If you want something for young children that’s full of zing and just a little bit different on the poetry front, then Anything But A Grabooberry is exactly what you’re looking for! First published by the wonderful Tara Books in 1998, it still feels as innovative as it was then.
Anushka Ravishankar’s nonsense poem that fills the book is based on the premise that I’d rather be anything else apart from a Grabooberry… The examples that make up that “anything else” will have young readers laughing aloud, as well as letting imaginations fly with what the dreadful grabooberry might be. And Rathna Ramanathan has incorporated the words into the book’s design, creating a visual treat in red and green through her exuberant combination of the words’ meanings and physical appearance.
As you read, you find yourself having to slow down over each page to savour the design. This in turn encourages deeper pondering of the meaning – thereby intensifying the enjoyment of reading nonsense! Choosing favorite bits is difficult, but here goes:
i want to be an elephant or a packing trunk
– I love the juxtaposition of elephant and trunk, and you can see these pages on this post from a Japanese blog, which also reproduces the book’s blurb in English;
i think i’d like to be sneeze
flying through the sky
– where “sneeze” and “flying” fizz across the pages and some of the letters are spun at angles – the “i” in “flying” becoming, appropriately enough, an exclamation mark; and
the sun, the moon or sixteen stars
any planet, even ours
Anything But A Grabooberry is perfect for getting children chuckling aloud, and both they and the adults they share it with will appreciate the book’s visual wit and sophistication. Do read this article by Rathna Ramanathan for some fascinating insight into the book’s creation – I especially liked what she said about children’s feedback on early drafts, and Gita Wolf’s comments:
I tested the pages out on several friends’ kids – their reading aloud of the typographic text on the page was an invaluable input. It gave the bee many more ‘e’s, and the grabooberry more ‘ooo’s… […] As Gita Wolf, publisher at Tara Books explains, ‘We found that children enjoy figuring out words like puzzles, since they have no pre-conceptions about this. Adults are not necessarily faster at comprehending it.’