It Doesn’t “Always” Have to Rhyme has been cited consistently in major children’s literature textbooks and literature reference sources. It has always garnered favorable reviews—most being very favorable. Only the rare reviewer has praised the volume as a whole but noted that a few of its poems fall a little flat. Such criticism has been the extent of the negative reaction to this work.
In 1981, Eve Merriam won the highly respected National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry, which was created in 1977 to honor living poets for the body of their work. As the fifth recipient of that award, Merriam had published only eleven of the twenty-three volumes of poetry for young people that she ultimately wrote. That honor speaks to the enormous strength of her work, as does the statement by some literature experts that Merriam was probably one of the most anthologized poets for children during the time that she wrote for them. Other critics have referred to Merriam as one of America’s most beloved poets.
It Doesn’t “Always” Have to Rhyme, along with the trilogy bookends There Is No Rhyme for Silver and Catch a Little Rhyme, established Merriam as a major poet for young people; Catch a Little Rhyme was adapted into a sound recording at Caedmon. One rarely hears or reads about only one volume in this trilogy, further affirming the strength of the work—both its parts and its sum. Some have contended that the trilogy was part of Merriam’s efforts to help young people enjoy, know about, and, if so inclined, write poetry. That contention is difficult to refute.