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FICTION

The Best Worst Poet Ever

S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2020. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534446281.
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K-Gr 2–An erudite cat who quotes Shakespeare and a food-obsessed, slightly low-brow pug have a “battle of verse,” trading rhyme for rhyme, with the writing style of each matching their personality. The cat uses a quill and speaks of writing ballads, limericks, and sonnets while the pug makes fun of the cat and his highfalutin language, using his butt, toes, and tongue to type and rhyme. Eventually their battle leads to a volley of insults, but when the cat starts comparing the pug to disgusting food (“you’d be piled high with licorice frosting and soggy french fries”) a delighted pug notes, “What delicious perfection! How tastily true! You’re a friend and a poet, and I never knew!” What ensues is a messy and hilarious collaboration leading—almost—to the world’s greatest poetry show. With clever illustrations of the mayhem, this is a wonderful story for two people to read aloud together, demonstrating the pleasures of poetry and language, not to mention how much fun a battle of wits can be for the participants and the spectators. Although the story stalls a bit in the middle, for most of the book the pitch-perfect banter between pug and cat is almost Seussical in nature, using rhyme and rhythm to propel things along.
VERDICT For listening, looking, or reading aloud, this is a battle of verse worth joining.

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