Let’s rhyme the roost together,
fill your home with poems that swing!
Cadence, meter, rhythm –
lines of verse that bounce and spring!
Those rollicking words serve as the opening stanza of Jeannie Roberts’ latest book of poetry, Rhyme the Roost!, a collection of 26 poems for children, each accompanied by an illustration created by the author herself.
While Roberts, of Chippewa Falls, is perhaps best known for her four volumes of poetry for adults, Rhyme the Roost! isn’t exactly a departure: She previously penned a children’s book, Let’s Make Faces! (2009), and some of the poems in the new volume date back nearly two decades.
Writing poetry for children offers a chance to be silly, to impart some gentle lessons, and to spark youngsters’ love of words, Roberts says. “With children, it’s that really intentional rhyme, which is a component for them to start to really love language,” she said when asked about the difference between writing for children and writing for adults. “There’s a beat and a rhythm and a sound that makes them want to sing along. It’s magical.”
Magic and imagination are key to this collection. Consider the poem “What If …?” and its flurry of absurd, colorful images:
What if trees grew dollar bills?
What if heat gave us the chills?
What if crocodiles could write?
What if snow was black not white?
Or take another poems, “Hailey’s Hair,” in which, when released from its braids, a girl’s hair “scurries out the bedroom door” and “climbs directly up the wall!” Other poems address topics ranging from fingers and toes to holidays to the changing seasons.
Eau Claire author B.J. Hollars compares Roberts’ wordplay to that of iconic children’s poets Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic) and Jack Prelutsky (The New Kid on the Block and scores of others). “Page after page,” Hollars writes, “Roberts’ poems always hit the sweet spot: that perfect place where wonder and whimsy meet.”
Roberts fell in love with writing in junior high school thanks to the encouragement of a teacher. She began writing the poems in the collection around 2002 – when her now 25-year-old son was a youngster – and eventually created intricate, colorful illustrations for each of them with Faber-Castell artist pens. For a time, she sought a publisher willing to print the book with illustrations in color, but she learned this would be prohibitively expense, and instead opted to publish the volume with black-and-white drawings instead. Inspired by Roberts’ vivid language, your kiddos will undoubtedly fill in the colors in their own minds.
Roberts suggests the verses from Rhyme the Roost! are perfect to read to your little ones at bedtime: For haggard parents trying to expedite the onset of sleep, a few fun poems can taken the place of demands for “just one more book!”
Rhyme the Roost! is available through the publisher, Kelsay Books (kelsaybooks.com); on Amazon.com; and at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire. Learn more about Roberts writing at rhymetheroostbooks.com