by Brian P. Cleary
illustrated by Andy Rowland
Millbrook Press 1/1/2014
Age 7 to 10 32 page
“What is a haiku? It sounds like a sneeze. And isn’t a lantern a light source? Actually, they are two types of ancient Japanese poetry. Award-winning author Brian P. Cleary explains how each form works—and shows how these little poems can contain big surprises! If It Rains Pancakes is packed with poems to make you chuckle, puzzle, and ponder. And when you’ve finished reading, you can try your hand at writing your own haiku and lanterns!
“If it rains pancakes,
I’ll need no umbrella, just
syrup, fork, and plate.”
“Haiku is a short, Japanese form of poetry that has been around for more than four hundred years. That’s much longer than your teacher or your parents have been alive.”
I like books that, even though written for a kid, teaches me something. I know a Haiku has 5 syllables in the first line, then 7 in the next, finishing with 5 in the third and final line. Everyone knows that, right? But, did you know that in Japan syllables are not what matters. Maybe they don’t even have syllables. In Japan, they count sounds and each Haiku has 17 sounds known as on (pronounced a faster than normal “one”). That I did not know, until I read If It Rains Pancakes. Traditionally, haikus are about nature, but Mr. Cleary takes liberties with this and writes Haikus on all sorts of kid-subjects: pets, pizza, and pancakes. I also love something else Mr. Cleary wrote,
“Poetry’s not a spectator sport, so try your hand at this ancient form, and be sure to have fun!”
I love fun as much as I love humor, so here is my haiku.
Raining cats and pups.
Wimpers and purring today.
Forecasts perfect day.
**I now challenge you to follow Mr. Cleary’s advice and write a haiku or a lantern (see below) in the comment section. I know there are lots of writers, poets, and aspiring writers and poets reading this blog. NOW is the time to show what you have!
Returning to the review: If you don’t like my haiku, Mr. Cleary wrote 20 for you in If It Rains Pancakes. Here are some of the titles, though many will not help you with the subject of the poem. Color Me Confused, City of Brotherly Lunch, The Mind and Yummy. There is one that is helpful to all of us not as poetically inclined as Mr. Cleary is. Kids will want to remember this one for when school resumes—much too soon.
When you’ve written one
without enough syllables,
you add words. Football.
The other half of If It Rains Pancakes is about Lanterns. This is all new to me. A lantern, or lanturne, is also Japanese. This poem has five lines. Line 1 is a 1-syllable noun and the subject of the poem. Line 2 “sheds light” (describes) the subject in two syllables. Line 3 has three syllables, line 4 has four, and line 5 has a 1-syllable word. The poem will look roughly like a lantern, hence the name. Mr. Cleary wrote 15 lanterns, all very cute, most very funny. Since I am a pet person and would have written a lantern about pets, and could not write one better than Mr. Cleary, the example I will share—by Mr. Cleary—is about a pet I know well.
“Pet me too.”
“Feed me. Pet me.”
The illustrations, which play out the poems, are colorful and as crazy as the poem it represents. If the illustrations do not amuse you, I am lost for words. I love the images that perfectly match each poem. At the end of If It Rains Pancakes is a list of reference books to learn more about haikus and lanterns, and other poems, including one of the author’s, entitled “Rainbow Soup: Adventures in Poetry.” Finally there is a list of websites with more poetry activities, including one I had not heard of—but love the name—called Giggle Poetry at gigglepoetry.com
If It Rains Pancakes is a wonderful little book that packs a punch. Teachers would do well to have this on hand when teaching haikus or other Japanese poetry like lanterns. Kids will have fun learning about haikus and lanterns when reading these 35 mostly hilarious poems. Mr. Cleary is a master at teaching kids about writing of every type. If It Rains Pancakes upholds his genius.
IF IT RAINS PANCAKES: HAIKU AND LANTERN POEMS. Text copyright © 2014 by Brian P. Cleary. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Andy Rowland. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Millbrook Press, Minneapolis, MN.
Learn more about If It Rains Pancakes: Haiku and Lantern Poems HERE.
Find more books at the Millbrook Press website:
Bookmarks (4) are available free HERE.
Also by Brian P. Cleary in 2014
Also by Andy Rowland in 2014
The Elves and the Shoemaker (November, 2014)
**PLEASE DON’T FORGET — SHOW YOUR STUFF! WRITE A HAIKU OR A LANTERN OR REALLY BLOSSOM AND WRITE BOTH IN THE COMMENTS! It is as easy as RAIN.