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A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play Hardcover – Feb 28 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (Feb. 28 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547124937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547124933
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 0.9 x 25.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #253,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


A real strength of the collection is its engagement of the imagination. . . . A thrilling integration of verse and image, motivating all to serious fun." - Kirkus , starred review

"From running through sprinklers to blowing bubbles to catching fireflies, this book has 18 short poems about active, imaginative play in summer weather. . . . An appealing book." - School Library Journal

"Fun for sharing and acting out many times over." - Booklist

"This could be effective in an April unit celebrating both spring and National Poetry Month, and it could also give kids some much needed memories of warmth and sunshine during the winter - or even provide them with the impetus to get off the couch and get outside." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Singer captures the inherent exultations of being young and carefree in the outdoors. . . .Well worth the exercise." - Kirkus Online "Pham's grainy mixed-media scenes could take place anytime in the past 50 years, emphasizing the timeless (some might say lost) art of outdoor activity." - Publishers Weekly


About the Author

Marilyn Singer is the author of more than one hundred books for children, including the Tallulah books. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Washington, Connecticut. For more information, please visit:
LeUyen Pham is a New York Times bestselling illustrator who has created many books for children. She lives with her family in San Francisco, California. You can visit her online at .

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9db89918) out of 5 stars 5 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d9ed138) out of 5 stars Was really exctied but then disappointed June 7 2012
By Books for Life - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We were really excited aobut this book as it was written up everywhere. It seemed perfect, poems about the outdoors including sticks, every boy's favorite object. The poems, however are rather lackluster to down right boring. Not vey well written at all. They don't capture our son's interest in the least. Mommy and Daddy have resorted to making up poems on the fly about the pictures in the book. It is beginning to be a problem as he is remembering parts of the poems and we can't repeat them word for word as they aren't written in the book.

I would suggest looking elsewhere for children's poetry.
HASH(0x9dbb0828) out of 5 stars Great for preschool and early elementary April 29 2013
By LP Salas - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Fun poems about all different kinds of playing outside. A great collection to choose a pre-recess selection from. Jump! is one of my favorites.
By dave - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book. Wife loved it. Very outdoorsy and fun to read. Would recommend to anyone who asks. Baby liked it too.
HASH(0x9db935c4) out of 5 stars Five Stars July 20 2015
By sherri - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like the book! Too old yet for 2 year old!
5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d9ebf90) out of 5 stars The stick's the thing (play) March 8 2012
By E. R. Bird - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If the helicopter parents don't smother `em then the death of recess by test-minded schools will. Kids today have a heck of a time playing like they used to. Excuse me while I pull out my Crusty Old Fogey Hat which allows me to lament an era where kids gets their afternoons booked up and their free time minimized. I freely acknowledge that this is hardly a universal problem, but it does exist in some places. There are kids out there who would give anything just to run down their block without having to check in with their parents every five minutes. To them, I hand "A Stick is an Excellent Thing". A small picture book of poetry, Marilyn Singer taps into a kid's desire to be a kid (as well as an adult's sense of nostalgia, if I'm going to be honest here) to create a little world of fun. She is aided in her scheme by the multi-talented illustrator LeUyen Pham who not only brings this world to life but peoples it with kind, energetic, recognizable faces. The result is a book the celebrates games, playing, the great outdoors (no matter where you might be), and, in a roundabout manner, friends.

In spite of its "A Hole Is to Dig" type title, the book is more about the worlds kids create when they get together. In eighteen poems we see eighteen different ways to play. From mud soup to collecting fireflies, from swinging to plain old everyday sticks, these poems take a great thrill in showing kids at their best. Which is to say, having fun. Accompanying each poem are illustrations by LeUyen Pham. Where Singer creates the framework, Pham creates the world. Her kids exist in that bubble where adults are on the periphery, present when you need them, invisible when you don't. Through her art you not only get a sense of the game, you find it near impossible not to want to jump in and join.

The poems themselves are light, airy little things. Conflict really doesn't exit in them. The closest we get is a kid getting ready to find another in a game of hide and seek or the sudden cry of "You're a clown!" I might have liked at least one instance of a quieter sadder emotion aside from the relentless cheer found here. Even old Monkey in the Middle is seen as a fun time rather than the world's oldest form of teasing. But then, how easy is it to play a game with a tinge of sadness to it? At least there's "Hide and Seek" where a boy hidden in a willow tree imagines he's in Brazil amongst evocative daydreams of snakes and birds.

I liked that Ms. Singer included not just the games that kids will already know but the games kids tend to make up. I know that when I was a child we made up all sorts of crazy games with names like Barracuda (you may question whether or not it was inspired by the Heart song). In fact I wouldn't be too surprised if some kids try out the version of Statues found in this book. "A Stick is an Excellent Thing" isn't meant to be a guidebook but it might well end up fulfilling that purpose anyway.

Illustrator LeUyen Pham's job here was a near impossible one. It was up to her to conjure up this world of jump ropes and sprinklers with an eye on classic children's tropes. I'm talking about the stereotypical "good old days" adults are always bemoaning the disappearance of. A time when a stick could be a toy, consarn it! The problem with this is the fact that if you find books about American kids playing like this in older children's books, I can guarantee you that they'll all be white white white. So Pham has created an ethnically diverse cast of characters. Fortunately for us she gives them individual personalities, so that by reading the book over and over again you recognize them from one scene to another. Another difference from the days of yore would also be the fact that gender roles are generally left in the dust. Here you'll see skateboarding girls and boys who help turn the double dutch ropes. A relief, to say the least.

I spent a strange amount of time attempting to determine whether or not these kids lived in a city, the suburbs, or the country. Pham places her children in a safe world where they can run wild, impervious to harm. You will find no scraped knees, scary strangers, tears, or fears in her little world. Instead there are clean sidewalks ideal for jacks or jump roping, and grassy areas behind the houses where kids summersault down hills or capture fireflies, depending on the time of day. In the end I finally figured that Pham is creating a book that can appeal to all kids in all places. City kids will recognize the concrete places. Country kids will know what it means to go head over heels down a knoll or to use trees as hiding spot. She makes it universal, even as the poems do that in their own way as well.

What is the purpose of a book such as this? Is it meant to be given to kids with the intention of reflecting what they already know? Is it meant to entice them away from their video games and computer screens? For guidance I turned to the descriptive bookflap where it talks about the book and ends with saying that these poems "will make you want to hurry outside and join in the fun!" Certainly for the lonely child or the kid who does not make playmates easily this book offers a glimpse into a pastoral eden. Here kids flit about in a friendly manner without the imposition of adults. They play unencumbered by schedules or timetables. They just play and with good friends. Reason enough to celebrate, I think.

For ages 4-8.