Title: Mama Built a Little Nest
Author: Jennifer Ward
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Word Count: 300 (estimate)
It’s with mixed feelings that I arrive at the last day of the 14:14 Blogging Challenge. It’s certainly been a challenge for me since about the same time I started it, my son became much more mobile with his crawling — making it that much more difficult for me to find time to sit and write instead of chasing him around and trying to keep him out of the dog food bowl! Despite these obstacle, I’ve so enjoyed studying picture books and being introduced to other wonderful books that I’d never even have heard of if it weren’t for the other committed bloggers who also undertook the challenge. I only wish I’d had more time to comment on their blog posts!
Knowing that this was my last post for the challenge made it very difficult to choose a book. There were so many great options, but I decided to go with Mama Built a Little Nest because it’s a non-fiction rhyming book — something I haven’t seen too often. I chose it for rhyme, but the fantastic word play is really what elevates the rhyme.
In children’s publishing circles, you often hear that agents and editors aren’t interested in simple end-rhymes. However, I think that’s not really the case. I see a lot of simple end-rhymes in newly published books. However, after looking at this book as well as God Bless You and Good Night (which I reviewed earlier in the challenge), I’m wondering if agents/editors are willing to overlook simple end-rhyme when it’s skillfully combined with clever word play.
Mama Built a Little Nest is about different kinds of birds and the variety of nests that they build. It opens with the tree-hole nests built by woodpeckers.
Mama built a little nest
inside a sturdy trunk.
She used her beak to tap-tap-tap
the perfect place to bunk.
Notice the onomatopoeia with the “tap-tap-tap” and the alliteration of “perfect place.” These take a simple rhyming couplet and add interest to it.
The spread about wrens reads like this:
Daddy built a little nest.
And then he built another.
And another. And another —
hoping to impress my mother.
First, I love that it’s Daddy building the nests. The fact that he builds these nests in a cactus is all the more impressive. Now to look at the rhyme. Not only do the couplets rhyme, but there is some nice repetition, assonance and near rhyme. Notice how “nest” and “impress” sound quite nice together.
The flamingo’s nest is described like this:
Mama built a little next
entirely out of mud.
No feathery down, no soft green plants,
just fuddy, muddy crud.
I love that last line with its internal rhyme and assonance! I mean, how fun is it to say “fuddy, muddy crud?”
Throughout the book, the rhyming couplets are enhanced by the use of onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, and consonance. As you read, it’s fun to count all the examples of word play and see how Jennifer Ward weaves them together with her rhyme. It seems so effortless, but I’m sure it required a lot of attention.
I love writing in rhyme, and this book is a great example of how word play can really take your rhyme to the next level. It also inspires me to think of what other non-fiction topics might be well-served by a rhyming text.
What other non-fiction rhyming books can you think of?