Lewis, whose bouncy The La-di-da Hare showed an unmistakable affinity with Victorian versifier Edward Lear, further acknowledges his inspiration with this inventive collection of rhymes about the poet. A whimsical prose foreword defines ""Bosh"" as ""nonsense"" in Lear-speak, and admits that these ""runcible poems"" are only loosely based on biographical facts. Then, with a turn of the page--and a turn of the oversize book, which is held sideways and, later, upside-down--a shadowy portrait of the infant Lear appears for the opening poem, ""Born in a Crowd"" (Lear was the 20th of 21 children): ""I was just like a son to my sister Ann/ (Which made her a mother to me)./ Often we romped in the meadows and ran/ To the green leaf trees where the world began."" Lewis delightfully approximates his source's deft wordplay, writing affectionately of Lear's oversize nose (""In the Middle of Your Face"") and penning a letter to Lear correspondent Chester Fortescue, known to Lear as ""40scue"" (""I'm off 2 seek my 4chun with the sunrise--/ They say the weather's gr8 in Timbuk2./ I hope 2 paint 16y-weeny butterflies/ And catch a cagey cocka2 4 you""). Classic characters such as the Jumblies, the Owl and Mr. Foss the cat make regular appearances in the narrative; smart caricatures of Lear gaze out of most every spread; and a closing chronology charts Lear's years. Using somber charcoal grays and earthy browns lit by dabs of pale yellow and blue-white, Kelley (The Necklace; Rip Van Winkle) establishes an overcast 19th-century atmosphere and subtly counterpoints the lightness of the verse. Literary chronicles seldom prove as amicable as this evocatively illustrated homage, and Lear himself would certainly be pleased that Lewis's limericks scan perfectly. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/2003 Release date: 12/01/2003 Genre: Children's
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