Giggles and Niggles by Jenny Erlanger, illustrations by Loren Stewart (Haddington Press, 2007) RRP $15.00
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
The cover of this book and the poems it contains clearly demonstrates this is a child-friendly collection. Many poets writing for children suppose that younger readers are generally more interested in nature (weather, birds, animals, trees etc) than in poems about children’s lives. But Erlanger ‘gets’ it; that more than anything kids want to read about themselves and their lives. Thus, in this 70 page collection of rhyming poems, you will find titles such as ‘Blabbermouth’, ‘How to Get Rid of Peas’, ‘Party at Luna Park’, ‘Teacher’s Pet’ and ‘School Sleepover.’
The poems are not categorised under sub-headings which is fine as this is really a collection for dipping into. Appropriately, the first poem in the book, is titled ‘Me’; this is immediately followed by poems about swimming, bath-time, shoes that hurt, a baby brother’s tantrums and so on. Most of the poems are shortish, no more than a page (or a page and a half), another way to get children reading. (My observation is that most children prefer short poems to long narratives). In ‘My Classroom’, the narrator says, ‘Our room’s like a packet of smarties./It’s crammed full of colour and fun./Every spot, every place/Every spare bit of space/Is filled up with things we have done.’ Like all of the poems in this book, this poem is child-centric and therefore full of child-appeal.
Some of the shorter poems I particularly enjoyed were ‘I Win!’, a quatrain about winning at a family game of Monopoly, ‘Operation Teddy’ about a stuffed bear being repaired and ‘Assistant Cook’ where a child helping in the kitchen really only wants to lick the bowl (don’t all kids?) Erlinger not only writes gentle, simple, charming and easy-to-read verse, but she knows exactly how a child thinks and behaves — and what interests him or her. One can imagine a teacher reading these poems to her class, or a parent being read Erlanger’s poems by his or her child. The poems are also ideal for reading on the page. Black and white line illustrations by Stewart who has won awards and scholarships in the fields of design and illustration enhance the book as well.
This is a poetry collection that should be in the hands of all young readers from the ages of seven to ten years.
Inspired by A.A Milne’s poetry in her early pre-school years, Jenny has been writing rhyming verse since she first learnt to write. Her children’s poems, most of which are written through the eyes of a child, draw attention to the simple everyday things and emotional ups and downs that help shape our lives.
Jenny has had a number of poems published in “The School Magazine” and two poems were published in “Hopscotch” (Jelli-Beanz Publishing, 2011).
Giggles and Niggles is Jenny’s first volume of children’s poetry. Although the book is currently out of print and may be difficult to obtain now from bookstores, Jenny has a number of extra copies she can send to interested buyers. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the book costs $15.