Friday, December 5, 2008

Poetry Book Reviews: Under the Kissletoe & Hanukkah Haiku

I’m sorry to say I never got around to writing a review of J. Patrick Lewis’s poetry book Under the Kissletoe, which was published in 2007, last December. Shame on me! Well…I couldn’t let another holiday season pass without writing a review of this Christmas-themed collection of light verse. And Lewis is definitely a master of light verse! To my mind, he’s the Ogden Nash of children’s poetry.

J. Patrick Lewis

Written by J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Rob Shepperson
Wordsong, 2007

Under the Kissletoe contains sixteen poems. Here’s a little taste of some of the poems included in this book:
  • Donder and Blitzen is a poem about two antlered friends who have spent years as “stablemates” and “celestial greats” traveling to the far reaches of the world.

  • Ten-Point Snowman Inspection is a rhyming list poem with a series of questions for a snowman maker to check out his/her icy creation to determine if it’s worthy of a stamp of approval from Inspector Snow.

  • Santa’s Summer Vacation is a poem in which eight reindeer fly Santa and Mrs. Claus to Santa Cruise where the couple plan to spend two months relaxing and enjoying themselves away from the elves.

  • Snow Star is a rhebus poem with directions for pressing a February snowflake in a book and then opening the book the next December to find a snow star printed in the book—a perfect present for Christmas Eve.

  • Winter Scene is a lovely rhyming concrete poem printed in the shape of a Christmas ornament.

  • What Everybody Wants for Christmas tells readers what Mouse, Bird, Squirrel, Fish, Cat, and Dog are hoping for: Limburger cheese, Jujubes, a honey-roasted nut, chocolate sprinkles, eggnog, and the mailman, respectively.

  • The Gingerbread House Song is a poem composed of five rhythmic quatrains that tells us what this edible structure is made of—including, among other things, chocolate nougat, licorice twisters, gumdrops, blue jelly beans, and graham crackers.

  • A Brown King, a poem of a more serious nature, is about one of the Magi who visited the stable in Bethlehem.

Here are the full texts of a limerick and another poem from Under the Kissletoe:

Mrs. S. Claus
by J. Patrick Lewis

A woman named Mrs. S. Claus
Deserves to be heard from because
She sits in her den
Icing gingerbread men
While her husband gets all the applause.

Why Santa Sometimes Prefers the Front Door
by J. Patrick Lewis

He remembers
Those Decembers
Burning embers,
Chimney holes,

When he splendid-
Ly descended,
But rear-ended…
On the coals!

Lewis provides a nice variety of topics and poetic forms in the poems he wrote for this book. There’s plenty of humorous verse between the covers of Under the Kissletoe—and lots of rhythm and rhyme and wordplay as well. Rob Shepperson, who has done editorial drawings for the New York Times and Washington Post, adds to the levity of the funny poems with his droll full-page and spot illustrations. Under the Kissletoe would make a great pre-holiday gift for a child, an elementary school classroom, or school library.

From the Wordsong Website: Excerpts of journal reviews of Under the Kissletoe

NOTE: I would like to thank J. Patrick Lewis for giving me permission to print the full text of two of his poems from Under the Kissletoe.

Written by Harriet Ziefert
Paintings by Karla Gudeon
Blue Apple Books, 2008

Hanukkah Haiku is a picture book in which the illustrations work as a perfect complement to Ziefert's short poems about lighting the candles on a Menorah (Hanukkiah) each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. Each two-page spread includes a full-page illustration on the left side and a haiku and a close-up illustration of a Menorah on the right hand side. With each turn of the page, one finds another candle lit in the Menorah and a haiku about the traditions of this holiday—spinning a dreidel, frying latkes, giving gifts of gelt, listening to the story of the Maccabees. Gudeon’s celebratory illustrations done in jewel tones are gorgeous. Her pictures, borders, and endpapers abound with intricate patterns and symbols of the holiday. The back matter of the book includes the traditional Hanukkah blessings in both Hebrew and English and information about the Shammash and lighting of the candles. Hanukkah Haiku would make a fine addition to a collection of holiday books.

From the Blue Apple Books Website: Reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have links to the reviews I wrote of children’s poetry books that have been nominated for a 2008 Cybils Award.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Mommy’s Favorite Children’s Books.


Kelly Polark said...

Love the Mrs. S Claus poem! Isn't the wife always the behind the scenes showmaker? :0)
Thanks for the great reviews! I will have to check these books out!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I liked The Mrs. S. Claus poem, too. It did strike a chord with me.
I always enjoy reading Pat Lewis's light verse.

I really love the illustrations in Hanukkah Haiku!

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Thanks, Elaine. I have not seen Hannukah Haiku but must now.

And what a nice reminder to get out my Kissletoe copy. I think I have it somewhere.


Jules at 7-Imp said...

P.S. I just went to Karla Gudeon's web site. WOW. I'm going to see if we can feature some of her art at 7-Imp.


Elaine Magliaro said...


Gudeon's art is gorgeous, isn't it? I saw some of her original paintings at the R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts, a few weeks ago and was really impressed!

Anonymous said...

Hanukkah haiku - man, I would've liked in on that action. Alas.

To my way of thinking, Ogden Nash is the Ogden Nash of children's poetry, and Pat is something much, much more. ;)

Lorie Ann Grover said...

Thanks for the sweet encouragement, Elaine! I really enjoyed your blog post as I haven't seen either of those works!

Elaine Magliaro said...


Pat is definitely one of the best writers of humorous poetry for children. My elementray students really enjoyed his light verse.


Welcome to Poetry Friday in the kidlitosphere. I look forward to reading more of your poems.

jama said...

Thanks for these thorough reviews, Elaine. You've definitely made me anxious to read both collections. The Ten-Point Snowman Inspection sounds especially appealing to me :)!

Elaine Magliaro said...


When I was an elementary librarian, I found I could never have enough holiday books at this time of year. The books seemed to fly off the shelves--as if they had wings.

Anonymous said...

The Santa prefers the front door reminds me of the Olivia Christmas book inwhich Olivia gets very mad at her father for wanting to build a fire on Christmas Eve. What great finds are these!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I'm just sorry I didn't get around to writing a review of UNDER THE KISSLETOE last December. My friend who owns a children's bookshop recommended HANUKKAH HAIKU to me. She knew I wouldn't be able to resist buying it.