Bull, Webster. The Kittery Kayaker (Little Limmericks). Illustrated by Jacqueline Decker. Beverly, MA: Commonwealth Editions, 2007. Print.
The quirky inhabitants of Maine share their adventures through fun, snappy limmericks in Webster Bull’s The Kittery Kayaker.
The book offers a tour around the state’s diverse geography, from the southern coast to the central forests, and introduces readers to fisherfolk and a camper, mountaineer, tourist, skier, and lumberjack, to name a few. Each spread offers one five-line limmerick in which we meet one or two Mainers, situate them in a particular part of the state, and learn a bit about them (and in turn about that part of the state). It gets very local (“A girl from Township 7, Range 11/ Climbed Mt. Katahdin with her good friend Kevin” and “He would paddle all day/ From the Nubble, they say/ To the light way Down East at West Quoddy”) as well as speaks generally to seasonal life in Maine (“Spring begins at ice out/ When the snow in my yard turns to mud”). It also contains a rhyme to help remember the rivers of Maine. If you’re from Maine or familiar with the state, it’s very exciting to identify known locations– and if you’re not, this book just begs a visit to an atlas or Google Maps… or to Maine.
Limmericks, with their short format and predictable rhythm and rhyme scheme, are perfect for children, easily read and even easily memorized. When the rhyme is taken along with the fantastic illustrations, the book comes alive– the characters in the text become anthropomorphic otters, foxes, bears, chipmunks, beavers, moose, porcupines, frogs, whales and puffins– all native animals of Maine. Again, they provide a fun education to the fauna of the state, while adding to the text’s interest. The illustrations are loaded with color and interest, and the print is large and easily read. Lots of white space surround the text blocks, which are set apart from the drawings for ease of reading.
Kittery Kayaker is full of jokes that make adults chuckle (is that a bit of class conflict I detect between a lobsterman and a yacht owner?) and goofy characters that keep younger audiences entertained and reading on. While it could be read silently, the book is a blast to read aloud– the fun of limmericks is in sharing them, of course, and this offers a nice introduction to verse and to limmericks in particular.