Monday, April 13, 2009

The Underwear Salesman

I have always been a fan of J. Patrick Lewis's poetry, but I didn't start collecting his books in earnest until I heard a colleague of mine (Mary Lee at A Year of Reading) talk recently about how she sometimes has her kids study books by a certain poet on Poetry Fridays or during Poetry Month. An immersion study of sorts, only with one author (or in this case, poet). She really hooked me with that idea!

So imagine how delighted I was to see one of Lewis's newest books, The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse, at a recent seminar I attended. I quickly snatched it up and started reading the poems to myself. As I read, I found that I was chuckling repeatedly, page after page. I knew this was a book I needed to add to my J. Patrick Lewis collection!

From the title page on, Lewis engages in play on words: "jobs for better or verse".

In the poem titled "Exterminator", Lewis writes:
"I come to de-bug
What's under de rug."
Funny stuff, right?!!

Then there's "Garbage Collector":
"Things to do
at work:
  • Smash trash
  • Squish fish
  • Wrap scrap
  • Bind rinds
  • Close nose
Things to do
after work:
  • Hose clothes
  • Lose shoes
  • Shower (hour)
  • Suds crud
  • Quench stench
  • Comb dome
  • Great date"
The succinct use of words (kids would love to try their own 2-word phrases), the rhyming, and the use of possible unknown words are all great reasons for kids to explore this poem.

And, that's just sharing two poems. Each of the other poems is equally delightful for a multitude of reasons.

The illustrations, by Serge Bloch, are done in a variety of mediums and greatly enhance each and every poem. He really captures the essence of each poem. There are 47 poems about very eclectic occupations -- the words and word play are wonderful, and Bloch delivers on each page as well. I've heard that writers and illustrators really never talk with one another about the book, but you would never know that to be the case with this book. Lewis and Bloch have created a well-blended book of poems and illustrations -- words and pictures intricately tied together.

Finally, the book starts and ends with poems talking about a variety of interesting, diverse, and unusual occupations (Bill will happy to know that librarian made the list!), and the fact that there is no hurry for children to decide what they need to be. All those jobs are out there, and just waiting to be found:
"Hey kid, what's the worry?
There's no need to hurry.
You've got your whole life to find out!"
A great message for children who are too often in the fast lane. The Underwear Salesman would be a great book for them to read, enjoy, kick back, relax, and imagine all the possibilities that might lie ahead...

I can't wait to share this book with my class!


  1. I thought this book would be great to use when talking about classroom jobs/helpers and maybe giving them each a more professional name.

  2. This is a VERY fun collection! Happy reading!