"Poets are sometimes forgetful. They write poems and if these verses are ahead of their time or quite unlike their other poetry, they put them aside for another day....Something like this seems to have happened with Carl Sandburg's collection Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough to Vote." --From the introduction
These poems, recently discovered by Sandburg scholars George and Willene Hendrick, invite us to see objects as familiar as chairs, clocks, and pencils--or our very own eyes, ears, and nose--in an arresting and fresh new way. In this collection, Sandburg has fun teasing the imagination and making us smile, while Istvan Banyai plays a jazzy accompaniment in pen and ink (with a little help from the computer). For children ages eight to eighty, here is an intriguing little volume as bright and beckoning as the twenty-first century!
Sixty years ago, Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)--America's unofficial poet laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, biographer, and historian--wrote a batch of children's poetry, but it wasn't until 1999 that Sandburg scholars George and Willene Hendrick found these 19 lively prose poems amidst thousands of yellowed manuscripts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough to Vote
we learn that "Eggs may speak to buttons--that is correct. / Buttons, however, must not speak to eggs." Sandburg, like most children, also enjoys musing on various body parts: "The nose is to breathe and to smell with. / Eyes need two and ears need two but one nose / is enough if it has two nostrils." In other poems, he revels in defining and exploring terms that we often use, letting his imagination wander through each word's possibilities: "Stumbling is where you walk and find you are not walking." "Manners is when you know how to eat without being bashful." "Music is when your ears like what you hear." Familiar objects such as wheels, clocks, chairs, and pencils are all subject to Sandburg's simple, childlike "write-down-everything-this-makes-you-think-of" approach to poetry.
In the hands of the whimsical Istvan Banyai (of Zoom and Re-Zoom), Sandburg's poems meet their visual match. Banyai's basic, black-and-white, pen-and-ink illustrations--combined with computer-generated stretched, condensed, curved, or diagonal type--enliven and enhance the poet's wordplay with equally inventive results. As Sandburg gleefully investigates the concept of chair legs, Banyai shows a chair casually crossing its legs. As Sandburg pontificates on pencils ("Pencils too pointed break the points and / then laugh at you"), Banyai sketches the antics of a pencil-headed man (who doesn't seem to enjoy the sharpening process). This unusual collection will no doubt encourage children to open their eyes to a nonliteral universe, and perhaps jumpstart an interest in creative writing. (That's right--poems don't have to rhyme!) (Ages 7 and older) --Karin Snelson