Friday, August 26, 2011

His Shoes Were Far Too Tight


Edward Lear; Masterminded by Daniel Pinkwater; Illustrated by Calef Brown
Almost 200 years ago, Edward Lear made his living as a poet and artist, best known for his absurd wit. Mr. Lear had a sense of humor about himself and nearly everything else in the world. His first book of poems, A Book of Nonsense, was published in 1846. Lear poked fun at everything, which was the subject of his poems.

So is this a book of nonsense? Absolutely! The first poem is titled "How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear!" That seems appropriate, doesn't it? I guess there might be some factual information in there, but it is difficult to separate the fact from fiction. Did he drink a great deal of Marsala, but eschew ginger beer? Maybe that was the key to maintaining his perfectly spherical body.

He weeps by the side of the ocean, 
He weeps on the top of the hill; 
He purchases pancakes and lotion, 
And chocolate shrimps from the mill.

If that poem and the following ones are any indication, Mr. Lear must have been a heck of a guy. I think his most well known poem is The Owl and the Pussycat, which is included here. But are you familiar with The Duck and the Kangaroo or Mrs. Blue Dickey Bird? The Nonsense Alphabet is pretty great too, with a funny stanza for each letter.

A fellow genius and nonsense master, Daniel Pinkwater, selected the poems and wrote the introduction for this book, while Calef Brown provided the brilliant illustrations. I somehow doubt that Edward Lear's original books published so long ago were this captivating, with brightly colored (pink, purple, orange and turquoise) bodies swarming the pages. How wonderful that this duo created a clever way to introduce Lear's poetry to a whole new generation.        

Review copy provided by Chronicle Books.

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