MAY 5:

  • Happy birthday Alice Low (The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches), and Todd Strasser (Boot Camp).
  • It’s the birth date of Leo Lionni (1910-1999), Swimmy.
  • Happy birthday Carnegie Hall. Originally called The Music Hall, the grand opening of this midtown Manhattan concert venue featured guest conductor Tchaikovsky, in 1891. Read Tchaikovsky Discovers America by Esther Kalman, illustrated by Laura Fernandez and Rick Jacobson.
  • In 1925 an arrest warrant was served to John Scopes, for teaching evolution, a violation of Tennessee’s Butler Act. Read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly and Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution by Steve Jenkins.

Today I would like to wish a happy birthday to J. Patrick Lewis. Among the many things Pat and I share in common is a Hoosier childhood; he grew up with a twin brother in Gary, Indiana, and attended Indiana University and Ohio State, where he received his doctorate in economics. But Pat left the pursuit of numbers for the pursuit of great literature for children. I first spotted his work during my time as Editor of the Horn Book when he published A Hippopotamusn’t: And Other Animal Poems, illustrated by Victoria Chess. This promising new poet went on to become America’s third Children’s Poet Laureate.

I’ve already featured Pat’s brilliant compilation Book of Animal Poetry. In 2013 he published a book right up the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac’s alley, World Rat Day. In it, he moves through the calendar highlighting some obscure holidays, just the type I like to note here. So if you want to celebrate Frog Jumping Day— and who wouldn’t—or Yell “Fudge!” at the Cobras in North America Day, this book will give you a little gem of a poem to help you do so. Some of them are sly, such as “What the Worm Knows”: “Take my advice:/For your own good,/Stay away from/The Robin ’hood.” Some, like the poem for Pink Flamingo Day, provide superb examples of concrete poetry.  For Ohio Sheep Day Pat sends a one-line humorous message “No one will ever forget Ewe.” When celebrating Dragon Appreciation Day, he highlights important etiquette lessons, such as “don’t talk with people in your mouth.” In fact, all of Pat’s poetry will convince even the most reluctant reader that verse can, indeed, be fun.

The book has been illustrated with great energy and verve by artist Anna Raff, and produced and printed in impeccable Candlewick style. As a publishing house, Candlewick has distinguished themselves with fine book production and design; they create the type of books that anyone wants to own in a permanent collection. World Rat Day fits that mold. With a light and airy type and thick creamy pages, both the poetry and art wonderfully shown off.

Needless to say, the book has given me a few new good ideas for the coming year. So if you like holidays, poetry, and pleasing books, you will want to pick up World Rat Day.

For anyone who wants to learn more about Pat (and see charming pictures of his grandchildren) check out his website. Today I want to wish one of the absolutely nicest people in the children’s book field, J. Patrick Lewis, a very happy birthday. Pat, here’s to many, many more.


Originally posted May 5, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Holidays, Poetry
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for World Rat Day


  1. Janet Wong says:

    This book is a GEM. Thanks so much, Anita, for reminding us all!

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