I think a lot of things and I am not always right about what I think. I tend to presume that people are not reading poetry, rhymes to little kids anymore beyond a handful of Mother Goose ditties. I could be wrong. I hope I am. If I am right about you, dear reader, and you need a place to start that is not Mother Goose, then please look no further. A Little Bitty Man and Other Poems for the Very Young by Halfdan Rasmussen, translated by Marilyn Nelson and Pamela Espeland is here, and with perfect illustrations by the always wonderful Kevin Hawkes.
The poems within, which are perfect for little ones but also very tempting for emerging readers with their brevity of length, simplicity of vocabulary and silly nature - I know because I tricked my emerging reader son who does not like to read into reading a few poems from A Little Bitty Man and Other Poems for the Very Young. Later on, I noticed him reading it to himself. The titular poem, "A Little Bitty Man," is two stanzas long and begins like this:
A little bitty man
took a ride on a snail
down a little bitty road that was shady.
The little bitty man
came to Littlebittyland,
where he married a little bitty lady.
Rasmussen (and his translators) capture the Mother Goose vibe and the sing-song-y tone of her rhymes. You almost want to get out a jump rope or skip around the house while reading these poems. Rasmussen also tunes in to that other kid's poetry great, after Mother Goose, with the poem below, "You Can Pat My Pet." Shel Silverstein would have liked this one, I think.
My favorite, though, is the poem (and illustration) "The Elf," which involves some very clever dressing as he prepares for a wintry day...
For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, Kevin Hawkes also illustrated the superb picture book by Michelle Knudsen. Hawkes also illustrated one of my all-time, top five picture books, Weslandia, by Paul Felischman. Both these books are in PAPERBACK and you should run out and buy them RIGHT AWAY!!!
For another charming little book of poetry to pass on to (or read to!) young ones, don't miss Amy Krouse Rosenthal's The Wonder Book, with brilliant illustrations by Paul Schmid.