Day 12: A Children’s Book for Adults by Dallas Clayton. A review.

It's Never Too Late by Dallas ClaytonIn college during midterm and finals season, I would keep my copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh The Places You Will Go” on my desk. I’d read it before I ventured out onto campus into my next test-taking adventure, certain that if it was not luck provided to me by reading those words, it was a certain bit of centeredness, calm, that I got from the ritual.

There’s always been a place in my heart for children’s literature, for nonsense rhymes. There’s a bigger place in my heart for literature that is fun, but has meaning. I admit it, I’m a sap. A mushball. An emotional sponge soaking up what is around me and feeling ALL OF THE EMOTIONS. It’s just me. I’m just that way.

“What would you care
of bills and debt?
Or opinions of people
you’d never met?”

The day I received a copy of Dallas Clayton’s new book, I stood at my kitchen counter reading it out loud to my daughters as I read it for the first time. Several pages in, my voice broke and my eyes welled up with tears. By the time I turned the last page, I knew I’d found a keeper of a book.

It resonated with me. It hit me at the core. It was indeed, a children’s book for grownups.

“And the truth
is that nobody has all the answers.”

And maybe it’s because of where I am and how life is – and if things were smooth sailing, perhaps I’d not appreciate it as I do.

“And everyone’s mind
gets all full of mess,
and we all read the signs
and we all try our best.”

Without getting too cheesy, this book is uplifting and spoke to my heart with a quiet simplicity. I didn’t find it overbearing, heavy handed. It didn’t feel like it was forcing me to try to feel something.

By and large a lot of what we experience in life, to varying degrees, is universal. There are struggles and we’re all needing to find our way, make the most of what we can. But I find that when I am at my most stressed, books like this from Dallas Clayton, or Dr Seuss bring a bit of calm. Maybe it’s the pictures – just how often do we get picture books now that we’re old? Maybe it’s the calming rhythm of the rhyming text. Maybe it’s the acknowledgment that yeah, life can be really hard, but it’s hard for everyone, and if you can look past some of this crap (Note: Dallas Clayton doesn’t say “crap”), you’ll see there’s a lot of amazing and wonderful things to be experienced.

“…or you smiled like a mom
or you cried like forever.

These are the moments
you’re going to remember…”

I kind of really loved this book. This one will stay in my library for awhile. And like Seuss’s book that I reread before exams, I am certain that there will be times when I’ll revisit this one for its comfort, as well.

National Poetry Month – Children’s Poetry Books

From the time we are born, poetry is infused into our lives in many ways – whether we realize it or not. Nursery rhymes, lullabies, silly nicknames. All poetry. From there, maybe your roads lead to Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss. And then onward and upward.

Chances are, your kiddos aren’t UNFAMILIAR with poetry. Which is good – because poetry is AWESOME.

I’ve loved – perhaps as much as my daughters have loved – looking at these books we received for review for National Poetry Month. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love children’s lit – this poetry? It’s FUN. It’s entertaining. And some of the book art is absolutely lovely.

Take for example, Stardines Swim High Across the Sky: and Other Poems. This book of poems by Jack Prelutsky features amazing art by Carin Berger – these images are dioramas, shadow boxes, and cut paper collages. Pictured above are the “Braindeer” (Braindeer are very clever, Braindeer are very wise. Their brains are very wrinkled and of a massive size…). From SLOBsters to Panteaters, this book is entertaining, but the art makes the book. It’s unique and special and really stands apart from most of the books we own

As a tremendous fan of Maurice Sendak and “Where the Wild Things Are,” I was excited to receive a review copy of My Brother’s Book, Sendak’s elegy “for his brother, Jack, his partner of over fifty years, Eugene Glynn, and for himself.” Described as the kind of fairy tale a grieving child tells, this book was moving and quasi-Shakespearean. And my kids hated it. I guess it’s fair to say that Pumpkin also hates “Where the Wild Things Are” and The Princess was disturbed that it says “To hell with you then!” She didn’t find that appropriate. Given how I mourned the death of Sendak, though, I found the book to be a welcome addition to our book collection – and even though the kids don’t love it now, I’ll hang on to it.

Two other volumes of poems by Jack Prelutsky –The New Kid on the Block and A Pizza the Size of the Sun feature a more age appropriate nonsense kind of poem that my children, particularly seven-year-old Pumpkin, seem to enjoy. These poems are short and silly and remind me a bit of Shel Silverstein’s work (though, I’m a big Silverstein fan – and while these are good, Shel’s a tough act to follow!). Because the poems are short and sweet, they make for great bedtime reading – a few at a time, with an easy place to stop for the night.

This probably isn’t even fair to the other books because we are such total Dallas Clayton fans in this house. Make Magic! Do Good! is just as lovely as the other offerings from Clayton we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. These are the kinds of books that the cynical side of me wants to dislike because they are so FREAKING POSITIVE, but frankly – we all could use a little positive. I find the poems to be calming and they make me smile. My daughters enjoy them as well. Particularly “My Mistake” – a good one for this house full of overachievers:

I made a mistake when I wrote this
then I covered it up with some ink
then my hands got mistaken and made a mistake
and they spilled it all over the sink
so I asked for a rag to help fix it
but they brought me a rug by mistake.
Now the sink and the rug are all covered in ink
and the writing has taken a break.
Now I’m down on my knees
And a scrubbin’ it clean
but the mistake that I made just keeps growin’
and I think
if I had it to do over again
I’d’ve made my mistake and kept goin’.


Disclaimer – I received the books for review but as always, my opinion is my own. Blah blah blah FTC blah blah blah.