Readers Guide by Rebecca Neighbors
Lewis, J. Patrick. 1998. Boshblobberbosh: Runcible Poems for Edward Lear. Ill. Gary Kelley. Mankato: Creative Editions. Sandiego, New York & London: Harcourt Brace & Company. ISBN: 0-15-201949-9
Recommended Age Levels 8 to 16
1. Summary of book
This is a collection of sixteen nonsense poems dedicated to and inspired by the life of Edward Lear. Through clever use of humor, rhyme, rhythm and “bosh,” Lewis gives us a glimpse into the life of this iconic man. There is a drop of truth reveled in every poem, through which we learn about Lear’s upbringing, early occupations and passions in life. The Introduction and End Notes explain the poetry nicely and give some meaning to the nonsense. Lewis even includes a Chronology of Lear’s life as the final page of the book. Kelly’s illustrations are dark but have humorous elements also, complementing the nature of the book itself.
2. Special Honors
- “Children's Literature Choice List,” 1999 ; Children's Literature; United States
- “Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog,” Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
- “Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts,” 1999 ; NCTE Children's Literature Assembly; United States
- “Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars,” October 1998 ; Cahners; United States
- “School Library Journal Book Review Stars,” November 1998 ; Cahners; United States
3. Review Excerpts
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1998)
Lewis (Doodle Dandies, p. 896, etc.) turns his admiration for Edward Lear into inspiration for a collection of biographical poems about his literary hero. An introduction and end notes help readers locate real aspects of Lear's life referred to in the poems. Such an unconventional approach to Lear attracts and intrigues; it offers readers a sense of what it means to pay homage. For those with firsthand knowledge of Lear's work, though, the poems here pale--the information in them is more interesting than the way in which it is delivered. Kelley's imposing paintings are masterful in the technique, comic in the approach, capturing a bit of the nonsense in Lear's writing, but focusing more on his life.
Kathleen Karr (Children's Literature)
Edward Lear was an original, the nineteenth century's nonsense poet par excellence. In lyrical nonsense poems of his own, Lewis creates a loving biographical tribute to this globe-trotting, chronically ill twentieth child~and his cat, Old Foss. End Notes and a Chronology of Lear's life answer many of the natural questions rising from the poems, while Kelley's ultra realistic, edge of surreal artwork graces the lines. It's a lovely book, for nonsense lovers of all ages.
4. Questions to Ask Before Reading
- What do we know about the life of Edward Lear?
- What is nonsense poetry? How should we typically read nonsense poetry?
- What do we know about life in England in the 1800’s—when Lear lived? How might this affect the reception of Lear’s “bosh?
5. Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
- “Born in a Crowd” is a good adult read-aloud, giving children a chance to listen to a reading with expressive emotion. This may aid in initial understanding of the serious side of this poem.
- “A Day in the Life…” and “…A Night in the Life” would be beautiful in a wave-like group format in which each group takes turns reading a stanza going around the room.
- Lewis’s limericks like, “There Once Was a Man Who Could Cook,” and “There Was an Old Man of Dundee,” lend themselves well to unison readings in which the adult reads the poem first to help the children get a handle on the sound and then everyone reads in unison. This may allow children to better understand the rhythm of limericks.
- Some of the sillier of these nonsense poems, like “The Queen Takes Drawing Lessons,” and “In the Middle of Your Face,” would be appropriate singing poems. An adult or child volunteer could make up a tune (or use a familiar tune) and sing the poem. The silliness of dramatic singing would only emphasize the nonsense lyrics by Lewis.
6. Follow Up Activities
- Art: Find and discuss some of Lear’s drawings of parrots, landscape, etc.
- Geography: Make a map of Lear’s real world travels throughout his life.
- Science: Study some of Lear’s illnesses and discuss how they probably affected his day-to-day life.
- Writing: Make a book of nonsense poetry complied from poems written by members of the group.
7. Related Web Sites and Blogs
- J. Patrick Lewis’s Website. http://www.jpatricklewis.com/
- First Dog Book Talk Video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rcw8RTTO428
- A Blog of Bosh: The Edward Lear Home Page. http://nonsenselit.wordpress.com/
- Artwork by Edward Lear. http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/lear_edward.html
8. Related Books
About Edward Lear
- Kelen, Emery. 1973. Mr. Nonsense: a Life of Edward Lear. EP Dutton. ISBN: 0525662782
- Lear, Edward. 1994. How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear: Nonsense Poems. Ill. Bohdan Butenko. Stemmer House Publishers. ISBN: 0880451262
- Livingston, M.C. 1985. A Learical Lexicon. Atheneum. ISBN: 0689503180
By J. Patrick Lewis
- Lewis, J. Patrick. 2000. Freedom Like Sunlight: Praisesongs for Black Americans. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions. ISBN: 1568461631
- Lewis, J. Patrick. 1998. Riddle-Lightful: Oodles of Little Riddle-Poems. Knopf. ISBN: 0679887601
- Lewis, J. Patrick. 1990. A Hippopotamusn't and Other Animal Verses. New York: Dial. ISBN: 0803705182
More Nonsense Poetry by Other Authors
- SeaStar Publishing Staff. 2000. Silly Stories: To Tickle Your Funny Bone. Chronicle Books. ISBN: 1587170337
- Smith, William J. 1968. Mr. Smith and Other Nonsense. Delacorte Press. ISBN: 0440058937
- Cole, William. 1979. A Boy Named Mary Jane, and Other Silly Verse. Avon Books. ISBN: 0380459558