I’ve called myself the only English teacher who hates poetry (which isn’t actually true; I just don’t get it most of the time) so it’s ironic that one of my favorite books from childhood is a poetry book. (Is it ironic? I might also be the only English teacher who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the concept of irony.)
I had always thought that Charlotte’s Web was my favorite childhood book. I had read it many times, had seen the movie, and I even sang the bass part of the barbershop quartet arrangement of “Zuckerman’s Famous Pig” in my college a capella group. I sure did (and still do) love that book. But it was not, as it turns out, my favorite. My favorite, I only recently remembered, is Poems to Read to the Very Young, an antiquated, oversized hardcover published in 1961 and now out of print.
I’ve thought about this book off and on over the years, remembering bits of poems from it, and had even done a cursory Google search for it once or twice, but it never showed up. Most of the time, it’s not on my radar. But then, last week, The Who had a “Poetry Cafe” at school, where he and his classmates (and the entire rest of the school at various times during the week) sat up on stools in the library and “slammed” a poem in front of invited parents. The audience even snapped instead of clapped. Chatting with the librarian afterwards, I recalled my own “poetry slam” experience as a kid, standing up at the local public library’s talent show, reciting from memory two poems from my slim, spring green, hardback poetry book.
“There was a little girl…” I started. “And she wore a little curl!” The Who’s school librarian chimed in. “Right in the middle of her forehead!” we sang in unison. And all of a sudden, more than anything, I wanted a copy of my beloved poetry book. Of course, by the time I got home, I got caught up in the swirl of daily life and forgot to set out looking for it again.
A few days later, a friend posted a photo on Facebook of her two kids pretending to be caged in under a couple of wire clothes hampers and I remembered — again — another poem from my book. I searched and searched for the poem online, remembering only that it was about a lion and a bear. You can imagine how fruitful that search was. I kept stringing words together in the search box, but kept coming up empty.
Until! Until finally, some magic combination of keywords led to me the illustrator’s name, which then led me to a picture of the cover of the book in a Google image search and then finally — I found a used copy on Amazon!
I ordered it. It arrived today. It’s exactly as used as my own childhood copy was — softened, worn corners, pages that smell like 1978. Every poem is a memory. I have never spent a better 13 dollars and 98 cents.