Reviews for If You Were a Chocolate Mustache

Booklist Reviews 2012 December #2
From Hippopotabus and circul8 to Cucumbersome, puns are a big part of the fun in this wry collection of nonsense verse by U.S. Children's Poet Laureate Lewis. Kids will love the wordplay and silliness that extend through rhyme and colloquial phrases: I flew a mammoth jet that's how / I learned to dino-soar. With each short verse, the line drawings add to the farce and uproar: the words of a trail of crumbs twirl across the page, for example. Young kids won't get all the allusions (When Billy met Ginny), but there is a lot here to make them laugh and look again at the sound and meaning of what they take for granted. One of the best poems is The Impossibles, with a quiet twist about giving up on trying to reach Forever and settling for Now and Then. A great choice for sharing across the curriculum. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2013 April
Having fun with rhythm & rhyme

These six sparkling poetry books speak to young readers of all ages, addressing a symphony of subjects with creativity, humor and style.


In the introduction to Wee Rhymes: Baby’s First Poetry Book, longtime collaborators Jane Yolen and artist Jane Dyer explain how vital poetry is: “Children who are given poetry early will have a fullness inside. Mother Goose rhymes, baby verse—that kind of singsong, sing-along rhythm—is as important as a heartbeat.”

In this charming collection, Yolen includes a few Mother Goose rhymes alongside her own poems for babies (such as “Five Little Fingers” and “Baby Snores”) and toddlers (“My Slide” and “Soap Dragons”). All are filled with warmth and sometimes a dose of well-placed humor, such as these lines from “Sitting in the Quiet Chair”:

When you’re bad
And make a riot
You must go
And be real quiet.

Dyer’s pencil-and-watercolor illustrations are lovingly sweet and a perfect blend of classic nostalgia and modernism.


Older children and even adults will be charmed by the short, thought-provoking poems in Pug: And Other Animal Poems. These short verses were crafted by the late poetic virtuoso Valerie Worth, whose talents are apparent in each selection. Take, for example, the last lines of “Fox”:

Streaking the
Dark like
A fabulous
Famous, but
Seldom seen.

Illustrator Steve Jenkins’ bold illustrations are a vibrant match for each poem, filled with color, texture and depth. Never cutesy, Jenkins creates animals whose fur can practically be touched, such as an opossum “Staring with serious/Eyes at nothing.” The eyes of Jenkins’ creatures will grab your attention, including those of a soulful pug, a fierce fish and a singing wood thrush.

Although no one has ever seen the imaginary critters in Stardines Swim High Across the Sky, they are indeed intriguingly beautiful. This creative venture by the king of children’s poetry, Jack Prelutsky, and fine artist Carin Berger is presented as though it were a naturalist’s field guide.

As the cover flap cheerfully explains: “While many creatures (two dozen species in all) were discovered and recorded and their precise qualities examined, we are presenting sixteen here for the first time and for the enjoyment and education of the general public.” Berger’s illustrations continue the ruse, consisting of dioramas, shadow boxes and a variety of other materials, giving this book unique visual appeal.

“Chormorants,” for example, are birds who never stop doing chores, and you can easily guess the characteristics of “slobsters,” “jollyfish” and “sobcats.” Prelutsky brings humor and verbal acrobatics to his poems, as would be expected, while Berger has created perfect pairings of artistic wit and cleverness.

Very much back on terra firma, Forest Has a Song is a lovely compendium of woods-related poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. A girl and her dog wander through the forest in a variety of seasons, inviting readers to share their discoveries.

Poems such as “Bone Pile,” “Colorful Actor” (about a cardinal) and “First Flight” (chronicling an owl) nicely convey the discoveries that an observant hiker might make. Gentle watercolors by Robbin Gourley add just the right suggestion of realism, while bringing the poems together into a narrative whole.


The zany poems found in If You Were a Chocolate Mustache remind me of Prelutsky’s beloved antics. Instead, they are written by J. Patrick Lewis, the current children’s poet laureate. He is certainly deserving of the title, judging from the smiles you’ll see if you put this volume into the hands of any elementary student.

Fun is the operative word here, with plenty of poems, some very short, such as “Rules for Tightrope Walking Between Tall Buildings”:

1. Whatever you do, don’t laugh.
2. Avoid looking down at the traf—

Matthew Cordell’s simple line drawings add plenty of whimsy—in this case showing a terrified tightrope walker making his way over honking traffic.

There are riddle poems, too, to keep readers engaged, and slightly snarky humor throughout, such as the short and sweet “A Special Bond”:

Each time a child folds her hands,
She may be saying prayers for you,
Or else she just misunderstands
How to use the Elmer’s glue.

Young readers will also relish the abundant humor in Tamera Will Wissinger’s Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse, also illustrated by Cordell. The poems here tell the story of a memorable summer day of lake fishing.

Young Sam is excited to spend the day with his dad, and righteously dismayed when his younger sister decides to tag along. What’s worse, she quickly catches eight bluegills while Sam still has none.

Happily, Sam soon lands a big one, and the trio ends up having an unforgettable day. Using varied poetic forms, Wissinger captures the fun and family dynamics of this fisherman’s tale.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
These poems in various forms and on a range of topics--from everyday things to fantastical creatures to purely nonsensical ideas--have silliness in common; many seem inspired by wordplay, exploring homonyms, anagrams, and more. Lewis calls for enough interpretation to invite second readings. Cordell's pen-and-ink drawings succeed at conveying movement and the impish mood with spare lines. Ind.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #1
Prolific versifier, author, riddlizer (etc.) Lewis offers this mostly new (a few appeared in magazines or anthologies) collection of laughs and linguistic lampoons. "[A] book is like an oven-- / What it's cookin' is book lovin'. / Set the temperature, then shove in / Every brain cell you can find." And there's plenty shoved in here, from two-word poems (not including the titles) to 30-liners. There are concrete poems and list poems, rap (from a giraffe), limericks, haiku, riddles and haiku riddles. There's even a jump-rope rhyme. There are verses on blog-writing dogs, insects, germs, boredom, school and the hazards of the incorrect usage of Elmer's glue and eating paste (but those are totally different things). There are myriad meters, rhyme schemes and shapes. A few are a bit tortured, and there are a couple total head-scratchers. However, poetry (and silliness) seekers will find much to feast upon. Cordell's scribbly illustrations bring the master (Silverstein, who receives a tribute poem here) to mind and are the goofy icing on this goofy cake. Verse seekers could do worser than to swallow down this course of funky, funny forms of wordy wit. (Poetry. 6-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 May/June
The U.S. Children's Poet Laureate has put together a collection of rollicking and informative poems. This anthology is filled with poems to teach with, or to just be appreciated for the enjoyment of the rhythm of poetry. Lewis has compiled limericks, haiku, riddles and story poems, etc. Some poems were previously published in children's magazines, but this anthology includes artwork. The partnership creates a book reminiscent of Shel Silverstein anthologies. The title alone will draw attention, but the poems will take it home. It would be an effective tool to support Common Core State Standards in more than one content classroom. There are riddles that allude to folklore, limericks that point out the facts of flora and fauna, and story poems that can be analyzed during literary skill instruction. Lisa Hunt, NBCT Elementary Library Media Specialist, Apple Creek Elementary, Moore, Oklahoma. RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 October #1

In offbeat poems that include haikus, limericks, riddles, and wordplay of every kind, current children's poet laureate Lewis offers quirky contemplations, silly vignettes, and improbable events. Rather than rely on a single theme, Lewis smoothly jumps between out-of-left-field ideas: a dragon serves as a clothes dryer, Bigfoot laments that he can't find stylish shoes in his size, and an old turtle complains to the sky that there is "nothing new under the sun," only to have his claim challenged by a snowflake. The result: loosely integrated poems that can easily stand on their own. Cordell's pen-and-ink cartoons have an improvisational energy that complements Lewis's off-kilter verse. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 October

Gr 3-8--This meaty collection presents more than 150 pages of poetry and wordplay. Each selection is flavored by a humorous pen-and-ink illustration by Cordell, who tends to favor a literal reading of events. For the poem "Tuna on a Roll," a no-frills, pen-and-ink drawing of a tuna fish wearing sunglasses and speeding along in a sporty convertible immediately gives the sense that "there's something fishy here." Besides fishy fish, the menu offers tongue-twisters; riddles; limericks based on body parts, e.g., "limb-ricks"; anagrams; puzzles; and haiku. Subjects range from a car that's light as a feather, with Marshmallow Fluff seats, to an imaginary pet on a leash whose owner can claim, "He never messes on the lawn./He's what it means to say, "Doggone!…" There are "Epigraham Crackers"; haiku riddles of U.S. place-names; homonym-inspired poems; and wry bits of advice, such as, "never eat your pretzels straight./A pretzel ought to circul8!.…" Lewis is not only one of the most prolific, comic poets; he's also one of the funniest and most inventive. The collection will serve as a strong resource for creative-writing prompts. A great big feast of poems.--Teresa Pfeifer, Alfred Zanetti Montessori Magnet School, Springfield, MA

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