By Dian Curtis Regan
Anyone who’s ever been to a poetry reading knows they stink like a petting zoo: a bunch of wiseacres crying about their lost loves, or something political or their homework.
Ergo, Barnyard Slam, the hacky children’s book by Dian Curtis Regan, illustrated by Paul Meisel.
You might call Barnyard Slam the anti-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup as it takes two horrendous things – poetry and barnyards – and attempts to cram them together like two lonely, undateable losers you know from work and your awful book club.
The premise of Barnyard Slam is extraordinary. When the farmer and his son are away Yo Mama Goose (Get it?) organizes a poetry slam for all the other animals. From the goose’s name you already know you’re in for one outrageous read.
Every possible farm animal joke and pun is shoehorned into the book. The animals ought to have Vlasic pickles in their mouths with the corny lines that come out of them.
For example, Yo Mama says, “I don’t like ducks. What a bunch of quacks.” Oh, that goose and duck just can never get along.
That Regan hasn’t been sued by the estates of Shari Lewis and Dr. Seuss itself is a triumph. The former because the horse (whose poem is titled “Hay!”) is cleverly named Charley Horse (and is always limping – Yo Mama even says, “Hope that leg cramp of yours is better.” LOL!)
The lamb in the barn’s poem is called “Lamb I Am.” The ensuing banter is absolute hilarity:
“Excellent!” Goose beams. “I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth that Lamb wrote this poem in only two shakes of his tail.”
“Well, I thought Lamb chopped,” Ducks sniffs. “Can we please stop horsing around?”
“Did someone call me?” asks Charley Horse. “Did my poem win?”
“Nooooooo!” chorus the animals.
It reads like an uncomfortable sketch from Hee-Haw or even The Muppet Show – and where is Fozzie Bear when you need him?
Kids adore animals. So a children’s book with four-legged creatures as the S.S. during World War II would probably work to some degree. Barnyard Slam, however, gave me a headache.
A far superior barnyard book, for children and adults alike, is Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Paulette Bogan. I won’t go into a whole review or the storyline simply because the other book has exhausted me. But in barnyard terms, you catch far more flies with salsa than you do with poetry.