Roses are red: Poetry (?) for Boys (?!)

Even though some of the greatest poets of all-time were guys (Robby Frost, Willy Shakespeare, and, um, a bunch of other guys), a lot of us male-type people steer clear of poetry.  Poetry seems to involve figuring out hidden messages, usually about feelings and stuff.  Why can’t we just read a nice straightforward book about sharks or superheroes in underwear?

However, it IS possible to find fun poetry about concrete things guys like: how about monsters, dinosaurs, food, bugs, snakes, and playing outdoors?

Dinothesaurus, by Douglas Florian (lexile: NA; AR book level: NA; 42 pp)

If you have young paleontologists who can identify most dinosaur species on sight, they will like this book.  Each of Florian’s clever poems describes a different dinosaur, highlighting odd facts about each.  The pictures are fun to explore, and the “Glossarysaurus” at the end includes more details.

What kept the Spinosaurus warm
When it was colder than the norm?
Spines much like a solar panel.
(And long underwear of flannel.)

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, by Adam Rex (lexile: NA; AR book level: 4.0; 39 pp)

The subtitle of this funny book won me over from the start: “And other stories you’re sure to like, because they’re all about monsters, and some of them are also about food.  You like food, don’t you? Well, all right then.”

The poems describe the woes of well-known movie monsters: Frankenstein trying to borrow food from his neighbors, Dracula going around with spinach on his teeth (no one brave enough to tell him), and the Mummy who won’t go to bed without milk and cookies (hard to eat, because his stomach’s in a jar).  And how could you go wrong with “Godzilla Pooped on my Honda”?

The illustrations are hilarious, and you’ll want to pour over them for the subtle details (be sure to read the poem-within-a-poem on the newspapers in “The Invisible Man Gets a Haircut”).   You’ll also want to read the sequel, Frankenstein Takes the Cake.

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys, by Bob Raczka (lexile: NA; AR book level: 2.6; 48 pp)

Boys like to explore the outdoors.  Boys like things short & to the point.  Boys like to know what’s happening right now.  The perfect poetic match is the haiku: a simple, 17-syllable comment on nature in present tense.  Bob Raczka has done a beautiful job in these 24 poems, each capturing a brief moment that he or his boys have experienced outside, covering all four seasons.  Combined with Peter Reynolds’ playful artwork, each is a celebration of boyhood.  One my favorites:

We follow deer tracks
in the mud, pretending that
we too are wild beasts.

The author has also created an online Guyku club, where boys can submit their own “guykus” and accompanying drawings.  You may be inspired to do the same!

Don’t Forget Your Etiquette: The Essential Guide to Misbehavior, by David Greenberg (lexile: NA; AR book level: 5.2; 40 pp)

Kids OF COURSE want to know how to behave properly in every social situation, and Greenberg’s 20 poems should cover all the bases.  In the company of plenty of funny illustrations, the narrator (“Miss Information”) talks about:

  • How to eat properly: “Meatballs and spaghetti? / No need to get uptight: / Eat meatballs with your left hand, / Spaghetti with your right.”
  • Dressing: “Tuck your tie into your belt / And wear it as a tail. / Put your undies on your head / And wear them as a veil.”
  • Classroom etiquette: “When your teacher asks a question, / Wave your hands a lot, / Then when you’re called to answer, / Say that you forgot.”

as well as dealing with babysitters, bathing, burping and even kissing.

You should read these out loud — IF you can keep from laughing in a socially embarrassing manner!

For more funny, gross, even creepy poetry by Greenberg, three of my favorites are:

  • Slugs (lexile: NA; AR book level: 2.3; 31 pp)
  • Bugs! (lexile: 1000; AR book level: 4.8; 32 pp)
  • Snakes! (lexile: NA; AR book level: 4.9; 32 pp)
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