Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Presidential Misadventures: Poems That Poke Fun at the Man in Charge

Presidential Misadventures: Poems That Poke Fun at the Man in Charge

Bob Raczka
Illustrator:  Dan E. Burr 
Poetry
For ages 8 to 12
Roaring Brook Press, 2015   ISBN: 978-1596439801

In 1890 a bored school boy called Edmund Clerihew Bentley was in science class listening to his teacher talk about Sir Humphry Davy, who was a famous English scientist. While the teacher talked, Edmund wrote a four lined poem about Sir Humphry, one that made fun of him. The form that Edmund used ended up becoming popular and today these poems that poke fun at famous people are known as clerihew poems.

The rules for writing such poems are simple. They have to be four lines long and the first two lines have to rhyme, as do the last two lines. The first line should contain the name of the person who is being made fun of, and the meter in the poem should be irregular.

Delighting in this poetry form Bob Raczka decided to write a whole book of clerihew poems which feature the presidents of the United States. Many of the poems that appear in this collection contain true facts about the presidents who have served the American people over the centuries. For example, the poem about William H. Taft tells us that the president, because of his rather large size, got stuck in the tub. This, is fact, really did happen. Similarly Richard Nixon did indeed tell “a lie he couldn’t fix,” and Ronald Reagan did have a fondness for jelly-beans.

The author gives us poems for every single president, from George Washington to Barak Obama, and in each one clever touches of humor and word use offer future potential clerihew poets much to think about.

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