30 January 2013

This is my message to you-oo-oo...

"Don't worry about a thing,
'cause every little thing gonna be all right..."

You know that song, right? You're probably bopping your head around, singing it to yourself right this very minute. And if you're prone to such things, you may have just acquired an ear worm. I'm sorry, but...

"Don't worry about a thing,
'cause every little thing gonna be all right..."

Here's a question, though: do you know the name of the song? The actual name of the song?

Three Little Birds.

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A while ago, a publicist asked if I wanted a review copy of a book, by Bob Marley's daughter Cedella, who turned Three Little Birds into a children's book called "Every Little Thing".

It's cute, but here's its problem. While some song lyrics work as poetry if you dissociate them from their music, that's not the case here. The book wants to be a read-aloud, for a pre-schooler or early elementary-aged child. And for reading aloud, the poetry sucks. It would have been << putting on editor's hat and raising red pencil >> far better to have turned the song into prose. Like I said, it's cute, and the illustrations are exuberantly fun, but it's far too awkward to read aloud.

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Everything will be alright, as long as you worry about prose, prosody, and poetry. Not to mention grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Delivery matters, even in a book meant for kids.

8 comments:

Mary Gilmour said...

I'm with you. I once (only once) bought a picture book for my grandkid for the illustrations. The pictures were wonderful, but I had to edit it as I read it, each and every time. Sigh.
And the prose that is aimed at teens is not much better sometimes.
I think the distinction between 'lie' and 'lay' is almost gone from us.

YourFireAnt said...

Very few songs translate well into poetry, in fact

.

Bibliomama said...

Did you ever try to read the Magic Tree House books with your daughter? The subject matter was fascinating, but UGH - the sentence fragments, the choppy writing, the DESPERATE NEED for editing. I couldn't read them out loud.

Nan | Wrath Of Mom said...

I use to own a copy of a children's book based on the Paul Simon song "At the Zoo." It was taken straight from the song's lyrics. EXCEPT the line "And the zookeeper is very fond of rum" was meant to refer to a sea otter named Rum. Niiiiice try, editors. But no.

sullimaybe said...

Delivery matters. Yes.

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

Songs can seem poetic and poems can be lyrical but really, they're too seperate art forms!

mayberry said...

Kids' books that are badly rhymed are just excruciating. As are the Magic Tree House books--I am with Bibliomama on those.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I used Goosebumps books with a boy I tutored to increase his reading speed. It was rough.