In ‘World Rat Day,’ poet J. Patrick Lewis invites youthful smiles—and flights of imagination

Cover World Rat Day by J Patrick Lewis and Anna RaffJ. Patrick Lewis already is inside countless homes, coast to coast, inviting children and their parents to read aloud from books like last year’s wonderful National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! That big, fun, colorful volume won all kinds of honors, including nearly unanimous 5-star praise on Amazon in reader reviews.

If you don’t have that particular book on your shelf, then perhaps you’ve got one of Lewis’s other 80-plus books! Lewis’s various titles have been released by more than a dozen major publishing houses. In 2011, the Poetry Foundation named Lewis its third U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate. In other words: You’re placing yourself in masterful hands when you buy, enjoy—or give away one of his books.

This year, Lewis is back with a fanciful volume that grabs hold of the calendar—specifically the holidays that chart our progress through the year—and encourages his readers to think fancifully about the way we mark time. He calls it: World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of.

The title poem in J. Patrick Lewis's new book for children, illustrated by Anna Raff.

The title poem in J. Patrick Lewis’s new book for children, illustrated by Anna Raff.

Given his career-long fascination with the natural world, most of the holidays he marks with playful poems—and colorful illustrations by Anna Raff—have to do with living creatures. His style of poetry toys with words, with the shape of his lines on the page—providing lots of fun for young readers and their parents. Envision a cross between Lewis Caroll, ee cummings and Ogden Nash.

Lewis claims that all of the holidays in his new book are real, although you’ll have to look far and wide to find the groups that “officially declared” some of these holidays. And, no, this book does not include a page of web links or other information about these festivals that he and Raff celebrate. But that’s hardly the point.

The real point is seeing our planet in a new way—and remembering the living creatures that make it such a marvelous place in which to live.

Lewis’s shortest poem is just six words in a single line for the mid-summer Ohio Sheep Day:

No one will ever forget Ewe.”

And, if you welcome this book into your home, your children will never forget your gift.

Review by ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm

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