Sheila's daddy had a sister, Wilma (Wilma Matthews McAfee), who was an artist. Wilma's paintings decorated the Matthews home - a fly fisherman on an Appalachian stream, a Mexican family and their swaying porch. Uncle Mc (Broadus McAfee) was military man, an Army Colonel. When Sheila was 12, Aunt Wilma and Uncle Mc presented Sheila with a copy of The Golden Treasury of Poetry, anthology collected by Lois Untermeyer, illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund.
Golden Treasury became the standard children's poetry anthology for a generation or two. It contains a huge range of poems from nonsense verse to nursery rhymes to longish story-poems to classic poems by serious poets.
My eldest was spoiled rotten as a toddler. (Some might say she still is!) She would not go to sleep without the attendance of at least one of her parents. Each night Sheila or I would sit by her bed and read to her or tell her stories until she went to sleep. Often the Golden Treasury was the sleep drug of choice. She loved the nursery rhymes. "Little Boy Blue" particularly. Sometimes I would start at the beginning of the book and skip through it at random for close to an hour before she slept.
We/I would make up tunes and sing the story songs. One of those was nutty Ogden Nash's story poem about the "realio, trulio, little pet dragon", Custard.
The Tale of Custard the Dragon
Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.
Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.
Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.
Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.
Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.
Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
And Blink said Week!, which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.
Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.
Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.
Belinda paled, and she cried, Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed.
But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.
The pirate gaped at Belinda's dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets but they didn't hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.
Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pyrate.
Belinda still lives in her little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little gray mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio, little pet dragon.
Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.
- by Ogden Nash-----------
The series of posts, A Poem to Start the Week, is my little anthology of poetry, many of which I have used with my students in elementary schools during 27 years of teaching.
Previous Poems to Start the Week:
Custard the Dragon • Statistics 101 • The Spider and the Fly
Back to School • The Inchcape Rock • Ogden Nash • Trash
Hearts, Like Doors • Casey at the Bat • Always a Rose • Home at Last
Bag of Tools • Carpe Diem • Poems About Poetry • Man's Best Friend
Spelling is Tough Stough! • Blue Marble • Tacks, Splinters, Apples and Stars
Oh, Captain, My Captain! • Metaphor • Introducion to Poetry
Loveliest of Trees • Flax-Golden Tales • The Dinosaurs Are Not All Dead
Owl Pellets • Mummy Slept Late • Just My Size
The Kindest Things I Know • Miles to Go • Love that Brother
Oh, Frabjous Day!
Other Posts about Children's Literature:
The Lion's Paw top kid's OOP book!
Aslan is Dead!
Multiplying People, Rice, and ReadersA Teacher's Life
You can read some of my own efforts at poetry here.
And then there's Alien Invasion.
A weblog dedicated to Poetry for Children.
Watch Sonja Cole's reviews of children's books at Bookwink.com.
The PBS series Favorite Poem Project