Review of A Song About Myself

keats_song about myselfA Song About Myself
by John Keats; illus. by Chris Raschka
Preschool, Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.
3/17    978-0-7636-5090-2    $17.99    g

Raschka’s exuberant pictures and Keats’s playful nonsense poem make an irresistible combination from the very first page, which begins, “There was a naughty Boy…” A thick band of color runs across the middle of each page; Raschka uses it both to differentiate the four verses (each one has its own color) and as an integral part of the art. Sometimes the line serves as a road; sometimes as a perch from which the boy’s legs dangle; sometimes as a design element to divide up the page. Besides being a bright jolt of color, the line keeps viewers’ eyes moving, looking for funny elements while the ear is listening for the funny words. The poem features the kinds of rhymes that children love to repeat (“And away / In a Pother / He ran / To the mountains / And fountains  / And ghostes / And Postes / And witches / And ditches”) even if the words don’t make complete sense to them. The old-fashioned vocabulary, together with the dense sequences of words (“A glove / Not above / The size / Of a nice / Little Baby’s / Little fingers”) make it more of a book for one-on-one sharing than a group read, especially with the plethora of details to be discovered in Raschka’s watercolors. The playfulness extends to the endpapers, which show New York City on the left side, Scotland (where the poem was written) on the right, and “much water” in between. An appended illustrator’s note details the origins of the Keats ditty, written (as part of a letter to his sister) almost two hundred years ago — and now revisioned as a joyful nonsensical experience for young listeners and readers.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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