Available now at bookstores nationwide. Paula writes children’s poetry blog Poetry Box.
Some poems are little more than physical graffiti, others mere lists. Poetry here is almost the wrong explanation for these. One favourite of mine is called ‘Our Dogcat’, plays with the conventions: Our playful cat/is a dogcat because she/can fetch a toy/and bring it back,” “Nooooo,” said my three-year-old, “That’s not right. Barney (our cat) wouldn’t fetch a ball. Dogs do that!” And that’s the point. Green likes to play with our minds but she can’t fool us − even the littlies know the rules. Dogs fetch balls, don’t they? Yet, this is a slightly challenging book − I found myself unsure exactly who the audience was at times. Perhaps it’s a book for all ages, one to grow with, like the best books are.
The ideas are simple, with the straightforward poetry easy to read out loud. The trickier ones are the more visual pieces. ‘Kite’, for example, is a two-page text spread in the shape of a kite in the wind, with a flourishing tail and a long string of words from the ground to the sky. I would imagine that all 7-year-olds would get a kick out of this nifty trick of breaking out of the standard ol’ left to right prose conventions. It reminds me of the cool little pictures I used to create when I first used MS Word and Excel.
Cats appear and reappear. The title poem is a taster − of the quirky eccentricities of our feline friends. ‘The Greedy Cat’ is my favourite. He likes his pizza and cheese and hamburgers and porridge and scoffs, scoffs, scoffs the lot. And then he naps, content and full. It’s nothing new, but the way the words come alive and literally drift around the page brings a delightful touch to the poem. It’s written with a certain naivetë, almost as if a child wrote it.
Dogs appear, too. Like the clumsy, cacophonous ‘Molly’ whose a genuine bull in the china shop. There are plenty more examples to find here, but I’ll let you find those − just watch out for literary vertigo.
Reviewed by Tim Gruar
The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems
by Paula Green, illustrated by Myles Lawford
Published by Scholastic NZ