Even My Ears are Smiling

Weighing in at 121 pages and 86 poems, this new book from Rosen is not so much a collection as a poetry bonanza. Quentin Blake has illustrated previous collections, including the similarly titled Bananas In My Ears. On this occasion Babette Cole does the honours…in a style reminiscent of Quentin Blake. In fact, isn’t that the winged cow from an old Blake illustrated book of Roald Dahl verse – Dirty Beasts – on the title page? There’s no denying that Cole’s images – lively and copious – are very effective in bringing Rosen’s text to life however.

This is an excellent book for children in the five to eight age range. The poems, rhymed or not as it suits the author, are often simple in style, though Rosen injects enough invention to keep the reader engaged and challenged. Much of the book is devoted to the oddly mundane, or sometimes messy, moments of family life, but he can also do nonsense and whimsy – ‘Attacked by a Banana’ is very funny (and ironically plausible), while ‘Nursery Rhymes and Hairy Crimes’ anarchically overturns are expectations of its classic fare.

There is humorous word play in ‘To the Beach’ where “it’s cool to be hot”, ‘A Worm’ is blithely offbeat and ‘Who Am I?’ with beguiling imagery, wanders into existential territory. There’s also an amusing recurring verse, ‘Down Behind the Dustbin‘(“Down behind the dustbin/I met a dog called Anne/‘I’m just off now’ she said/to see a dog about a man.”).

Those expecting rhythmically identical stanzas might regard many of the pieces as non-poetry but this is part of what makes Rosen interesting: his words follow the beat of contemporary life. And the books visual familiarity ensures a comfortable though never quite predictable ride.