Sunday, April 19, 2009

Time for a Poetry Break!

POETRY BOOK REVIEW: JANECZKO-- A poetry collection compiled by Paul Janeczko

Janeczko, Paul B. 2001. Dirty laundry pile: Poems in different voices. Melissa Sweet, illus. U.S.: HarperCollinsPublishers.

Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices is a collection of twenty-seven mask poems written by a wide variety of poets who write for children. The poems were selected by Paul B. Janeczko. In his introduction he states, “I collected the poems in this book because I love reading poems written in the voice of an object or an animal, as if that thing or creature were speaking to me” (Janeczko 2001, Introduction). The voices in the collection stand out; they appeal to children. Each poem is a personified object: scarecrow, snowflake, washing machine, broom, a crayon and more. The idea that an object feels or has emotions might very well be fascinating to children.
On a side note, I checked out this book of poetry from the junior high library where I am the librarian. As I was reading the poems in the book, I found a sticky note attached to a page that presents the poem, ”The Vacuum Cleaner’s Revenge” by Patricia Hubbell (p.14). I was pleasantly surprised, because the student whose name was written on the note was a former student of mine, and reminded me of the poetry project we did in class. She had chosen this particular poem for her project.

The Vacuum Cleaner’s Revenge
By Patricia Hubbell

I munch, I crunch.
I zoom. I roar.

I clatter-clack
Across the floor.

I swallow twigs.
I slurp dead bugs.

I suck the cat hair
From the rugs.

My stomach full
Of dirt and dust

I gulp another
Pizza crust.

A tiresome life—
All work, no play—

I think I’ll swallow you today! (p. 14)

The idea that a vacuum cleaner can think is a very whimsical notion. The imagination breeds kids’ imaginations, which is a step to enhancing their thinking process. Needless to say, I am leaving the sticky note in the book!
A nice aspect is that some of these poems allude to kids’ actions and how they treat the things in their lives. For example, “The Red Gloves” speaks of gloves that have been left behind in the playground by a child. It begins with “Hey, you forgot us!” (p.17). Leaving items behind is a typical occurrence in a young person’s life. The poems allow kids to make connections.
Most of the poems are written in free verse, but there are a couple of poems that contain rhyming lines. One is “Grandpa Bear’s Lullaby” by Jane Yolen; the first stanza is written as: “The night is long/ But fur is deep/ You will be warm/ In winter sleep (p. 30). Another rhyming poem is “The Cow’s Complaint” by Alice Scheril, containing end rhyme and a bit of internal rhyme.

The Cow’s Complaint

How unkind to keep me here
When, over there, the grass is greener.
Tender blades-so far, so near-
How unkind to keep me here!
Through this fence they make me peer
At sweeter stems; what could be meaner?
How unkind to keep me here
When, over there, the grass is greener. (p. 33)

A shape poem, “The Mosquito’s Song,” by Peggy B Leavitt (p. 24), is included in the collection. The words are actually in the shape of a mosquito and at the end, they narrow down into its needle-shaped proboscis. However, the poem is not scientific, but humorous, as are all the poems. Lighthearted and fun, the poems make me wonder how a poet generates a poem about something such as bacteria! But John Collis did in his poem, “Job Satisfaction,” a poem about a bacterium who lurks and lies in wait in food to make a person sick: “I snuggle into people’s food/ I lie in wait—I lurk” (p. 23).
The illustrations, by Melissa Sweet, assist the poem’s speaker. They are bright and colorful, and concretely representative of each poem. If the poem is about a broom, she paints a broom, as in “Broom” by Tony Johnston (p. 11); if the poem is about crayons, she paints a box of crayons (“Crayon Dance” by April Halprin Wayland, p.15), and so on.
The mix of topics is well blended. Janeczko chooses from all areas of life: nature, as in “Winter Wind” by Judith Pachl (p. 2); household items, as in “Washing Machine” by Bobby Katz (p. 9); wild animals, such as “Hippopotamus” by Ronald Wallace (p. 35); and domestic animals, such as “The Prayer of the Cat” by Carmen Bernos e Gasziold (p. 27). Children recognize and are familiar with these subject matters; they encounter some of the items everyday.
I believe this poetry would enhance any children’s collection. As the poems are read aloud, I foresee smiling and giggling, and a rolling of the eyes in some instances. What I also envision is children begging, “Read it again!”

Janeczko, Paul B. 2001. Dirty laundry pile: Poems in different voices. Melissa Sweet, illus. U.S.: HarperCollinsPublishers. Introduction, 2, 9, 11, 14, 15, 23-24, 27, 30, 33, 35.


  1. Deri,
    Too funny... I also found a sticky note on "Vacuum Cleaner's Revenge" in my copy of this book. It's popular!

  2. You should look int a Patriot hybrid Clean air system, This meets and exceeds most standards. As with the other vacuums if the filter but dont clean what good are they. I'm Winnie Gilbert from Idaho