Review of I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
by Chris Harris; illus. by Lane Smith
Primary, Intermediate    Little, Brown    228 pp.
9/17    978-0-316-26657-4    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-26659-8    $9.99

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by… / Since then I’ve been completely lost. / Thanks for nothing, Robert Frost!” Harris’s impressive debut collection of over one hundred poems, riddles, visual jokes, and nonsense offers lots of surprising U-turns and detours. The title poem is proof that Harris knows exactly what he’s doing, even when claiming he doesn’t: “My teacher asked if I could find a word that rhymes with ‘hat.’ / ‘It’s something that a dog might chase.’ / ‘Aha!’ I said. ‘A car!’” There’s a dazzling variety of forms and subjects, which will keep readers engaged and on their toes. Supported by brilliant page design by Molly Leach (of The Stinky Cheese Man fame, rev. 11/92), Smith’s stylishly silly mixed-media illustrations raise the irreverence to sublime levels; many of the poems depend on the accompanying art and/or design to extend meaning and enhance impact. The occasional bickering between poet and illustrator (see the poet’s lament, “I Don’t Like My Illustrator,” and the artist’s revenge response) adds another layer of absurdity. Even standard book conventions aren’t safe: the appended title index contains a warning about “strange page numbering”; Harris’s acknowledgments rank recipients on a “Level of Gratitude” scale (illustrator Smith falls near the bottom — “I DO NOT LOOK LIKE THAT!!!”); and an unconventional “Outdex (of Titles That Did Not Make the Final Cut)” is comedy gold. There’s not a dud in the bunch — this is one collection that rewards repeat visits.

From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kitty Flynn
Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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