Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Because I Could Not Stop My Bike And Other Poems

Because I Could Not Stop My Bike And Other Poems

Karen Jo Shapiro
Illustrator:  Matt Faulkner 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Charlesbridge Publishing, 2005   ISBN: 978-1580891059

Have you ever heard the poem "How do I love thee" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning? In this famous poem Browning writes: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways / I love thee to the depth and breadth and height/ My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight/ For the ends of Being and ideal Grace." It is a beautiful poem of course, but do you really understand it, and does it say anything to you? If not then you might enjoy Karen Jo Shapiro's version in which she writes "How do I love ketchup? Let me count the ways... / I tried it first on burger and fries / that's all I did for many days."

Using similar rhythms and meters to the ones used in the original poems, Shapiro has taken twenty-six classic poems and turned them into twenty-six kid-friendly poems that are funny, clever, and highly entertaining. She has taken passages from Shakespeare's plays, as well as poems by such poets as Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, William Blake, Robert Burns, Emily Dickinson and others. She turns "O My Luve's like a red, red rose/ That's newly sprung in June" into "Oh! My nose is like a red, red rose/ That's newly burnt in June."  It is hard to read this and not to laugh, for most of us have got a sunburned nose in summer at one time or another.

Children will love these poems, and the funny illustrations that go with them. Adults who are fond of classic poetry will be hard pressed not to laugh at and appreciate these "apologies," which Karen Jo Shapiro has so skillfully created.