Poetry Friday: "Oh, Theodore!: A Book of Guinea Pig Poems"
February 29, 2008
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.
I've been hearing and hearing about this book! And I totally want a guinea pig, too... My niece had one, and it grunted. It was so very cute...
Posted by: TadMack | February 29, 2008 at 11:07 AM
Yay for Theodore! Looks like you'll be adding someone to your family menagerie quite soon :).
Posted by: jama | February 29, 2008 at 11:08 AM
Just One More Book! is in with Oh, Theodore! today, too - must be a guinea pig zeitgeist . . .
Posted by: Kelly Fineman | February 29, 2008 at 11:23 AM
TadMack, Jama, and Kelly, "Oh, Theodore!" is the beloved book of the week at our house. We're thrilled to be part of the guinea pig zeitgeist today!
Posted by: Susan T. | February 29, 2008 at 12:38 PM
Uh oh is right. This sounds dangerous. I fell in love with Love and Roast Chicken, too, so I better avoid this. Thanks for the warning.
And when did Junior become a third grader??? Dang, I can't believe how time flies.
Posted by: eisha | February 29, 2008 at 12:52 PM
I know, Eisha, I know! Third grade.
Isn't Love and Roast Chicken a beautiful book? I think I may need to own a copy of that one. We had to order Theodore for ourselves as Jr. is so reluctant to return it to the library. So, yes, you're forewarned!
Posted by: Susan T. | February 29, 2008 at 12:57 PM
Wow! Theodore is having a great day!!
I do wonder how many new pets will result....
Posted by: Andrea of (of JustOneMoreBook! Children's Book Podcast) | February 29, 2008 at 01:25 PM
He is! I loved y'all's review, Andrea.
Posted by: Susan T. | February 29, 2008 at 02:41 PM
My kids had three guinea pigs growing up: Balto, Oreo and Fuzzy. I still remember the ecstatic look on their faces the first time they held them. They do go through the parsley, though. :)
Posted by: Sara | February 29, 2008 at 03:01 PM
Hey, Sara. Guinea pigs look so sweet; we're always admiring them at the pet store. I knew from Laura's review that we'd like the book!
Posted by: Susan T. | February 29, 2008 at 05:03 PM
Thanks for linking to my review, Susan. I'm so glad you like the book. I really thought it was adorable (in a good, non-sappy way).
Posted by: Laura Salas | February 29, 2008 at 09:27 PM
Thank you so much for the link to the article about copyright. It answered many questions that I have had jiggling about in the back of my brain but have ignored. I am guilty! There, I admitted it.
I am going to have to seek out Theodore!
Posted by: SG/Sandra | March 01, 2008 at 08:33 AM
Are there enough guinea pig books in the world for you to review one every time you give us updates and pictures (as with the chickens)? By the way, how are the girls?
Posted by: Mary Lee | March 01, 2008 at 08:43 AM
Laura, thank YOU for recommending Theodore. You can see that we really enjoyed it.
Sandra, you're welcome! I learned some things, too, when I was researching copyright. If you have a blog, I recommend a Creative Commons license, which protects your own copyright. There's a link on my home page.
Mary Lee, we just have to convince one other member of the family of the merits of guinea pigs. (That could take a bit of, er, lobbying time.) And, yes, our library has a surprisingly high number of guinea pig books--though nowhere nearly as many as chicken books! Other favorites from 1st grade were the Fluffy the Classroom Guinea Pig readers, by Kate McMullan.
Posted by: Susan T. | March 01, 2008 at 09:56 AM
This is a poetry book that I appreciated better on my second reading. I like the way it tells the story of a boy being patient with his new pet, allowing it time to get acclimated to its new environment--and shows a child who has respect for an animal.
Posted by: Elaine Magliaro | March 01, 2008 at 01:15 PM
Yes, Elaine, I like that the book shows a child being very patient, too. This would be a great book to give a new guinea-pig owner.
Posted by: Susan T. | March 01, 2008 at 02:05 PM