Writing for children can prove to be a daunting task especially for an artist unarmed with the necessary skills of handling his or her work. The claim follows because childhood is a very sensitive stage in the development of human beings and it is one of the stages in human development where one gets to learn a lot.
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Shel Silverstein and Eloise Greenfield are two poets who have excelled in writing poetry aimed at developing the young minds of children. The two poets appear similar based on the way they portray the issue of childhood in several ways. For instance, the both focus on the role played by imagination, as seen in their depictions of children in their poetry.
The two poets portray children as having minds that are active and able to get new concepts introduced to them with ease.
The fact that their poetry aims at introducing these new concepts such as the theme of love in Greenfield’s poem and the meaning of sadness and other emotions in Silverstein’s work is clear indication that according to these poets, the child’s mind is ready to receive new concepts when they are able to read poetry.
One can introduce weighty matters of social concern to children through poetry as revealed in the works of the two poets. The child’s mind is ready at this time to receive the new knowledge considering that some of the poems by the two poets have taught children advanced lessons such as philosophy.
For instance, the nature of motherhood as a subject seems introduced to children using the poem ‘Karen” by Greenfield. In the poem, the little girl’s mother is not present to put her to bed a role that is taken by her sister who gives the persona “mama’s kisses” when she wants to sleep (Greenfield 45).
Both poets write in free prose, which makes it easy to the children of that age to identify with the narrators in the poem. In order to understand clearly the happenings in the poem, the child readers need to identify with the persona such as to break the barrier that may exist in between them as suggested by the poets.
The child reader easily discerns the messages conveyed in the poems upon the communication of matters in a manner that he/she understands well. Since children are not conversant with the complicated conventions of poetry, the use of the free verse by the two poets conveys a clear and informed understanding of the children’s minds, which help the poetry to serve its purpose effectively.
There is a fear of the unknown that is prevalent in children as portrayed by some of the poems by the two poets. For instance, in Eloise Greenfield’s “Buddy’s Dream”, the young boy has fear emanating from his dreams in that in the dreams he sees four other children who share his identity.
In other words, he sees four other ‘Buddies’ (Greenfield 140). Shel Silverstein’s “A light in the Attic” shows several fears portrayed by children.
For instance, “What if I flunk that test…What if green hair grows on my chest…What if nobody likes me…What if a bolt of lightning strikes me” (Silverstein lines 5-8) shows the fears that children have at that tender age of their development.
The poems of these artists therefore play a great part in dealing with the fears that children have at that age by helping them to deal with them as well as to differentiate the real fro the surreal.
Therefore, through effective use of imagination, the two poets, Greenfield and Shel Silverstein succeed in the purpose that they attribute to their works: Introducing new realities into the minds of the young children. Using a child persona in the poems, the children audience gets to identify with the persona whose experiences they identify with.
Greenfield, Eloise. Honey, I Love and other love poems. New York: Harper Collins, 1986.
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Silverstein, Shel. A light in the Attic. Ed. Moyer, Larry. New York: Harper Collins, 1981.