If you are the parent, guardian or frequent caregiver of young children, you quickly learn that one of your main tasks, until trying to decipher the cause of a sudden crying outburst and explain why we don’t. throwing stones at friends — it’s reading the same books. again and again and again and again.
Because I love books and can’t always project my likes and dislikes onto my child, I’m usually happy when she asks for books, even the ones I’m really sick of. But there is a particular pleasure in reading a rhyming children’s book whose author has at least a basic knowledge of meter.
Because my daughter is not yet two and has terrible taste, she loves the poetic messiness of an (unnamed) Easter-themed counting book just as much as she loves the brilliant, metrically perfect work of Sandra Boyton. As a designated reader, however, I always appreciate a book whose pace doesn’t remind me of the futility of my MFA poetry – I’ve had enough in literally every other avenue of life. When a writer watches the meter, it doesn’t matter if the content of the book is sickening or Easter-themed – you can just relax and let the beat wash over you. Almost like sleeping! Oh, sleep.
So to the writers who counted those stressed syllables, thanks for doing little blue truck and Chick Chick Boom Boom and The hippos are going crazy! and The Gruffalo such joyful readings, even in the twelfth round, I challenge you to name a more inviting opening line than “A mouse wandered through the deep dark wood.” / A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.
And for writers who haven’t quite got it, I know a few hundred poets who would be happy to consult, and they all work on the cheap.