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Rhymes Round the World

National Poetry Month: Rhymes Round the World

Rhymes Round the World by Kay Chorao

Poetry is a language each culture embraces in some form, and children take to it easily if we, as parents, let them experience and explore both it and our own enthusiasm for its pleasures. The repetition of the verse in this delightful book with its gently sweet illustrations are by turns soothing, silly and fully satisfying. I daresay some of these poems on sight may be recited from memory by parents, grandparents, or visiting aunts and uncles who will pick this book up and say, “Hey, I know this one!”

Many of them are easily recognizable and will trigger memories of your own childhoods. In few places can it be found to sweeter advantage and wider recognition than here in Kay Chorao’s Rhymes Round the World.

Standards served up include the Bard of Avon’s “Tempest”; the traditional French nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques,” here presented in its English translation, “Are You Sleeping, Are You Sleeping?”; and from Japan, the poet Issa’s “Motherless Sparrow”:

Come here to me

And let’s play together

Little motherless sparrow.

How many parents, including myself, can relate to our children’s need and desire to preserve and protect the helpless? With our family, it was an abandoned bunny that lost his way. Poetry is never more real than its application of the particular experience to the universal.

Shadow rabbits on a wall, dreidels, rain, candles on a birthday cake, piñatas, hot chocolate, ghosts, lullabies, kitty cats, snowflakes . . . and, I have to admit, I found my personal favorite. I found one I sang in singsong to my thirty-year-olds when they were young, and here it is. My voice isn’t what it used to be, so close your eyes and imagine two young girls in nightgowns, singing along with Mom.

Kookaburra sits it the old gum tree,

Eating all the gum drops he can see.

Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!

Leave some there for me!

Forgive me for my use of poetic license with the last line, but in our reading we said, “Please save some for me!”

Politeness, even in poetry, prevailed in the Shanks household!

I particularly loved to emphasize the word STOP! The girls’ eyes would widen, and giggles would soon follow. Loved every minute of it. So did they. They share these things with you years later. Trust me. That’s the thing to capture if nothing else emerges from Poetry Month. Don’t miss the “moments,” even if you’re rereading it for the twentieth time! Find the poetry book that’s the right fit, and read lots of them until you find the one with the feeling of a comfortable old slipper, and try it on with your children.

Those are the books that create the memories; the shared time is that most precious of gifts we share with the little ones we love. The making of memories is the sharing of a pure gift—ourselves and our time.

Have you ever heard an old adage concerning the three ingredients for happiness?

  1. Someone to love.
  2. Some pursuit about which you are passionate.
  3. Something to look forward to.

Well, this month of April gives both you and your children an opportunity to fall in love with poetry, to pursue it with a degree of passion when you find what you love about it, as you both look forward to discovering phenomenal poets aplenty in the years ahead to touch you deeply and tickle your funny bones. Love is always worth a try, especially when it’s poetry. Haven’t you heard? It’s been called the language of love—forever.

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