I've Lost My Hippopotamus
by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
Greenwillow 2012, review from library copy
Generally I'm not a big fan of Prelutsky, but I wanted to give this new collection a shot. The cover notes that the book contains more than 100 poems. And that "more than" offers a hint of the problem. It's not exactly 100 poems, which would have set a limit. It's mostly animal poems - with a few exceptions. It's mostly the pun-filled, silly poetry Prelutsky is known for - but there are a few plain, thoughtful haiku which seem like leftovers from If Not for the Cat. All those factors together make this feel like a collection of leftovers, which could have been solved by tighter editing with more consistency. Urbanovic's illustrations add to the light and humorous feel of the poems. The black and white sketch drawings will fit perfectly when this book is turned into a Scholastic paperback sold at book fairs, but seem unfinished in the hardback book with its quality paper and lovely cover. But in a way, none of this matters because kids will like it.
My own problem with Prelutsky is that I rarely find that his poems reach across the wacky, silly, imagined worlds to reflect deeper things - like the Silverstein poems I see as his predessor. In the whole collection, I only connected with this one, and that's because my hamster also died, and I miss her:
The afternoon my hamster died,I think it's only right to add that my hamster was very nice and had a name - Cookie. She was particularly cute and social, always looking around for company. As the girls lost interest, she became my little nocturnal friend when I was up too late or couldn't sleep. Like the poem, she also had annoying ways - like dumping food in her wheel and then running in it turning the whole thing into a hamster maraca - and I cried when she was gone.
I moped around and cried and cried,
Although I readily admit
That I was far from fond of it.
It was a poor, unpleasant pet
That I should probably forget.
it never had a proper name...
I miss it deeply, all the same.
My hamster had annoying ways-
A tendency to sleep for days,
A knack for making noise all night,
A need to gnaw, an urge to bite.
In fact, it bit me more than twice.
It simply wasn't very nice.
Despite these faults, I cried and cried
The afternoon my hamster died.
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