“The Putrid Poetic Ponderings of Louis J. Pasternak, AKA Dr. Skullstench” is a funny read-aloud perfect for your poetry lovers–and your poetry haters. Fourth grader Louis is, shall we say, slightly unhappy about the poetry project at school, and he vows to write gross poems certain to make Miss Sweetmallow regret the unit. Filled with 25 light verse poems by Louis, and a few more lofty ones by his nemesis, Goldie, this story is chapter book length. It’s 65 pages and about 6,500 words–great for spending a little classroom time each day on poetry.
Here’s how the story starts.
Miss Sweetmallow said we had to write poetry.
I hate poetry. I like folding my eyelids back so you can see the wet parts underneath. I like playing basketball until I’m dripping in sweat and then shaking my whole body so everybody gets a shower. I even like to risk getting poisoned every month or two and eat the cafeteria’s Swedish meatballs in gravy. Which look like cat hairballs.
“In this unit, you will each write 25 original poems.”
I slumped in my chair.
“When you create poems, you can embrace the beauty of language and feel the poem burn deep into your soul.”
I closed my eyes.
When I opened them, Miss Sweetmallow was by my desk. “And,” she said, “You can write them about anything you want.”
I sat up straighter.
“Anything?” I asked.
“Yes, Louis, anything.”
Well. O.K., then.
I was going to make Miss Sweetmallow very, very sorry she made us write poetry.
The notes back and forth between Louis and his teacher on his poems were the most fun part of the story to write! Here’s a poem where Louis picks up on Miss Sweetmallow’s suggestion to write about bunnies–adorable, fluffy bunnies–and takes it in a direction she really didn’t want.
Each poem demonstrates a poetic element, form, or goal assigned by Ms. Sweetmallow (though there are not lessons and explanations embedded in the story). So the poems would fit seamlessly into your own classroom lessons and discussions on metaphor, alliteration, list poems, haiku, etc.