We’ve all had those days, those days when nothing seems to be going right. Your shoes are on the wrong feet, you forgot your homework, and you had that dream…again. Days like these can be even more exasperating for a child who may lack the emotional framework to deal with their frustration or the agency to be able to fix their problem themselves. This indeed is the topic at hand in Oh, No! Where Are My Pants? and Other Disasters: Poems, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch.
Oh, No! Where Are My Pants? is comprised of 14 poems by different authors, each describing a less-than ideal set of circumstances. The collection features familiar poets such as Alice Schertle, Marilyn Singer, Lee Bennett Hopkins and Judith Viorst, as well as some names with which I am less familiar, like Madeleine Comora and Karla Kuskin. Most poems appear to have made their first appearance in print in this collection.
The collection begins with “First Day” by Susan Hart Lindquist, espousing the all too familiar feeling of being separated from a friend at school, “You/ in/ Room Two./ Me/ in/ Room Three.” From here, the selected poems cover such topics as classroom embarrassment (“A Million Miles from Tallahassee” by Alice Schertle), pantless nightmares (“Nightmare” by Judith Viorst), misadventures in eating (“Oh, no!” by Kate McAllaster Weaver) and swimming (“My Brand-New Bathing Suit” by Sandra Gilbert Brüg) and the crippling anxiety of a malfunctioning Ferris wheel (“At the State Fair” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich).
The poems differ in form and style. Some are funny (“Haircut” by Marilyn Singer) and others are somewhat somber, but quite relatable (“Winter Rabbit” by Madeleine Comora and “Away at Camp” by Ann Whitford Paul). While I don’t feel any one poem stands out as extraordinary, neither is there a weak poem in the bunch. Each selection moves fluidly into the next, aided very much by an easy-to-read and pleasing layout. Each poem is given its own page, easy-to-read font and clean background, with a whimsical image by Wolf Erlbruch opposite it. As this is a small collection, there is no index, but there is a table of contents in the beginning, listing the titles and poets’ names and page numbers.
One poem that especially caught my eye was “Play Ball” by Joy N. Hulme. Describing a missed opportunity in a baseball game, the layout is shaped vaguely like a baseball, creating a concrete poem. I would love to duplicate this with my kids, first sharing Hulme’s poem and examining her word choices and the way she shaped her lines, then moving on to create concrete poems of our own. We could stick to the sports theme (a football shape would be immediately relevant), or opening up the possibilities to anything the kids could imagine.
Oh, No! Where Are My Pants? and Other Disasters: Poems. Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Pictures by Wolf Erlbruch. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN: 9780688178604