Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Randall Jarrell’s story is presented in the form of a folktale in which animals are given human characteristics. It is also an allegory about poetry. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak, whose black-and-white drawings correspond to the narrative, the story is told by a first-person narrator. The narrator refers to himself only once, at the beginning, when he focuses attention on the bats hanging upside down from the roof of his porch. The narrator then effaces himself, drawing the reader into the world of a little brown bat.

The little bat is different from the other bats. He wakes up during the day, when bats normally sleep, and looks out into the sunlight. He has never seen the birds and the other animals before. He has heard the mockingbird, however, because the bird sings half the night, imitating the other creatures with his songs. This gives the little bat the idea to make up his own songs, or poems, to tell the other bats about the daytime. Yet, when he recites his first poem to the bats, they refuse to believe in the reality that it shows them.

The little bat is disappointed, but he continues to compose poems. He wonders if the mockingbird would listen to them. The mockingbird has bad days, when he chases everything out of the yard. On good days, he simply sings to himself, not paying attention to anything. The little bat approaches the bird with anxiety and asks if he would listen to the poem that he has made up about the owl. When the mockingbird praises...

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The Bat-Poet Bibliography

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Burt, Stephen. Randall Jarrell and His Age. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Chappell, Fred. “The Indivisible Presence of Randall Jarrell.” North Carolina Literary Review 1, no. 1 (Summer, 1992): 8-13.

Cyr, Marc D. “Randall Jarrell’s Answerable Style: Revision of Elegy in ’The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.’” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 46, no. 1 (Spring, 2004): 92-106.

Flynn, Richard. Randall Jarrell and the Lost World of Childhood. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990.

Hammer, Langdon. “Who Was Randall Jarrell?” Yale Review 79 (1990): 389-405.

Jarrell, Mary. Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic, and Teacher Randall Jarrell. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.

Pritchard, William. Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life. New York: Farrar, 1990.

Quinn, Sr. Bernetta. Randall Jarrell. Boston: Twayne, 1981.