Thursday, March 08, 2007

Poetry Friday: Bing Bang Boing

Bing Bang Boing written and illustrated by Douglas Florian. Harcourt Brace, 1994 (0-15-233770-9) $15.95; 2007 (978-0-15-205860-9) $8.00 trade pb

Although I've enjoyed Florian's work in the past, it's always seemed a bit overwhelmed by the "one poem, facing one illustration" picture book format. This much larger collection (144 pages) has a more comfortable, balanced feel, with poems and pictures fitting into each other on the pages and working together harmoniously. The result is a very enjoyable book that expresses the many moods of nonsense poetry: some pure whimsy, some ghoulishness, and some convolutedly revealing looks at life and people. With clever rhymes and a twisted sense of humor, Florian gives us some new ways to look at familiar things.

In Bing Bang Boing we find horrible creatures that turn out to be teachers, robots that write poems, and pease-porridge that, after nine days in the pot, might eat you. We also learn what cannibals prefer to noodles and cheese ("noodles and knees"), the real problem of the old lady who lived in the shoe ("Pew!") and the best way to swallow ones pride ("fried.")

We also see some sharp contrasts between the child world and the adult world. The poems written from the point of view of children are mostly delightfully silly and carefree, like "If I Eat More Candy," in which the narrator imagines the horrible fate that will be befall him if he eats more candy, ending with "the stench of my breath/Will kill birds in the air--But This candy's so good/That I really don't care!" Views of the adult word, however, can be somber, filled with pathetic people like "Mrs. Mary Musty" who covered the sea so it wouldn't get wet and covered the sun so it wouldn't set. To sum up the overall attitude:

Don't wanna be a grown-up,
A fat and overblown-up.
'Cause grown-ups always eat their peas,
Hide their mouths each time they sneeze.
Wear big woolen suits that itch,
Work all day so they'll be rich.
Mind their minners, act polite,
Always smile, never fight.
Talk about the things they've done,
And never ever have much fun.

(That is, unfortunately, only one of a considerable number of negative images of fatness in the poems.)

The mood of the book is is mostly lighthearted, however, and the surreal black and white sketches that go with the poems add some extra bite to their humor. (5 & up)

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