Friday, October 21, 2011

Poetry Friday #22: Review: Lemonade by Bob Raczka

by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger
2011 | 48 pages | Poetry

I really like writing exercises with strict boundaries. One of the best pieces I wrote in my high school creative writing class was a one-page story told entirely in one-syllable words. I also like haiku, because the poet has to count syllables, and anything else with challenging limitations. This is why the concept of Lemonade is so appealing to me. The poet, Bob Raczka, wrote each poem in this book using only the letters that make up that poem's subject. For him, this limitation was anything but limiting. Rather, each of these poems perfectly captures its subject  in just a few salient words.

In the poem entitled "Friends", Raczka simply writes: Fred finds Ed. "Creative" states: I crave art. "Vacation" becomes action in a van. Each poem is nearly perfect, and I don't think there was one truly weak one in the bunch. My favorites, which I won't reproduce here, include "Earthworms", which gives an amusing and practical warning for avoiding worms after a storm, "Television," which describes exactly what most folks do in front of their TV sets, and "Halloween," which sets a spooky scene in just 8 words, the longest of which is five letters long.

Anyone - adult or child - who loves word play will love this book. I would love to see ways that teachers might use it to teach poetry, and to encourage kids to write their own based on a word of their choice. The cheery color scheme and ink and watercolor illustrations by Nancy Doniger really complement the poems and illustrate their meanings perfectly.

Also, just a word about the title.  Until I read some other reviews, I was reading it as Lemonade Lemonade, as in, that which is squeezed from lemonade. The concept of this entire book is about squeezing poetry out of just one word, and I assumed the title was a play on that idea. As it turns out, though, the title page calls the book simply Lemonade, and I felt like that was kind of a let-down in comparison to my initial misconception. But this is not really a criticism of the book, which is truly wonderful and not to be missed, however you choose to read the cover.
Poetry Friday is a weekly celebration of poetry. This week's host is Jama's Alphabet Soup. To see my previous Poetry Friday posts, click here.

I borrowed Lemonade from my local public library.


  1. This book sounds great.

    Thank you for the review.

  2. Love your review. Been wanting to see this one for awhile now, and you've really whetted my appetite. I love the idea of small "perfect" poems.

  3. Great review, Katie, and it's a terrific and clever book. I can't imagine kids NOT wanting to try these.

  4. My nine year old daughter and I are on a poetry-path in the next coming months - this seems to be the perfect poem for her to develop an even deeper appreciation of word play and puns :)


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