Oh, dear. As if chickens, goldfish, and a cat weren't enough, the resident third-grader is now begging for a guinea pig, and Oh, Theodore! is directly to blame. Susan Katz's short poems and Stacey Schuett's adorable acrylic paint and goache illustrations create some of the most appealing guinea-pig propaganda since Love and Roast Chicken, a trickster tale from the Andes.
At its heart, Oh, Theodore! is about what it means to care for and love a pet. Told from the point of view of a nine or ten year old boy, the series of poems begins with the guinea pig's arrival as a shy, scared fellow ("But Theodore/just hides/under the hay.") and follows along as Theodore blooms under the sweet solicitude of his new owner ("He's my fuzziest friend./And I'm his biggest.") Children will get a good idea of both the chores and the rewards of pet ownership.
I first heard of Oh, Theodore! at Laura Purdie Salas's blog, where she wrote a short review. (Click here for that piece.) Salas, a children's book author and a poet, pointed out that Katz's poetry is free verse, saying,
That's not very common. Most poetry for preschool and primary grade kids is rhythmic and rhyming. That's fine—they love rhythm and rhyme! But it's also great for kids to see that not all poetry has to rhyme. It makes poetry much less intimidating for them when they want to try writing their own. And it saves us all from countless poems about the power of the flower, etc.
Meanwhile, uh-oh. After multiple readings of the book, I started combing through the "Small & Furry" files at Petfinder.com, which lists available animals at shelters around the country. Junior isn't the only one susceptible to some good poetic propaganda.
Poetry Friday is a weekly tradition at some of the children's literature blogs; for a full explanation, see this article at the Poetry Foundation. The roundup of today's posts can be found at Writing and Ruminating, the blog of Kelly Fineman. This just in: the podcasters at Just One More Book!! talked about Oh, Theodore!, too. Yay. Here's the link to their entry.