April is National Poetry Month, so I am very pleased that my first picture book, The Peeve and the Grudge and Other Preposterous Poems, made its debut this month. The timing could not be better. In writing this collection of poems for children, I set out to celebrate the ways in which children respond to words and idiomatic phrases that they do not fully understand. I love how children play with the meanings of such words and phrases, and I use this type of wordplay as the basis for the poems in the book. I wrote these poems from a child’s point of view, and I tried to appeal to a child’s sense of humor. The illustrations by Ana Zurita perfectly capture the humorous nature of the poems. My hope is that this book will not only amuse children but will also encourage them to take an interest in poetry.
Most of these poems relate to actual conversations I have had with children over the years. For example, the poem titled “The Peeve and the Grudge” can be traced back to a conversation I had with a four-year-old girl back when I worked as a preschool teacher. One day this girl asked me what a peeve was. She told me that her mother had said something about having a “new pet peeve,” and the girl wondered if a peeve was something like a goldfish. I asked her why she thought a peeve was a fish. She informed me that her mother had just purchased a new fish for their aquarium, so she figured that this fish must be her mother’s new pet peeve. She seemed disappointed when I told her that a peeve wasn’t a fish, and she said that she was going to name the fish Peeve anyway. This conversation stuck with me, and years later it served as the inspiration for my poem.
In some cases, the poems are based on comments that I overheard children say while I was out doing errands. A year or so ago, I went shopping for a new lawnmower. As I was looking at lawnmowers, I overheard a conversation between a father and his young son. The father was telling the store employee that he needed a new mower since his old mower was out of whack. At this point, the boy tugged at his father’s sleeve and suggested that they buy some whack. The father didn’t understand what the boy meant, so the boy explained that since their mower was out of whack, they should just get some more whack for it. This overheard conversation provided the inspiration for my “Gizmos Gone Bad” poem.
I think that children’s poetry works best when read aloud, and I hope that parents and teachers consider reading these poems aloud to the children in their lives. I have long enjoyed reading poetry aloud, so I decided to record a reading/performance of “The Peeve and the Grudge” on my Storied Charlotte YouTube site. To see this reading, please click on the following link: https://youtu.be/jvSZF5mUwPw
As we celebrate National Poetry Month here in Storied Charlotte, I urge everyone to take a poetry break and read a poem or two, and if you regularly interact with children, I urge you to include poetry when you read aloud to them.