every day.

Yes, life is hard if you choose engineering --
You're sure to need another job as well;
You'll have to plan your projects in the evenings
Instead of going out. It must be hell.

While well-heeled poets ride around in Daimlers,
You'll burn the midnight oil to earn a crust,
With no hope of a status in the Abbey,
With no hope, even, of a modest bust.

No wonder small boys dream of writing couplets
And spurn the bike, the lorry and the train.
There's far too much encouragement of poets --
That's why this country's going down the drain.

~ from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (Faber & Faber, 1986)

Poets’ Corner (South Transept), Westminster Abbey, London.


I always enjoy Wendy Cope’s wit and humor, but when she discusses engineers and poets, it really hits home. 

Talk about satire and irony. I’ve been married to an engineer for over 40 years and he’s never frequented “cheerless garrets,” nor has he had to “burn the midnight oil to earn a crust.” These scenarios are more in line with my own experience. 🙂

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Jail Break with Roger McGough and Banksy

“Create Escape” by Banksy
(using only dental floss, a large potato,
chilli powder and a green felt-tip pen)

by Roger McGough

Rise from your bunk nice and early
because today will be your Big Day.
Remove the dental floss from its handy container
and tie one end around the bars of your cell window.
Leave the rest dangling.

Peel the potato. As you are unlikely to own
a potato peeler or a Swiss Army knife
you must bite into it and break off
little pieces. Spread the mulch around
the floor of your cell nearest to the door.

I bet you know what to do with the felt-tip?
Correct. Draw green spots all over your face,
mess up your hair, then lie down on the bed
and like plague victims do in the films,
make loud wailing noises. You hear footsteps.

Having observed you through the spy hole,
the warder, moved by your pitiful state,
will unlock the door and rush in. Whoosh.
He will slip on the peelings, fall clumsily,
and skid across the length of the floor.

While he lies helpless on his back
like a giant cockroach, throw the chilli powder
into his eyes, and during the confusion,
leap off the bed and tie the loose end
of the floss to the inside handle of the door.

Jump back on the bed and continue to wail.
But be warned, he will be really angry now,
and threatening you with terrible revenge
he will stagger to his feet and storm out,
slamming the heavy metal door behind him.

Magic! The dental floss, suddenly strengthened
and made taut, will tug the bars out of the window,
leaving enough space for you to squeeze through
and drop into the yard below where the helicopter,
engine running, is ready to whisk you off to freedom.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention the helicopter.)

~ from That Awkward Age (Penguin Books, 2009)


So fun! One never knows when these tips might come in handy. 🙂

It seemed a good idea to pair McGough with graffiti artist Banksy, as both are British creatives beloved by the general public. They’ve made poetry and art accessible to the average person with their unconventional ideas, inventive skills, and a lack of pretension.

Banksy painted “Create Escape” on the outside wall of Reading Prison last year. The inmate, shown escaping via a knotted spool of paper from a typewriter, is thought to be Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, who served two years’ hard labor for committing “gross indecency with other men.”

Wilde was sent to the jail in 1895 following a retrial and later wrote his final published work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, highlighting the need for reform of inhumane conditions.

Banksy confirmed the work was his in a video first shared on Instagram, in which he shows himself spray painting stencils at night. In a cheeky twist, he spoofs TV art instructor Bob Ross by overlaying his narration with the night footage.

Fascinating to watch the elusive Banksy creating one of his masterpieces:

Note: In case you do need to break out of prison sometime, Mr Cornelius would be more than happy to lend you his helicopter. 🙂


Master punster Bridget Magee is hosting the roundup at wee words for wee ones. Take her some dental floss in case she needs to plan her next escape, and while you’re there, check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Have a fun weekend!

*Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

watch out for flying sausages

“A unicorn is just a horse with a point of view.” ~ Ron Sexsmith

Ready for a feel good poem?

Just press E-4 on your table top jukebox for yet another witty wonder by Pennsylvania-based poet Edwin Romond. While you’re reading, I’ll polish off my bran muffin.

by Edwin Romond

I thought the tiny table top juke box
would only play in my booth so I pressed G-6
for a cute little tune, “The Unicorn Song.” But
its first words, There were green alligators
and long neck geese blasted all over the diner
where a biker who’d just ordered the N.R.A Omelet
yelled, “Who in hell played that?” an inquiry
echoed by one with “Build The Wall!” tattooed 
on his biceps. Suddenly there was a diner duet
of Fox News on the TV and the Irish Rovers
singing about humpty back camels.
It was the fellow eating the house special:
ham, pork roll, bacon, and scrapple
with a side order of Spam who pointed me out,
“There he is, he’s the one!” as I tried to hide
behind my egg whites and whole grain muffin
while the entire diner got to hear about all those
silly unicorns laughing and splashing 
as Noah’s ark pulled away. Some bikers
were even moved to prayer and yelled,
“God Almighty! how long is this song?”
as verse after verse blasted through the room
filled with more chains and leather than 
an S&M support group. Amazing
how interminable 3 minutes, eighteen seconds
can seem when you’re dodging sausage links.
The last notes finally filled the greasy air
and my waitress whispered, “They’re gonna
kill you!” so I sneaked out the back door 
after pressing G-6 a second time just in case, 
to make America great again,
they’d like to sing along.

~ from Songs and Singers, © 2018
“Unicorn Rider” by Herr Nilsson (2019)
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