Monday 19 July 2021

Rapper Bee: Poems to Give You a Buzz

Rapper Bee: Poems to Give You a Buzz by Harry Laing, illustrated by Anne Ryan (Ford Street Publishing) PB RRP $14.95 ISBN 9781925804775

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Having read Laing’s first two books of poetry and seen him as a (hugely entertaining) performer, I must admit I am already a converted fan. Here in his third collection is a collection of over 60 poems to suit readers aged 6 years and over.

Laing experiments with a huge variety of forms and poetry shapes: rhymes, raps, songs, limericks, riddles, and much more. ‘Rapper Bee’, named for the book’s title is indeed a rap poem with lots of energy and speed: ‘I’m faster than the flies/and I’m speeding through the skies/I am the RapperBee/why don’t you rap with me.’ The poem is illustrated on its double page spread with a rapping, cartoonish bee making all the right dance moves. The poem makes itself so clear and energetic that you will, like me, want to keep on repeating the rap, and dancing at the same time.

Some of the poems – such as ‘Mushrooms’, ‘Giant Kelp’, ‘Jimmy Hendrix and His Guitar’, ‘Moon Fish Chant’ – are written in the shape of their subject. Most poems are missing punctuation, but this doesn’t matter as the poems flow and the rhythms allow the readers to pause when necessary and move on, too.

Laing takes all kinds of subjects to write about, many of which are surprising: some examples are cheese, stingrays, big black bulls, sausages, noses, yawns, trucks, turbo fans, and much more. Like any good creator, Laing presents a unique viewpoint of the poem’s subject. Here’s an example of one amusing poem – ‘Dreams of a School Carpet’ -- written in couplets: I am the lowest of the low/there is no lower you could go/just look at me, I’m flat-out bored/trampled, battered and ignored.’ As with most poems in the collection, this poem has a strong rhythm and rhyme.

Another poem (‘Song of a Thumb’) is about a thumb whose ‘hand is gone’ and is hopping down the street alone as it grows tiny feet. The poem ‘The Strangest Pet’ is about a boy whose pet is a house: (the illustration shows him hugging its side wall.) ‘Onelineforthewind’ is written as a continuous line of sounds…

In this fun collection there is evidence of an extraordinary imagination and a love of words. ‘Abcracadoodling’, for instance, starts with ‘When’s a woodle not a poodle? Woodles woo and poodles bark/when a woodle eats a foodie/he leaves a doodle in the park.’ What child would not be giggling by the end of this poem?

The illustrations in this collection need their own moment of glory, too. Like the poems, they are worth pouring over and enjoying. They’re quirky and original and just right for the mood of the poems. I particularly enjoyed looking at ‘Shoctopus, the Underwater Boss’: there’s a deep-sea octopus with a central eye and its limbs stretching out of the water and around the poem. Another amusing illustration accompanies, ‘I Wish I Had a Really Scottish Name’ with an eccentric loch monster wearing a scarf and a tam-o-shanter.

There is so much more to say about this wonderful collection. I strongly urge you to purchase your own copy and share it with as many children as you can find. Highly recommended.

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