cover image Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough to Vote

Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough to Vote

Carl Sandburg, Astvan Banyai, Carl Sandburg Family Trust. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-679-88990-8

Wrested from obscurity in the archives of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign library, this bizarre collection of Sandburg's previously unpublished children's verse is not without its droll charms. The poems themselves are uneven, as befits unfinished work; almost all define homely objects or body parts. Many of the lines are somewhat pedestrian (""Toes are to wash when you take a bath"" in ""Toes""; ""Pencils are to hold when you write"" in ""Pencils""), but they generally lead to an arresting twist (""The big toe likes itself very well""). The tone of the book as a whole is determinedly eccentric, right from the brief introduction by compilers George and Willene Hendrick: ""Poets are sometimes forgetful...."" The narrow, five-by-nine-inch pages look as if they had been designed to be carried in a breast pocket. Banyai's (Zoom) black-and-white art includes surrealistic surprises, as when a pencil-headed man is sharpened by a knife. His imagery depends in great part on his fanciful way with the type. The title page, for example, is laid out to resemble a doctor's eye chart; inside, some letters are made to resemble the concepts to which they refer, as when the letter ""o"" in the word ""nobody"" bounces down the stairs that are formed by the previous lines of the poem. But the idiosyncratic trappings don't disguise the underdone contents: there's less here than meets the eye. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)