cover image The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse

The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse

J. Patrick Lewis, , illus. by Serge Bloch. . Atheneum/Seo, $16.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85325-8

In this “handy guide/ (For children overqualified/ For boring jobs”), Lewis (Doodle Dandies ) and the sublime Bloch (Butterflies in My Stomach ) catalogue some of the more esoteric professions. There's the crossword puzzle maker (“I make up clues for/ 'Olive' (green), / 'Lentil or garbanzo' (bean)” and the titular specialty haberdasher (“You wear them briefly/ And in short,/ I sell them chiefly/ For support”); the center spread salutes the marathon runner with a poem set into the map of a course. Lewis deserves applause for his sophisticated wordplay and his willingness to push readers in terms of poetic conceits: anyone who attempts to explain to kids what a philosopher does—in verse, no less—deserves a paean himself. It's a shame, then, that poems that start out so promisingly often run out of steam and wrap up with weak jokes (a pet groomer bemoans a customer who forgets “toupee”; a plumber works in “Inside The Twoilet zone”). Bloch's wonderful digital collages save the day: his signature combination of piquant ink doodles and witty found objects lends elegant playfulness to every page. Ages 7–10. (Mar.)