Poetry for Children

When you were young did your parents read poetry to you?  Do you read poetry to your children?  Our little Singleton has me reminiscing about my own childhood and I remember my mother reading and reciting poetry to me all the time.  I even memorized some favourites and could recite them by heart.

Of course, I loved being read stories as well, but there is something special about the rhythmic verse of a poem.

This week, I've had trouble keeping down anything other than toast and jam and Corey dotes on me and makes my morning toast so that I can eat something before I even get out of bed.  I know this sounds highly indulgent, but if you have had bad morning sickness, I know you'll understand how necessary it is.  Anyway, he called up to me the other day to offer me my usual raspberry jam or "other" ... which turned out to be a jar of marmalade I had accidentally brought home from my bridal shower.  The conversation that followed involved me trying not to throw up and lots of shouting between the kitchen and the bedroom.

Finally, we discovered that "other" was marmalade and that it's usually not a good idea to surprise a queasy, picky pregnant woman with an "other" option.  Having never cared for marmalade, I shouted down the stairs (admittedly a little too harshly) "I hate marmalade.  Never offer it to me again!  Why are you torturing me when I only want my usual toast with butter and jam?"

At this point, I burst out giggling because I remembered one of my favourite childhood poems, The King's Breakfast by A.A. Milne.  There's an illustration (above) and here is the actual poem:

     The King asked
     The Queen, and
     The Queen asked
     The Dairymaid:
     “Could we have some butter for
     The Royal slice of bread?”
     The Queen asked
     The Dairymaid,
     The Dairymaid
     Said, “Certainly,
     I’ll go and tell
     The cow
     Before she goes to bed.”
     The Dairymaid
     She curtsied,
     And went and told
     The Alderney:
     “Don’t forget the butter for
     The Royal slice of bread.”
     The Alderney
     Said sleepily:
     “You’d better tell
     His Majesty
     That many people nowadays
     Like marmalade
     The Dairymaid
     Said, “Fancy!”
     And went to
     Her Majesty.
     She curtsied to the Queen, and
     She turned a little red:
     “Excuse me,
     Your Majesty,
     For taking of
     The liberty,
     But marmalade is tasty, if
     It’s very
     The Queen said
     And went to
     His Majesty:
     “Talking of the butter for
     The Royal slice of bread,
     Many people
     Think that
     Is nicer.
     Would you like to try a little

     The King said,
     And then he said,
     “Oh, dear me!”
     The King sobbed, “Oh, deary me!”
     And went back to bed.
     He whimpered,
     “Could call me
     A fussy man;
     I only want
     A little bit
     Of butter for
     My bread!”

     The Queen said,
     “There, there!”
     And went to
     The Dairymaid.
     The Dairymaid
     Said, “There, there!”
     And went to the shed.
     The cow said,
     “There, there!
     I didn’t really
     Mean it;
     Here’s milk for his porringer
     And butter for his bread.”
     The Queen took
     The butter
     And brought it to
     His Majesty;
     The King said,
     “Butter, eh?”
     And bounced out of bed.
     “Nobody,” he said,
     As he kissed her
     “Nobody,” he said,
     As he slid down
     The banisters,
     My darling,
     Could call me
     A fussy man—
I DO like a little bit of butter to my bread!”

What do you think?  Cute, right?  And kind of silly.... exactly the kind of thing a child would like.  

Here are my other two childhood favourites:

The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson:

How do you like to go up in a swing, 

Up in the air so blue? 

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing 
Ever a child can do! 

Up in the air and over the wall, 
Till I can see so wide, 
River and trees and cattle and all 
Over the countryside-- 

Till I look down on the garden green, 
Down on the roof so brown-- 
Up in the air I go flying again, 
Up in the air and down! 

And here's my all-time favourite!  It makes me think of our big "scary" dog, Barkley.

The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash:

Belinda lived in a little white house, 
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse, 

And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon, 

And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon. 

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink, 

And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink, 
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard, 
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard. 

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth, 

And spikes on top of him and scales underneath, 
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose, 
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes. 

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears, 

And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs, 
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage, 
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage. 

Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful, 

Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival, 
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon 
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon. 

Belinda giggled till she shook the house, 

And Blink said Week! , which is giggling for a mouse, 
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age, 
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage. 

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound, 

And Mustard growled, and they all looked around. 
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda, 
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda. 

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right, 

And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright, 
His beard was black, one leg was wood; 
It was clear that the pirate meant no good. 

Belinda paled, and she cried, Help! Help! 

But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp, 
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household, 
And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed. 

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine, 

Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon, 
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm 
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm. 

The pirate gaped at Belinda's dragon, 

And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon, 
He fired two bullets but they didn't hit, 
And Custard gobbled him, every bit. 

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him, 

No one mourned for his pirate victim 
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate 
Around the dragon that ate the pyrate. 

But presently up spoke little dog Mustard,

I'd been twice as brave if I hadn't been flustered.
And up spoke Ink and up spoke Blink,
We'd have been three times as brave, we think,
And Custard said, I quite agree
That everybody is braver than me.

Belinda still lives in her little white house, 

With her little black kitten and her little gray mouse, 
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon, 
And her realio, trulio, little pet dragon. 

Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears, 

And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs, 
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage, 
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage. 

Growing up, I always wanted a relio, trulio little pet dragon, but I'll settle for two dogs with bad breath.  ;)

Do you or would you read poetry to your children?  Which poems are your favourites?  I'd love to add to my own list!

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