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The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems by Mary Ann Hoberman with illustrations by Betty Fraser

The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems by former Children's Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman is a perfect example of quality and quantity - all for the low, low price of $8.00! If you are only going to buy one book of poetry for your children, this is it! Hoberman has an obvious, genuine love of words. As Michael Atkinson says so succinctly of this book in his essay celebrating her inauguration as Children's Poet Laureate in 2008, "The Llama Who Had No Pajama is a kind of best-of collection, stretching back five decades, of Hoberman's short lyrics, which are arguably the most difficult for when writing for a preteen readership. (Book-length stories are forgiven any burp or dullness in language, but 10-line poems require an almost chemical purity, or else fizzle like damp firecrackers.) Hoberman's fluency gently tangos around from overtly (and acutely observed) mainfestations of kids' perspectives ('When I Need a Real Baby' thinks in perfect little juvenile bites: 'When I need a real baby / And can't use my brother, / My dog is my baby / And I am his mother . . .') to Seussian, as in 'Whale':"

A whale is stout about the middle,
He is stout about the ends,
& so is all his family,
& so are all his friends. . . .

You can open this book to any page and find a poem that will tickle you, make you think, or maybe even make you (and your kids) want to sit down and play with words yourself! And, if you read enough of these poems, you will come to understand the craft and precision that Hoberman brings to these poems that seem to trip of the tongue so lightly.  They may be short at time, but as Atkinson says, they are distilled to perfection and not nearly as simple as they may seem.

I'll leave you with this poem and illustration from The Llama Who Had No Pajama:

                          A rabbit
                       A little bit
                      An itty-bitty
                         Little bit of beet.
                         Then bit
                            By bit
                            He bit
                                      Because he liked the taste of it.
            But when he bit
                      A wee bit more
              It was more bitter than before
             "This beet is bitter!"
                           Rabbit cried.
                   "I feel a bit unwell inside!"
           But when he bit
   Another bite, that bit of beet
Seemed quite all right.
When all is said and done,
                        Better bitter beet
              Than none.


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