Silly Verse for Kids – a book I wish I had read as a child

I briefly mentioned Spike Milligan’s brilliant book of children’s poetry and songs, Silly Verse for Kids, in this post last week, and decided it deserved a little bit more attention, especially as it is Poetry Month still (also, I just love Spike Milligan).

Written almost half a century ago, this small book contains over thirty rhymes, all with Milligan’s own ridiculous drawings (which feature prominently in his other books too, including his war memoirs), which were written either to amuse his children, or as a result of things they had said at home. The poetry and songs aren’t particularly amazing in terms of poetic technique, but they are funny and are quite clever in terms of content, still retaining enough of a musical quality to make them fun for children (and, let’s be honest, fun for adults too – I’m twenty-five but I still enjoy reading this book).

Some of the rhymes in this book became quite famous and are still sung to children today – in particular, Spike Milligan wrote On The Ning Nang Nong, a song I grew up with, but which I only attributed to Milligan recently. There are a few others that I particularly enjoy, that I thought I’d share for a bit of fun. The first is a cute one about a Granny struggling in adverse weather, the second is making fun of the stereotypical English teeth (which as an English born man with imperfect teeth, I can appreciate), and the last is just plain silly (the third line of which goes off the page in the book…you’ll see what I mean).

Granny

Through every nook and every cranny
The wind blew in on poor old Granny;
Around her knees, into each ear
(And up her nose as well, I fear).

All through the night the wind grew worse,
It nearly made the vicar curse.
The top had fallen off the steeple
Just missing him (and other people).

It blew on man; it blew on beast.
It blew on nun; it blew on priest.
It blew the wig off Auntie Fanny –
But most of all, it blew on Granny!

Teeth

English Teeth, English Teeth!
Shining in the sun
A part of British heritage
Aye, each and every one.

English Teeth, Happy Teeth!
Always having fun
Clamping down on bits of fish
And sausages half done.

English Teeth! Heroes’ Teeth!
Hear them click! and clack!
Let’s sing a song of praise to them –
Three Cheers for the Brown Grey and Black.

Failure

I’m trying to write the longest first line that poetry has ever had,
For a start that wasn’t bad,
Now here comes a longer oneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
I know I cheated:
It was the only way I could avoid being defeated. 

I know there are many other great books of children’s poetry and song out there, but this is one book that has certainly grown on me, in all its silliness. It makes me want to write similar rhymes for my children, one day, and any book that inspires one towards writing of any kind has to be worth a mention.

Have you read this book before? Who’s your favourite author of children’s rhymes (if you have one)?

22 thoughts on “Silly Verse for Kids – a book I wish I had read as a child

    • Not a problem! I love comic verse too, I really need to find more comic verse books – I know there are some great limerick books out there with my name written on them (figuratively speaking)! :)

    • Oooh really? Milligan is hilarious. I plan on writing more blogs about some of his other books down the track, as he wrote quite a lot. He wrote a number of kids books, including this and Badjelly the Witch, but he also wrote a series of 7 war memoirs based on his time in WWII (including the awesomely titled first book “Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall”), some other adults novels and novellas including Puckoon and The Murphy, he rewrote lots of classic tales such as Robin Hood, Frankenstein and even the Old Testament, and then of course he did The Goon Show on radio and several television shows. He really was a genius, and very productive! :D

        • Bahahaha. Oops :S Sorry hahaha. I’m so bad sometimes…I must think I’m trying to singlehandedly give the world economy a boost by convincing people to buy books :P Actually I don’t own all of Milligan’s books, I’m missing the last 2 parts (I think) of his war memoirs, at the very least. I will get to them eventually… :P

          • Oh, don’t be! It’s brilliant. :) This is the whole picking-up-books-I’d-never-think-to-otherwise thing I was talking about. *runs over to Goodreads and starts adding books*

            • Hahahah true :D Well as long as you enjoy me telling you about all these books! :P And I have so many to add to my Goodreads to-be-read list…several hundred at least, out of which about 150ish I already own (at a guess). Sigh. I did finally just finish book number 9 for the year, so only 5 behind schedule now :P

              • I went over to Goodreads just now, and I realised the same thing. So I’m sifting through my written list, and adding those to Goodreads. After that, I’ve got to cross-check with my library’s database and figure out how many I can borrow, and how many I’ve got to hunt down and pick up. This is going to be fun. :D
                So, yes. I’d love more recommendations. :)

                • Ahh awesome!
                  Well, I always try to write at least a couple of book-type blogs each week, and I seem to be mostly writing about books I have that I figure others might not have…so I’m sure you’ll get plenty more recommendations from me! I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg so far, bahaahha :P

    • Hahaha, yeah, that one makes me laugh, it’s just so utterly silly. I think Milligan is often at his best when he is just being silly, whether it’s poetry or his other stories and books. Reminds me actually, I have a really silly quote of his to add to my quotes page….
      I am glad I did a blog on this book now, I was unsure at first as to whether people would care but it appears to have appealed to a silly side in a lot of people :D

    • I have a feeling this is one of his oldest books, although the edition I have is published in 1968 some of the poems are credited to being written in the 1950s, which was before he had published anything. Also, he jokingly wrote at the start of the book “I dedicate this book to my bank balance” which makes me laugh every time I open the book.
      He definitely wrote a lot more than many people realise (including myself). :)

  1. I’d forgotten how much I loved his work and the role poetry played when I was young, thanks. I had a book called Australian Poems to Read to the very Young and there was a poem something like the Tanty Wanty Gongelope (?!) that I just loved. I kept very few of my childhood books but this was one of them. Oh! and Alexander Beetle by A.A. Milne -yep I still have that one too, Now We Are Six? Wow you are really testing the brain this morning. Looks like I’ll be ratting through the boxes! Cheers Sue

    • Ah wow, it sounds like you had some great childhood books – the Tanty Wanty Gongelope sounds funny, and A.A.Milne is always great. I think that’s what made me want to write this, because I likewise had forgotten my love for silly poetry when I was young (I have always loved limericks since I could write at all). I’ll have to go digging through my childhood books too to see if I can find more… :)

  2. I love kids books that put a different twist on rhymes, instead of the usual nursery variety. There is a book I read to my kids when they were young that actually had Canadian content in it. It’s called ‘Jelly Belly’, by Dennis Lee. There’s also Maurice Sendak’s ‘Chicken Soup with Rice’, that has some pretty interesting poetry in it, as well. Thanks for suggesting Spike Milligan’s ‘Silly Verse For Kids’. It’s something I should pick up for the grandson! :)

    • I know what you mean – the usual nursery rhymes do get a little bit tedious after a while. Those two books you mention sound interesting! I know there’s a few “aussie” rhymes books too, I don’t know if they’re as popular now as they used to be though.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s