Piping Down the Valleys Wild by Various

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Piping Down the Valleys Wild Analysis

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Piping Down the Valleys Wild possesses virtually everything that younger audiences cite as their poetry preferences. In addition to the musical qualities of rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, assonance, and other sound effects, many of the poems in the anthology are about familiar experiences. David McCord’s “Kite” speaks of the thrill of flying a kite in different kinds of weather—from sunny to cloudy to dark, windy, and gray. Patricia Hubbell’s “Concrete Mixers” compares the machinery of her poem to ponderous pachyderms that move, bellow, and spray with their trunks as they raise a city. Although it offers unique insights into the ordinary, the language is everyday, never obscure, and easily comprehensible to the urban and suburban audiences for whom Larrick intended her book.

Three sections are devoted to animals, also a favorite topic among children. The verses range from the lighthearted descriptions of a puppy’s antics in Marchette Chute’s “My Dog” to the gentle, poignant, and sometimes humorous characterizations that Carmen Bernos de Gasztold gives her animals as they offer special prayers to God and simultaneously hold up a mirror to human thoughts and wishes. None except those with hearts of stone could fail to be touched by the request of the Old Horse who, with threadbare coat and stiffened legs, asks God for a gentle death after long years of labor.

Another preference to which this collection caters is the strange and fantastic. The poems on people feature characters such as Beatrice Curtis Brown’s poor old Jonathan Bing, who cannot remember the appropriate attire for his visit to the king. Karla Kuskin’s Catherine serves up a special blend of mud, water, weeds, nuts, gravel, bark, thistle, and sand as a “most delicious chocolate cake,” while the beneficiary of her concoction insists on having it with ice cream. Indeed, an entire chapter on the supernatural is included, encompassing ghosts and ghouls along with elves, wee folk, and other creatures from fairy lands.

Throughout the book are dozens of humorous poems, a further favored category. Some of these will be found amusing because of their wordplay. In “The Squirrel,” an unknown author describes the “whisky, frisky,” “whirly, twirly,” and “furly, curly” features of a squirrel. Other poems will inspire humor because of their content. In a manner reminiscent of Mother Goose, Dylan Thomas creates nonsense when Johnnie Crack and Flossie Snail put their baby in a milking pail and serve it “stout and...

(The entire section is 625 words.)