Tuesday, August 1, 2017


     Experience has demonstrated that verses for children need not have the simplified vocabularies of a first grader’s primer. Poet Rumer Godden was convinced of this fact after reading poetry in schools and libraries for ten years. “Although children may not comprehend the exact meaning of a word,” she said in an interview, “they are able to comprehend its meaning within the context of a sentence or stanza.”
     Muriel Rukeyser, in The Life of Poetry, maintains: “Use the word that is the right word for the occasion, whether it is a one-letter, two-letter, [or] twenty-eight letter word.  Beginning readers have a speaking vocabulary of several thousand words.  If the child has to learn the word, so much the better.”
     There are many words in my mother’s poems that may seem difficult for younger children, but they are the right words. Children thrive on the painless vocabulary enrichment provided by poetry filled with whimsy, fantasy, and amusing word play.

                                              Author photo from The Story of Little-Big
     These three activity books based on Ernestine's poems are available on Amazon: Poetry with a Purpose, Rhyme Time, and Read Me a Rhyme, Please.  The first two can be purchased for pennies, but Read Me a Rhyme, Please costs over $20 a copy, which suggests that teachers and parents held onto their copies -- as I have firmly held onto mine.
Ernestine's daughter Barbara  (March 2016)

Here is the link to the poet's biography in Wikipedia
     Most of us are familiar with the myths, fables, and legends that have been passed along from one wide-eyed generation of youngsters to the next. Ernestine had a special place in her heart for these imaginative stories, but when it came to retelling them, she just couldn’t help herself: they came tumbling out in verse. 
    You’ll notice that she has a twinkle in her eye and her tongue in her cheek when she gives these classic tales a new twist. For example, her version of Androcles and the Lion.  

Blogger’s note:  The nonsense rhyme below will help anyone (like me) who isn’t sure how to pronounce Androcles and where the emphasis should be:  
                             SOCrates and ANDrocles beheld a hive of honeybees.
                  Said ANDrocles to SOCrates, “Pass the salt and pepper, please.”

   Androcles met an old lion, one day,
     Who was limping, he instantly saw.
  Poor thing! On a ramble, he'd picked up a bramble
That painfully poisoned his paw.

 Androcles ever so gently removed
The cause of the trouble, they say.
        The animal yelped, but the manicure helped,
So he happily bounded away.  

    Many months later, enslaved by the king,
Androcles trembled with fright,
      As he heard a deep roar that he couldn't ignore—
Though he heartily wished that he might.

The king owned a lion, a powerful pet,
 With a hunger both greedy and crude.
  "Andy, my slave," said the royal old knave,
"You shall furnish my lion with food!"   
    He opened a cage and the lion sprang out,
            But something was strangely amiss.
         The lion licked Andy as if he were candy,
                                       And gave him a welcoming kiss!                                          
            "Good friend," said the lion, "I won't eat you up,
   Oh, not that you wouldn't taste nice,
         But one kindly turn rates another, we learn,
      Run quickly before I think twice!"   
                                                                                                              Grace Lawrence



  1. The tale of the paw-some was awesome...

    Okay...that was a stretch...

  2. I'll stretch right along with you, being delighted that you sawsome of my mom's awesome poems and made the comment about the friendly lion's