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April Is Poetry Month

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Poetry Month is April. But rhyming words should be enjoyed every day.

These new books full of poems and wordplay for children are classically and uniquely appealing. Imaginations and whimsical fun abound.

"Stardines Swim High Across the Sky: And Other Poems" by Jack Prelutsky; illustrated by Carin Berger; Greenwillow Books; 32 pages; $17.99.

Poet laureate and passionate naturalist Jack Prelutsky combines his love of words and nature in this quirky collection of animal poems; in this case, 16 mixed-up animals. From Fountain Lions to Braindeer, Wedgehogs and Tattlesnakes, these newly "discovered" creatures are presented with incredible wit and silliness, perfect for young audiences.

Berger's imaginative pictures look like a wacky science project with three-dimensional collages, dioramas and shadow boxes that delight with their fantastical faux-realness.

Prelutsky's poems are smartly penned; Plandas for example "sit around all day, planning what to do. Their plans amount to nothing, for they never see them through." The Jollyfish "are radiant, ebullient blobs of mirth, with merry dispositions from the moment of their birth. Though they know their every motion is dependent on the tides, they laugh with such abandon that they almost split their sides."

Juxtaposing funny poetry with natural, "out there" science, "Stardines" is a gem.

"Quentin Blake's Nursery Rhyme Book" from Red Fox/Transworld/Random House; 32 pages; $8.99.

Sharing more than a dozen poems that may be unfamiliar to U.S. audiences, this originally-from-England collection contains new content and Quentin Blake's signature illustrations. Fishermen race across the shores to catch leaping fish in "Terrence McDiddler," a community of mice that over a pantry in "Pretty John Watts," while Gregory Griggs "had twenty-seven different wigs. He wore them up, he wore them down/To please the people of the town."

Perfect to celebrate May 1's Mother Goose Day, these treasured poems are as fun to read aloud as any other nursery rhymes, and they seem unique and classic at the same time.

"Something Fishy" by Barry Louis Polisar; illustrations by David Clark; Rainbow Morning Music; 32 pages; $14.95.

Barry Louis Polisar is known for his quirky poems and songs about animals and sea life. In "Something Fishy," the five-time Parents' Choice Award winner's bold, zesty poems pair with cartoonist Clark's exaggerated, colorful illustrations that results in a party of a read-aloud. "Sweetlips Fish" is "an odd name for a fish, And perhaps a bit explicit. It might be a sweetlips fish, But I would never kiss it." "Puffer Fish" reads — "When you grab a puffer fish/He blows up big and wide.

So if you're near, I'd disappear! Or simply step aside."

A truly fun poetry read, "Something Fishy" rocks!

"A Dazzling Display of Dogs" by Betsy Franco; illustrated by Michael Wertz; Tricycle Press/Random House; 40 pages; $16.99.

Following on the footsteps of the equally energetic "A Curious Collection of Cats," comes this new collection of visual poems celebrating all things canine. The 34 concrete poems, some winding themselves around the pages, others with words that form the shapes of fences, waves and newspapers, are zesty and fun. Completely wacky and imaginative, the poems feature personality-laden pets. A dog named Apollo wishes he was a seagull at the beach, and "Tough Bert struts around like he owns the park. And he's earned it with every fight," plus "Emmett's Ode to His Tennis Ball" is a "slobbery, sloppy, slimy sphere - oh, tennis ball, I hold you dear. You bounce, I bound up in the air. We make the most inseparable pair."

Wertz' modern, retro pages are as appealingly fresh as the flowing, moving, descriptive ditties they illustrate.

"His Shoes Were Far Too Tight" by Edward Lear; masterminded by Daniel Pinkwater; illustrated by Calef Brown; Chronicle Books; 40 pages; $16.99.

Speaking of wacky, funky, cool, this update of "The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear" is just as nonsensical but made even more lighthearted, artsy and fun with Pinkwater's selections and Brown's hilariously creative pictures.

In "The Pobble Who Has No Toes," the green spotted-faced pobble paddles across the Bristol Channel, "but not before he wrapped his nose in a piece of scarlet flannel." And just who are the Jumblies? Green-headed, blue handed folks who go to sea in a Sieve that "ain't big, but we don't care a button! We don't care a fig! In a Sieve we'll go to sea!"

Need some ridiculousness and joy in your household? Then this dream-like picture book fits the read-aloud bill.

"Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku" by Lee Wardlaw; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin; Henry Holt; 40 pages; $16.99.

Haiku is an accessible form of poetry taught in most schools. This cleverly worded tale of a cat's adoption from a shelter is funny and touching, with gorgeous art reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints. Heartwarming and absorbing, the story perfectly captures the feline alternation between aloof independence and purring, with words like "No rush. I've got plants. Gnaw this paw. Nip that flea. And wish: Please, Boy, pick me."

Humor also reigns, as the wide-eyed, newly adopted cat is dressed up for tea with the boy's sister and thinks aloud — "Letmeoutletmeoutletmeoutletmeout. Wait — let me back in!"

Powerfully effective, "Won Ton" will steal the hearts of those who love shelter cats and haiku poetry.

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

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