On Our Bookshelves: Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and Other Modern Verse

BOOK: Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and Other Modern Verse

EDITORS: Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith



When I was looking for a birthday present for a friend last year, I was absolutely delighted to find that this collection was still in print. I still have my copy (received as a gift when I was a child) and decades later, it still makes a good gift.


Conceived as a collection of modern poetry for youngsters who had had their fill of “verse about galoshes, bunny rabbits, and ‘what I want to be when I grow up,’” selected by poring over recently published books and magazines, and test marketed on young people (who helped the anthologists narrow down the selections), the compilers did, in fact, produce an excellent informal introduction to the poetry of the mid-twentieth century.  Meant for children not yet ready for a formal study of literature, to encourage a fresh and individual response to the poems, it’s actually a startlingly good intro for adults as well. (I remain convinced that the absolute best of children’s literature is also perfectly well suited to the adult reader. Great books remain great books, and do not discriminate based on age.)


So what will you find here? Poems about poems, poems about animals (crows, lions, cats, bats), poems about sports, building things, fishing, summertime, modern life, kindness, memory, H-bombs, sin, getting older, mortality, school, history, science, machinery. Dorothy Parker, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes.   Theodore Roethke. Robert Frost. Edna St. Vincent MillayCarl Sandburg. E. E. Cummings. Also a host of less well-known poets, all with intelligent and striking language. It’s accessible and immediate, but not in any way simplistic.


Buy a copy for yourself. And one for a friend of any age.


RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 5 Whistles





A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler

A Room With a View, E.M. Forster

An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

My Life in France, Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson

Plotted: A Literary Atlas, Andrew DeGraff

Possession, A.S. Byatt

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Oliver Sacks

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah

The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Tender Bar, J.R. Moehringer

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

What If?, Randall Munroe

Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham


Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com


Image Courtesy of alfaori / Shutterstock.com