Poetry Friday: Good Sports by Jack Prelutsky
Good Sports by Jack Prelutsky. Illustrated by Chris Raschka.
Knopf, 2007 (978-375-83700-5) $16.99
Short, mostly unrelated, first-person verses give little glimpses into the hearts of kids as they run, skate, swim and play sports. There are triumphs:
My legs are sore, I pant and pant,
I can't keep up this pace--
But now I cross the finish line,
And I have won this race.
The batter hits the ball my way,
I watch it sail aloft.
I miss the catch, it hits my head--
A softball isn't soft!
I'm a gymnast,
I can vault,
Swing and spring
On the beam--
I'll make the team.
and also questions:
We're all done
And out of breath...
Who won? Who won?
I found Good Sports more fun to look at than to read. Raschka is an inspired choice as illustrator: his loose-limbed, dabs-of-paint-formed people naturally suggest movement, throwing, catching, dancing, falling through the pages. Playing with perspectives and proportions--a tense basketball throw is shown from above, the leg of a karate kick smashes onto the second page--the illustrations squeeze every possible bit of excitement out of the text. But there isn't a whole lot to squeeze.
With almost every poem written in ABCB format (with two or three in AABB, for a smidgeon of variety) the voices of the poems lose any distinctiveness, making the book a sluggish read-aloud. (The absence of titles doesn't help.) And there's not much in the way of exciting imagery, thoughtful insights or even sharp rhyming to help the poems spring to life.
Kids may still enjoy this book for its straightforward expression of emotions and its occasional broad humor, as well as its bold and exuberant illustrations: my eye keeps coming back to a football pile-up, with bodies flying madly through the air, and a an almost balletic baskbetball game, full of leaps and swirls. But adults asked to read it aloud more than once may find it hard to be good sports. (5 & up)