There's an Awful Lot of Weirdos in Our Neighborhood by Colin McNaughton

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McNaughton, Colin.  1987.  THERE’S AN AWFUL LOT OF WEIRDOS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND OTHER WICKEDLY FUNNY VERSE.  Cambridge:  Candlewick Press.  ISBN:  0-7636-1379-7.

There’s an Awful Lot of Weirdos in Our Neighborhood and Other Wickedly Funny Verse by Colin McNaughton is a collection of over sixty poems for children.  McNaughton is one of the U.K.’s most popular children’s writers, poets, and illustrators.  He trained at Central School of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art and since 1976 has published more than eighty books.

In There’s an Awful Lot of Weirdos in Our Neighborhood, McNaughton writes short verses about everything from eating tripe to dirty nappies (diapers) to neighborhood characters to pets, both common and exotic, and a myriad of other subjects sure to appeal to children because they relate to everyday life ("Fingers") or childish flights of fancy ("The Elibird").  McNaughton’s verses are heavy on rhyme and humor, including the gross-out variety that most children love, although somehow they manage to sound less crass in "British English," especially if read with a British accent.  His illustrations are delightful and show as much humor as his poems.  My only complaint is that in the copy of the book I read they were in black and white and I would have loved to see them in colors as vibrant as the words. 

It’s easy to see why McNaughton is so popular after reading poems such as “Crocodile’s Kin”:

The best use for a crocodile skin
Is to keep a crocodile’s insides in.

Or, in describing “The Elibird” says:

Who's ever heard of the Elibird?
Sounds absurd, an Elibird,
One third’s bird, two third’s furred
The body of an elephant, take my word.

Or “A Poem to Send to Your Worst Enemy”:

Ugly Mug,
Fat Belly!
Slimy Slug,
Smelly Welly!

Silly Nit,
What a Pain!
Bird Brain!

Dum Dum,
Ghosty Ghool!
Big Bum,
Stupid Fool!

Pig Face,
Dopey Twit!
Nut Case,
You’re IT!”  

This would be an extremely fun book to read aloud and would surely elicit shrieks of laughter from children from ages 4-10.  Many people view poetry as stiff and formal and a little bit scary and McNaughton's poems definitely shatter those illusions.  Some parents, especially in the U.S., might be offended by the poems with vulgar topics such as the nosepicking poem or the poems that involve namecalling.  My personal feeling is that parents should loosen up and let themselves and their children enjoy the exuberance, imagination and humor in all of McNaughton's poems, even the "naughty" ones.  In his book about boys and reading, Even Hockey Players Read, Canadian educator David Booth includes There’s an Awful Lot of Weirdos in Our Neighborhood in his list of "Recommended Books for Boys" under the heading "Poetry for Young Boys." 

Works cited:
Images of Delight website,  accessed January 20, 2006.

Booth, David.  2002.  Even Hockey Players Read.  Markham, Ontario, Canada:  Pembroke Publishers.

By Monica Wood