Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Genre #3: Poetry - THE BOOKWORM'S FEAST

Bibliographic Data:

Lewis, J. Patrick. 1999. The Bookworm’s Feast: A Potluck of Poems. Ill. by John O’Brien. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0803716923

Plot Summary:

This collection of poetry on a wide range of topics is categorized like a menu with selections under the headings “Appetizers,” “Sherbets,” “Entrees,” “Sumptuous Side Dishes,” and “Delectable Desserts.” Lewis presents poems that mention books (i.e. Charlotte’s Web and Where the Wild Things Are), poems that play with rhyming (“Hunky-Dunky Donkey”), poems that build on word play (“Her-I-Cane”), poems that invite two voices (“The Framboise Fair”), and poems that invite fun with letters and reading. The references to literature, language, and words throughout all the poems remind the reader that this is, after all, a feast for bookworms and all who love the written word.

Critical Analysis:

J. Patrick Lewis’s poetry collection includes ample evidence of the elements of poetry, including rhythm, rhyme, sound, language, imagery, and emotion. From the beginning poem’s first stanza, Lewis sets for a rhythmic tone in which the story-like quality of the poem rolls off the tongue. His mix of short lines interspersed with longer lines allows the reader to get a real sense of rhythm going when they read the poems aloud.

Lewis also incorporates varied rhyme schemes throughout the entire book, with each poem displaying its own unique characteristics. In some poems, lines back-to-back rhyme, and in other poems, a rhyme scheme of ABBA is followed, with the first and last lines rhyming together and the middle lines rhyming together. Lewis’s variations keep the reader on his/her toes and allow each poem to stand on its own in terms of the rhyme scheme.

With Lewis’s somewhat silly approach to poetry and his love of wordplay, this poetry collection embraces the sound of words and the unique language presented in each poem. In poems such as “Heavy Metal Fellow,” Lewis plays on a similar sound throughout the entire poem, thus facilitating a nice rhythm as it is read. Also, the incorporation of words such as ‘soufflé’ and ‘Waterford glasses,’ as well as homophones such as ‘wear’ and ‘where’ make the poems more lively and engaging no matter the topic.

Both the poet and the illustrator in this collection contribute to great images that help further the imagery presented in the poems. From colorful bookworms to dancing silverware, the illustrations match the comical language of the poems, leaving the reader with a complete sense of Lewis’s poetry gift.

Review excerpts:

School Library Journal – “A smorgasbord of poetic forms and moods…the book contains poems for nearly any taste.”

Publishers Weekly – “With an irreverence suggestive of Ogden Nash and the silliness of Jack Prelutsky, Lewis and O'Brien whip up a whimsical confection of poems and drawings in a format just as enjoyable as the poems themselves.”

Personal Reaction:

This collection of poetry was silly, yet inventive. Lewis’s ability to bring multiple characters and words to life was amazing. His creativity and craftiness with language is quite apparent in all of the poems he has included in this collection.


· Choose a word that you really like. Then brainstorm as many words as possible that rhyme with the word you chose. Try to write a rhyming poem with the words.

· Write a poem for each part of the menu – from appetizer to dessert.

· Write a poem in which an object is personified (similar to “The Tablespoon Gallops Away”).

· Take the first five or six letters of the alphabet and try to create a poem in which the first words of all the lines match the letters of the alphabet.

Related Readings

Other Poetry Collections by J. Patrick Lewis
Doodle Dandies: Poems that Take Shape

Please Bury Me in the Library

Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku (with Paul B. Janeczko)

Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses

A Hippopotamustn’t and Other Animal Poems

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