Friday, April 27, 2012

Book #118: The Quangle Wangle’s Hat by Edward Lear, Illustrated by Louise Voce

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This picture book uses the text of the classic nonsense poem by Edward Lear. The Quangle Wangle Quee sits atop the Crumpetty Tree in his enormous hat. He lives on jam and jelly and bread, but he’s very lonely. Soon, however, Mr. and Mrs. Canary arrive and beg to build their home on the Quangle Wangle’s hat. He consents and the birds are followed by a parade of animals, from the Stork to the Frog, to the imaginary Pobble with no toes and the Fimble Fowl with the corkscrew leg. That night by the light of the Mulberry Moon the animals dance to the flute music of the Blue Baboon and were as happy as happy could be.

Lear’s rhyming poetry is full of nonsense words that just beg to be read aloud. I especially love the lines that describe the Quangle Wangle’s Hat:

“For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide,
With ribbons and bibbons on every side
And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace,”

Voce’s whimsical illustrations are placed in a coastal or island location. Although the passage of time is only mentioned at the end of the poem, Voce sets the time frame of the poem within one day. You can follow the progress of the day by looking at the sky and the lighting of each page, from orangey dawn to blue sky afternoon to a purple night lit by the Mulberry moon.

Before you read the book, tell kids that this is a nonsense poem and to be on the look out for nonsense words. After you read the poem, ask kids to give you examples of nonsense words from the poem and to suggest their own meanings for those words.

You can also read the poem without showing the pages the first time and ask the kids to illustrate their own versions of the imaginary animals, such as the Attery Squash and the Bisky Bat. You can then read the poem and show the pictures in the book. Remind kids that these animals are from Lear’s imagination and there’s no right or wrong interpretation.

This is my favorite illustrated version of this poem, but bring out copies of the other versions for kids to look at and compare. Janet Stevens illustrated the poem in picture book format and you can also find it in His Shoes Were Too Tight: Poems by Edward Lear, edited by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Calef Brown. A bit of online searching also uncovered a musical rendition of the poem by the Randolph Singers.

This is a great addition to a hat theme storytime and it would be fun to decorate hats with ribbons and bibbons, etc. You can also check out the hat themed activities from my previous posts (The Magic Hat, Millie’s Marvellous Hat, A Three Hat Day, and Go, Dog, Go!).

If your kids like the animals in this poem, try a few of Edward Lear’s other nonsense poems, such as The Pobble Who Has No Toes and The Owl and the Pussycat.


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