HarperCollins, 2012. 0061787256.
Synopsis: Inspired by William Carlos Williams’s “This Is Just to Say”, Gail Carson Levine delivers her own take on the false apology poem that gives the reader insight about the motivations for the mischievous and devious things we do, and the fact that we’re not really sorry we did them.
Why I picked it up: We’ve all been “sorry” we did something impish.
Why I finished it: This collection celebrates silliness, wit, and that satisfaction of having pulled off some sort of practical joke or another. While the false apology poem is perhaps not recognized as one of the poetic forms we study in school, Levine has taken the work of another poet and transformed it into a genre all its own. In the introduction (which falls somewhere near the middle of the book), Levine gives the reader a sort of outline for the false apology poem and the lack of niceties and sarcasm that goes into writing a poem that shows one’s true feelings about having eaten the last cookie or put bugs in a classmate’s backpack or stolen a scarf to use as a flag. The poems even explore some of the feelings of well-known fairy tale characters, like the cow from Jack and the Beanstalk. Cordell’s drawings are just as mischievous as the poems and in a way mirrors the sarcasm of the poems themselves. It’s reminiscent of Quentin Blake’s work in Roald Dahl’s books (Matilda, Boy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG) that, for those of us that have read Dahl’s works, gives a sort of nostalgic feel to the collection as if we are looking back at tricks played and remembering them with glee – like Schadenfreude. Fun to read aloud or while giggling quietly to oneself, Levine revolutionizes the notion of a ‘sincere’ apology.
Other related materials: This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski; A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski; Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard; Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger; The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems edited by Georgia Heard, illustrated by Antoine Guillope; Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse; Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems edited by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Michael Slack