Forward by: Kevin Crossley-Holland
Illustrated by: Peter Bailey, Siân Bailey, Carol Lawson, Chris McEwan
Published in 2004
Grade Level: 4-7
Summary: Once Upon a Poem is an anthology of poems that tell stories. The book contains 15 poems, each of which has an introduction from a famous author. Each poem in this book is completely different from the others, only unified in the fact that they all tell some sort of story.
I picked up this book because I loved the title. Once Upon a Poem brought to mind images of fairy tales and story-telling, which is exactly what was supposed to happen.
If you know me, you know that I have never been a big fan of poetry. I enjoy funny poems (Shel Silverstein is my favorite), but outside of those I find poetry to be hit or miss for me. This carried through for the poems in this anthology. There were poems I loved, such as Roald Dahl’s retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and poems I found to be really boring, such as The Man From Snowy River. There were poems I was familiar with, such as A Visit From St. Nicholas and The Cremation of Sam McGee, and poems I had never heard of before. There was a good variety in the poems, and I appreciated that.
I really liked that there were poems I had never heard of before. While I appreciated the classics that I remembered, I was happy to find something new and enjoyable. Of the poems I had never heard of before, my two favorites were Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Grateful Dragon. I love when authors twist the fairy tales we’re all familiar with to tell new and often sarcastic stories (see my review of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales), so the retelling of Goldilocks was really enjoyable for me.
Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this poetry anthology. It would work well for upper elementary and middle school students, and I would like to use it if I end up teaching in those grades. I loved rereading some of the classics I read as a child, and some of the poems I read for school assignments. While I didn’t like some of the poems, I felt that the anthology as a whole was great.
I give Once Upon a Poem four stars.