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Nov 21

Skipping and choosing rhymes remembered

Posted on Saturday, November 21, 2009 in children's rhymes

I’ve been feeling ill so to cheer myself up I decided to recall the nonsense I used to jump rope to. Please feel free to share some of your own.

Skipping tunes

I don’t recall any special moves for this one.

Sailor, sailor do your duty
Here comes Miss American beauty.
She wiggles; who wobbles; she does the splits.
She wears her dresses clear up to her hips.

This one began by jumping on one leg, then two, then touching a hand to the ground, and then two. I think it went on from there, but I don’t recall how.

Donald Duck was a one legged, one legged, one legged duck.
Donald Duck was a two legged, two legged, two legged duck.
Donald Duck was a three legged, three legged, three legged duck.
Donald Duck was a four legged, four legged, four legged duck.

Clapping games

HabMoo does not like it when I sing this one all the way through. But sometimes the need just strikes and I have to obey the call. (These lines probably don’t even really go together except in my head.)

My boyfriend’s name is Tony.
He comes from the land of Baloney.
With 23 toes and a pickle for a nose.
This is how my story goes.

One night while I was walking
I saw my boyfriend talking
to a cute little girl with a strawberry curl
and this is what he said, said, said.

I L-O-V-E love you.
I K-I-S-S kiss you.
I K-I-S-S kiss you on your
F-A-C-E face face face.

My mother sent me to the store.
She told me not to stay.
But I fell in love with the grocery boy
and stayed ’til Christmas day, day, day.

My mother wanted peaches;
my mother wanted pears;
my boyfriend wanted 50 cents
and kissed me on the stair, stairs, stairs.

I gave him back his peaches;
I gave  him back his pears;
I gave him back his 50 cents
and kicked him down the stairs, stairs, stairs.

Then there was this one where we competed to see what kind of crazy descriptions and accompanying hand gestures we could come up with.

Have you ever, ever, ever in your short legged life
Seen a short legged turtle and his short legged wife?
No I’ve never, ever, ever in my short legged life
Seen a short legged turtle and his short legged wife.

Have you ever, ever, ever in your snot nosed life
Seen a snot nosed turtle, and his snot nosed wife?
No I’ve never, ever, ever in my snot nosed life
Seen a snot nosed turtle, and his snot nosed wife.

… long-legged; google-eyed, greasy-hair, etc.

Counting rhymes

Engine, engine number nine
going down Chicago line.
If the train goes off the track?
Do you want your money back?
Y-E-S spells yes and you are not it.

Everyone always wanted their money back.

Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish.
How many pieces do you wish?

Count out the number and that person is it, or if you don’t like that result, add “My  mother told me to pick the very best one. And you are not it.”

Sep 23

Silly poems of my own

Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 in children's rhymes

Silly poems are harder to write than you might expect. I’m having trouble with the rhythms. But I’m going to share anyway.

Skunks in love

They drink their lattes in perfect sync.
Drink by drink their cheeks turn pink.
Lost in each other; their love turns blind.
Neighbors point; they do not mind.
Neither notices the other’s stink.

Tea, jam and honey

Tea, jam and honey
What will you have?

   Tea, jam and honey?
   Why I’ll have them with toast.

Just tea, jam and honey.
It’s really better than most.
But to have it with bread
I’m afraid you’re mislead.

   Just tea, jam and honey
   I heard what you said.
   If that’s all that you serve?
   Man, you really have the nerve.

Tea, jam and honey.
Please to observe
how it sweetens the tongue,
its praises to be sung.

   Yes tea, jam and honey
   Maybe I’m just too young.
   Perhaps a cracker instead
   to use your sweet spread?

Just tea, jam and honey
What’s gone to your head?
A cracker is dusty and crumbly and dry.
I don’t feed the wasp or cockroach or fly!

   So tea, jam and honey
   I think I might cry.
   A pancake would be good.
   Or a bagel if I could.

Just tea, jam and honey.
Has your mind turned to wood?
Bagels are too round and pancakes are so flat.
What waste my condiments on something like that?

   Then tea, jam and honey, I finally agree.
   Yes, tea, jam and honey — with a spoon if you please.

Tea, jam and honey. I’m so glad that you see.
A spoon? I’ll have to get one. Pray lend me your keys.

Aug 25

Childcraft: Storytelling and Other Poems

Posted on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 in children's books, children's rhymes


For me this was the Childcraft book. This is where I found the best poems to memorize. This volume was the reason I bought an old set of the encyclopedias. To me these first two volumes were nourishing and homey, like a good spaghetti casserole. (Substitute tater tot hotdish if you live in Minnesota.)

Poems for Everyday

Isn’t it great to think that there are everyday poems, like Melmac dishes, that you can recite or read at almost any time? No special occasion necessary.

The illustrations above and below are by Meg Wohberg who illustrated advertisements for baby-care products in the 1930’s and then worked on over 70 children’s books in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. So her work might look familiar to people of a certain age and even younger.

When Young Melissa Sweeps, illustration by Meg Wohberg

I read these poems without concern for their messages. I’d read “When Young Melissa Sweeps” and want to go grab a broom. I don’t think I ever did it though, being a rather lazy child. But I’m sure some of my understanding of what it meant to be a girl came from these poems.

Yet Gentle Will the Griffin Be
(What Grandpa Told the Children)

The moon? It is a griffin’s egg,
Hatching tomorrow night.
And how the little boys will watch
With shouting and delight
To see him break the shell and stretch
And creep across the sky.
The boys will laugh. The little girls,
I fear, may hide and cry.
Yet gentle will the griffin be,
Most decorous and fat,
And walk up to the Milky Way
And lap it like a cat.

– Vichel Lindsay

So I learned how the world saw little girls but I learned a few vocabulary words, too.

The Popcorn Man, a William Pene du Bois illustrationPoems introduced me to elements of culture I never experienced myself. There were poems about the circus, the popcorn man, streetcars, and the sea. There was even one about telegraphs — a little outdated for the 1961 edition of Childcraft — but I knew what telegraphs were because I watched Westerns on TV.

I think everyone my age remembers a bit of such poems as “When the Frost Is on the Pumpkin.” Many of us probably wondered what a shock of corn was when we’d read the poem in school in the fall. I’m sure that there’s something more contemporary that has replaced these poems. I know that I never read or heard most of the poems that my father learned in school and would recite to me on long drives. Classic poems like James Whitcomb Riley’s provide a shared experience with other Americans my age.

Humorous Poems

This was the section where I found the best poems for memorizing. These are the poems I can still recite. I was disappointed that one of my favorite poems had no author noted. It must be a “traditional” poem, although I’ve never heard anyone but my sister or me recite it. I love the romanticism and surprise ending.

A Farmer’s Boy

They strolled down the lane together,
The sky was studded with stars.
They reached the gate in silence,
And he lifted down the bars.
She neither smiled or thanked him
Because she knew not how;
For he was just a farmer’s boy
And she was a Jersey cow!

I remember my father bringing home a reel-to-reel tape deck and recording that poem on it. Mom recorded the poem “Eletelephony” which I thought was hilarious. Both the poem and Mom’s voice coming out of a machine sent me into fits of giggles.

The famous “Purple Cow” poem is also in this collection. I’m so sorry it caused Gelett Burgess, the author, so much grief.

Storytelling and Ballads

The Potatoes' DanceSometimes the illustrations really made the poem. That was the case for “The Potatoes Dance,” I thought. The illustrator’s taters were so much better than dull old Mr. Potato Head. Samuel Armstrong gave those spuds life. I had dreams about those potatoes. The burnt matchstick legs scared me.

In my previous post I told you that my sister and I had competitions for who could memorize more poems. Since she was eight years older, I had a real challenge. I have a fond memory of sitting in the back of the neighbor’s station wagon waiting for fireworks to begin and my sister telling us a story she made up about Squidgicum-Squees. She got the idea from “The Raggedy Man” which was too long for me to memorize. It took up two entire pages!

I was talking with my younger husband about how exciting it’s been to re-read all these poems. I then discovered that he had never heard of The Song of Hiawatha. How can a man who frequently drives Hiawatha Avenue, has been to both Gitche Gumee and Nokomis lakes, has probably walked past the Longfellow House at Minnehaha Park, not know this poem? I thought all native Minnesotans would have been forced to read it at some time or other. I guess not. Or not any more.

After I read him the poem tonight I might try to memorize The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. It should be a task made easier by Loreena McKennitt’s rendition as a song, although she leaves out several verses. Her song makes me cry. The poem is just lyrically satisfying and a good Gothic tale.

I’ll end with another favorite from the humorous poems section.
Jonathan Bing poem illustration

A New Song to Sing about Jonathan Bing

O jonathan Bing, O Bingathon Jon
Forgets where he’s going an thinks he has gone.
He wears his false teeth on the top of his head,
And always stands up when he’s sleeping in bed.

O Jonathon Bing has a curious way
Of trying to walk into yesterday.
“If I end with my breakfast and start with my tea,
I ought to be able to do it,” says he.

O Jonathan Bing is a miser, they say,
For he likes to save trouble and put it away.
“If I never get up in the morning,” he said,
“I shall save all the trouble of going to bed!”

“O Jonathan Bing! What a way to behave!
And what do you do with the trouble you save?””
“I wrap it up neatly and send it by post
To my friend and relations who need it the most.”

– Beatrice Curtis Brown

I always found it interesting that Jonathan Bing and Old Father William looked like the same man. They were drawn by someone with the initials of RL. For some reason Childcraft didn’t give credits for illustrations.

Thank you for letting me share these with you. It’s been so much fun for me. Although, It does make me feel really old. And I’ve gone a little bit crazy trying to decide which poems are epic enough to warrant italics instead of quotes for their titles.