Worth the Candle

The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts By Allan Wolf, Greg Clarke (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Allan Wolf, Greg Clarke (Illustrator)
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ISBN: 9780763638061
Published: Candlewick - March 11th, 2008

It's already possible to spit in a test tube, pay a grand or so, and get an analysis of the gene markers in your DNA that tell you something about your risk for certain serious ailments. Perhaps it's only a matter of time until the genes are identified for less essential matters - such as one's tendency to be a "theme" person.

Theme people think anything worth doing is worth doing in coordinated colors. They study comparative lit or folklore or anthropology in college. Their ideal job would be naming the streets in subdivisions - perhaps according to the names of stone fruits, or fairy tale characters, or common names for girls in the 1930s. They always think the whole should be more than the sum of its parts.

They have a soft spot for poetry collections created around a distinct notion - as with the body-part collection Blood-Hungry Spleen. Packed with fun factoids and wordplay, the 34 poems in this book teach about anatomy and physiology amid delightful illustrations. Greg Clarke's artwork often seems to animate, with legs, the pieces that come with a Mr. Potato Head set.

Not all these poems work - Allan Wolf is overly fond of refrains and not the meter master we might wish, but the book has plenty to recommend it. Its "shy silent rivers" metaphor for arteries and veins. The "poem for two voices" in which two kidneys are personified as Kenneth and Kendra. Two poems that skillfully explain "Boy Parts" and "Girl Parts." And the title poem in which the little-known spleen gets its due as the body's secret vampire.

And while there are occasional nods to the traditional beauties of poetry ("This Poem Has Been Brought to You by Your Five Senses" is a catalog of tactile treats such as hot chocolate and comfy slippers), kids will like most Spleen's appreciation of the body's many yuk factors. As in this tribute to the tongue:

Your tongue is for chewing. For curling. For clicking.

It fits in your mouth like a bug in a rug.

Your tongue is for tasting and lollipop licking.

But hey, folks, let's face it. It looks like a slug!