A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play (New York: Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 32 pp., $16.99)
This small collection of poems by veteran children’s author Marilyn Singer, to say the least, is an excellent thing. See:
Each of the eighteen poems brings to life some aspect of play that takes place outside. From playing with balls. splashing in ponds, and swinging, to hide and seek, playing with sticks, and looking at the stars, the excitement of playing outside is revealed.
There are no televisions, video games, or iPods in this book, which is appropriate. There are, however, jacks, bubbles, jump ropes, playgrounds, hoses, soup made from grass, chalk, and stones – among other things – and jars for fireflies. Most important, there is plenty of imagination displayed by the active children that LeUyen Pham has beautifully illustrated for each poem.
This book is not intended for my own children and I. We are well acquainted with playing outside, as you already know. Who this book is perfect for is the parent who would like to convince their children that playing outside is not only worthwhile, but a lot of fun! Perhaps, too, the book is for children who need to convince their parents the same. The poem from which the book gets its title, “A Stick Is an Excellent Thing,” could also be intended to convince parents – or other adults in a supervisory position (teachers, environmental educators, babysitters, other family members) – that playing with sticks is an okay thing for a kid to do. In fact, it should be encouraged! Books and traditional play: two things that current generations of children are not getting enough of. We need more books that show children and adults alike that timeless activities, such as playing outside with friends, and A Stick Is an Excellent Thing does this wonderfully.