From down in the bottom of the Horn Book boxes comes JonArno Lawson’s newest paperback collection of children’s poetry from Canadian publisher The Porcupine’s Quill. Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box (September 2012), a compilation of poems culled from one of Lawson’s earlier projects for falling outside its narrative scope, features an array of nonsense verse, biblical and fairy tale references, fantastical creatures (such as Solar Bears, Moonwolves, and Lunar Foxes), and a host of tongue-twisters designed to be read aloud.
Reminiscent of Ogden Nash’s, Lawson’s poetry combines deft wordplay with unexpected (often humorous) rhymes and a devotion to showcasing the rhythmic potential of the English language. But as always, Lawson’s signature focus on word sounds takes center stage. With masterful brevity, the majority of the poems stand alone as single quatrain stanzas, however, even the briefest poems contain a mouthful.
An octopus spots an illusory obstacle, unfurls a tentacle,
Chops with a Popsicle. Obstinate octopus! Awkward, impractical.
(Popsicle chopping is slow and suboptimal
when the illusion you’re chopping is optical.)
Through surreal imagery and disruption of expectations, Lawson constructs a bizarre world where anything commonplace gets flipped on its head.
Little Red Riding Wolf
The little dog growled,
the dish divorced the spoon,
when Little Red Riding Wolf
howled at the moon.
That dreamlike quality is enhanced by Mexican-Candadian artist Alec Dempster’s 32 full-page paper-cuts. Highly influenced by Mexican graphic art and surrealism, each illustration printed on the antique paper gives this book an overall classic and multicultural feel. It’s beautiful from start to finish.