Kennedy, X.J. illus. by Joy Allen. Exploding Gravy: Poems to Make You Laugh. Little, Brown 2002. ISBN 978-0316384230 128 pp. $
Having never read anything by Kennedy, this compendium of the funniest poems of Kennedy was a treat (not the snack kind). Arranged by themes such as Families, Food, Monsters, Folklore, etc, these are humorous poems that one can’t help comparing to Shel Silverstein’s writing, because they are so similar in theme and style. Kennedy’s rhyme scheme is more subtle and less sing-songy. She also makes more use of traditional forms, such as in “A Day of Play” a limerick, and “A Social Mixer,” a sonnet.
Unlike Silverstein’s pen and ink sketch style, Allen’s pen and charcoal drawings are more whimsical and less cartoony, are bolder, and sometimes they take over the whole page.
The title poem tells the humorous tale of learning the lesson not to play with your food the hard the hard way. “Trouble with a Dinosaur” poses an interesting quandary and in “Mingled Yarns,” favorite rhymes and stories combine to create mixed up messed up quatrains.
Overall, this is a fairly even collection with only a few awkward moments. Perfect for recreation reading or expandable to classroom use, Kennedy will have readers chuckling out loud. A worthy add to your poetry shelves.