Classy kids’ poetry!
Super Guppy is a collection of fifty-one wonderful, multifaceted poems for children of six years and up. Van de Vendel stays close to home: splashing through puddles and getting your socks wet, being tucked in at night by Mum, and having a plaster on your knee – ow! – taken off. To these familiar things, he adds dimension, an unusual way of seeing things, to make the young reader work a little. The storm lashes at the windows, but it breathes too, just like the child, for instance. Or a dead blackbird lies ‘folded flat / in the station on the ground’ and no one notices, not even Mummy.
The poet weaves these exciting extras into his stimulating, often funny verses. The newspaper becomes ‘paper meals on wheels’ for the ‘letterbox’ and a young narrator whispers to the cat on his lap, dreaming of tasty mice: ‘They’re biting back today!’
In the title poem ‘Guppy’ the cat has eaten almost all the guppies in the fishbowl. Almost, but not quite all: one still swims proudly round, and that one last fish comforts the little boy for the loss of all the others. Because:
I’d rather have this single feller
Than all the others put together
Super guppy swimming round
Being there –
That’s all that counts.
It’s brilliant to finally link childish pride in that one surviving fish (‘super guppy’) with the adult statement: ‘Being there – that’s all that counts’. This, for instance, is where Van de Vendel’s readers have to put in that extra bit of effort, but he writes in such a way that they are quite capable of doing so. Great, classy kids’ poetry!
By Peter de Boer