- Writer: L.W. Lewis
- Illustrator: Marta Capdevila
Thanks to Leonard Lewis and Jenkins Group, Inc. for the review copy!
Poetry has admittedly never been my thing, my main positive experience with it being the books by Shel Silverstein I read as a child. Those books (A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends) combined funny poems with whimsical drawings. L.W. Lewis’ Bathing Kitty and Other Mischievous Poems strikes many of the same chords, and I think fans of Silverstein will find a lot to like about this book.
The title of this book is truth in advertising. Most of the poems start with a premise and flip a mischievous surprise at the end. While my wife bristled at some of the implied misdeeds visited upon the younger siblings in a few of the poems, many of the poems have nice messages.
It isn’t hard to see the appeal for children with poems called “Why Do Flies Eat Doggy Poop?” and Never Invite a Monster to Dinner.” Many of the poems are accompanied by a black and white picture. Some of these pictures are cute (T-Rex, If a Poodle Married a Tiger) and some are kind of gross (The Purple Pimple), but they all mesh well with the poem. Befitting a book is intended for children grades 4 through 6, the poems use words that younger readers should be able to understand and pronounce. They are also short, meaning you can read as many or as few as your time and child’s attention span permits.
While outside of the target audience, I put the book to the ultimate test and read it to my 21 month old daughter. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give is that the book held her attention. Later, I saw her take out the book and flip through the pages, presumably looking at the art.
Interestingly, the book includes a “Not Too Funny Section” of poems honoring the armed forces, a reflection of the author’s military service.
After writing my review, I had the opportunity to interview L.W. about the inspiration behind his poetry. As It turns out, my comparison to Where the Sidewalk Ends was not misplaced!
Interview with L.W. Lewis
Darren: What led you to pursue publishing poetry?
L.W.: I was reading “Where the Sidewalk Ends” to my daughter and said to her, “I can write like this”. She said, “No you can’t Daddy”. My job kept me away from home so when I would write to her I would also try and send a poem. She brought them to school and some of the teachers encouraged me to publish them.
D: Which poets or authors inspired you?
L.W.: For poets it was Rudyard Kipling, Shel Silverstein and Ogden Nash. The author would be Edgar Rice Burroughs.
D: Tell me about the art that goes along with your poems. How did you find an artist, and what was the process for making the art? Did you tell Marta Capdevila what you wanted, or was she free to draw whatever your poems inspired?
L.W.: Marta is an illustrator for Mascot Books. I got to choose from several illustrators. Her work was very beautiful and very adult. She had never done any children’s books. She lives in Spain. We emailed back and forth. She was not sure she could do it but she gave it a try. I liked everything she sent. Our agreement was that she could do what she wanted but I had veto power. Since she is so realistic, there were times when she could not think of what to draw. When that happened I would give her suggestions. I like her work a lot.
D: Family seems to be a big theme throughout the book, how did your relatives influence your writing?
L.W.: Not overly much. Since I write for children I tend to stick to subjects that are familiar to children, hence a lot of family poems. Also, people who have purchased books sometimes send me funny happenings from their children’s lives.
D: Following up on that, did you really feed your little brother dog food?
L.W.: No, I did not feed my little brother dog food. It was my cousin. We would go camping (in his back yard) and Bonnie (his dog) would come with us. Bonnie liked people food and we kind of liked her dog food (it was Rival). We would fry it. When my Aunt Tina found out she did cry and we both got a spanking.
D: Tell me about The Not-Too-Funny Section.
L.W.: Poetry should touch the heart, it should make you feel. Good poetry should display good morals. Since it rhymes it is remembered. My hope is that I can instill good morals in children that will be remembered. However, if I write a poetry book for children that is entirely “not too funny” it will not be read. Those poems are at the end of the book because I am introducing poetry to children who do not usually want to hear it. When I do a program at a school I usually start out by saying, “How many of you really don’t want to hear poetry”? Usually everyone raises their hand. So I say here is what we are going to do. I will do five poems and you have to promise to listen. At the end of the five poems we will vote. If you want me to go, I will go. So far I am 100% voted for staying. But If I read “the not too funny” section that 100% would flip the other way. When 5th and 6th graders are asked to pick their favorite poem, many will pick one from the not too funny section. But you have to lead them there.
Thanks go out to L.W. Lewis for his time, and Kim Hornyak of Jenkins Group, Inc. for arranging the review copy and interview.
BATHING KITTY AND OTHER MISCHIEVOUS POEMS is now available.