Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book #281: Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky, Illustrated by Carin Berger

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The 19 poems in this humorous collection feature a cast of animals crossed with household objects. In tongue-twisting, puntastic rhymes Prelutsky describes each curious animal, from the Alarmadillo to the Zipperpotamus.

Prelutsky has skillfully combined words to create poems that not only describe the animals with the meaning of the words, but also with the rhythm and sound of the words and phrases. I especially like the crisp, staccato feel of “The Pop-Up Toadsters” that hop and hop, “Then startlingly, abruptly stop / And place in slots atop their heads / Fresh slices of assorted breads.” Poems often end with a twist of wordplay. For instance, the end of “Here Comes a Panthermometer” reads, “We praise the PANTHERMOMETER / That helps us by degrees.” Prelutsky uses a wide vocabulary of wonderful words including, “circumnavigates,” “sweltering,” “fervor,” “cacophonies,” and “reverberates.” Try reading the poem, defining the word and then reading the poem once more. 

Berger’s collage illustrations are suitably bizarre and fantastic. She combines images of vintage objects (clocks, thermometers, toasters, keys, etc.) with shapes cut from newspapers, ledgers, sheet music, and other print to create the whimsical animals and their surreal surroundings. Phonetic pronunciation for each made up animal is incorporated into the illustrations, very helpful because some of the names are quite tricky (Try saying Eggbeaturky 3 times fast). In addition, The name of the animal is always featured in all capitals within the poem. A table of contents is also included.

Use some of these poems for a wordplay, riddle or “What do you get when a you cross…” themed storytime. Try pairing poems from this collection with books such as, Mr. Putney’s Quacking Dog, Guess Again!, YoungMacDonald or Apples and Oranges Going Bananas with Pairs.

See if kids can guess what you’d get if you cross a clock with an octopus (Clocktopus) or a tuba and a baboon (Tubaboon) before you read the poem about that animal. Have kids write their own poems about animal-object hybrids. It may be helpful to bring in pictures of animals and objects so kids can get some inspiration. For older kids, try writing the names of animals and objects on slips of paper and putting them in two separate hats. Have kids pick one slip of paper out of each hat. Encourage kids to draw a picture of what their new animal would look like.

Recently the San Diego Symphony commissioned Lucas Richman to create a musical piece based on the poems in this book. The recording of the work, narrated by Prelutksy himself, won’t be released until next moth (November, 2012), so I’ve only been able to hear a short clip of the piece. However, I’m intrigued by the tiny bit I have heard (part of the title poem) and I think it would great to share a poem or two using the recording for a different listening experience. 


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