Word Play: A Family Tradition

When I was a child my mother and I read Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat” so many times we both memorized it.  This became obvious when she slipped into Alzheimer’s and we walked the halls of her dementia unit reciting the poem together.  “Which they ate with a…” I would say and pause.  She’d put in “runcible spoon.”  One day she asked me what a runcible spoon was and I swore I could hear myself as a child asking her the same question.

Catie already loves wordplay and I think she’ll appreciate this poem, re-released in Houghton Mifflin’s Folk Tale Classic Series. There’s a wonderful pairing in Paul Galdone who is as famous in children’s illustrative circles as Edward Lear was in the poetic.  And this book is just the right small size for a young child to tote around.

Galdone shows all the action, the beasts of the sea dancing and frolicking as the love-smitten Owl and Cat row across the waters.  There’s subtle humor (the pea-green boat bears the name “H.M.S. Nonsense”) and drums hang from the Bong-tree.  And of course there is the runcible spoon which looks something like the utensil school cafeterias call a “spork.”

I can almost hear Catie asking her parents, “What’s a runcible spoon?”

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