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Poetry Books Make Reading Fun

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Introducing imaginative poetry books to young readers is a great way to get them back into the reading mode.

"Hypnotize a Tiger" by Calef Brown; Henry Holt; 138 pages; $17.99.

Author/artist Calef Brown calls himself an "Enthusiologist," which is apparent in this lively book of whimsy and quirky verses. His 138 pages of oddities bring up subjects most of us never think about.

"Satellites know of our whereabouts / Within a few inches or thereabouts / Is this something anyone cares about? / They'll tell us, I hope, when there's bears about," sings one poem, above a blue, white and black sketch of a boy gazing up at a satellite and a bear gazing at him.

The poem "Interview With a Termite" is hilarity for sure, as is "The Vulture," in which the titular character realizes: "A normal dinner would feel so nice. Grilled asparagus and wild rice without the wretched carrion. Something vegetarian."

Organized in chapters such as "The Critterverse," "My Peeps," "Schoolishness" and "Poems of a Particular Vehicular Nature," "Hypnotize a Tiger" is downright fun.

"Expanzaramadingdong" by Jason Steinberg; illustrated by Keith Klein; Dream With Me Press; 173 pages; $19.99.

Looking like a newer Shel Silverstein tome, with a whopping 173 pages of kid-friendly poems, Jason Steinberg's collection gives insight to life's wonders. From celebrating things such as caterpillars, growing old and the possibilities of a blank canvas, his vast compilation has something for everyone, of all ages, and is imaginative and clearly written. Keith Kline's black-and-white sketches demonstrate each poem, and are also clean and child-friendly.

"Expanzaramadingdong" also teaches invaluable lessons, in a fun manner, about the perils of having too much, wasting potential and not doing one's best.

A smart gift book that takes off where Silverstein left off, Steinberg's book is classic and entertaining.

"Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse" by Leslie Bulion; illustrated by Mike Lowery; Peachtree Publishing; 48 pages; $14.95.

With a scrapbook-like setup of quirky drawings, poetic puzzles in verse (a la fresh Shakespeare) and hints for answers, Leslie Bulion's biology-based anatomical riddles will appeal to kids who like their thinking "gross" and down to earth.

Cartoonish drawings and sometimes wretchedly real lines will spark young readers' interests in poetry and human biology.

There's also a glossary of scientific terms and appended notes on poetic form and the Shakespearean works that inspired the verses.

"The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers" by Michael J. Rosen; illustrated by Lee White; Candlewick Press; 56 pages; $17.99.

As a new cat owner, this charming book of cat haiku poems is more informative to me than most cat guides. Funny and memorable moments about different cat breeds, coupled with Lee White's personable illustrations, make Michael J. Rosen's picture book a beautiful must-have for cat lovers. Rosen introduces 20 popular cat breeds, including some about the Turkish Angora and the Norwegian forest cat, that allude to far-off, exotic places.

With added facts at the back of the book and irresistible little poems ("Turkish Angora / whooshing down the hall: Angora, then her all-white / dust devil of hair") "The Maine Coon's Haiku" is truly a gem.

"Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry" by Vern Kousky; Nancy Paulson Books/Penguin; 30 pages; $16.99.

Otto loves poetry, and recites Keats, T.S. Eliot and Dickinson in the forest. At first, other owls make fun of him and call him Blotto the Bard, but eventually, as Otto recites more and more, the naysayers come around. Soon Otto recites for eager audiences who love his poetry so much they begin to write their own.

With a valuable lesson about being accepted for who you are and sticking with your passion, Vern Kousky's charming tale is also full of enchanting forest scenes, made more lovely with classic poetry.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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