Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

Marilyn Singer
Illustrator:  LeUyen Pham 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Clarion Books, 2012   ISBN: 978-0547124933

Many children associate the word “playing” with TV screens, computer monitors, and hand held gaming devices. They no longer equate playing with being outdoors. Thankfully, many people, including parents and teachers, are eager to get children outside again so that they can have a more active lifestyle that encourages them to interact with other children.

In this splendid collection of poems Marilyn Singer celebrates a wide variety of outdoor activities. Some of the poems describe games such as hopscotch and monkey in the middle. For example, in the poem Hide-And-Seek we hear from the hider, who stands “here oh so still” pretending that he is in Brazil “where lots of birds fly free.” Then we hear from the little girl seeker who is convinced that the hider hasn’t “got a prayer” because she’s “just too good at seeking.”

Other poems look at doings that are less ordered and more free-flowing. Playing in the sprinkler is just such an activity. We see how children use their imaginations so that a stick can be a scepter or a magic wand. Even a bucket can be the center of interest when it becomes a pot for making soup. Children toss grass, stones, mud, cheese, a celery stalk, an old cigar, and a piece of chalk into the pot, give it a stir, and “then throw it out and start again.”

With wonderful poems that are paired with vibrant illustrations, this book perfectly captures the joy that children experience when they spend time outdoors playing in the sun or under the stars.

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