About the Holiday
National Pie day is perfect for…well…pie! Whether you love fruity pies or meat pies, pies with lattice tops or crumble crusts this day is for you! There’s only one true way to celebrate—make or buy your favorite kind of pie and enjoy!
Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems
Written by J. Patrick Lewis | Illustrated by Michael Slack
There’s something about poetry with its iambic pentameters, feet, meter, sonnets, couplets, and more countable qualities that just seems to lend itself to math. J. Patrick Lewis must have thought so too because he penned a clever volume of poems inspired by well-known verses. First up is Edgar Allan Poe’s Apple Pie, which is inspired by “The Raven” and begins: “Once upon a midnight rotten, / Cold, and rainy, I’d forgotten / All about the apple pie / Still cooling from the hour before.” But now, even though there is a “knocking, knocking…” at the door, the narrator takes up a knife and slices the night with a cutting question, only to hear the stranger’s mysterious clue “‘Never four!’”
All the narrator of Emily Dickenson’s Telephone Book, inspired by “My Life Closed Twice Before its Close,” wants to do after napping is to find a certain phone number in her directory, but where is it? She knew where it was before she went to bed—in fact its “two opposing pages / that added up to 113— / Were smudged around the edges—” but now she’s so confused…. Can you help?
Those who think that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has no link to underwear possibly are not aware of Robert Frost’s Boxer Shorts, in which the lilt and the rhythm of the original are perfectly matched in a priceless, pricey puzzle that ends “My tightie whities look so sad. / My tightie whities look so sad.” How can you resist?
You may know about William Carlos Williams’s red wheelbarrow and where it stood, but what if that handy implement was replaced by a… “fifteen-inch square pizza” that is missing “nineteen and a half pieces”?! Well, there may not be any rainwater glaze, but it sure does make for a delicious arithmetic conundrum in William Carlos Williams’s Pizza.
You’re eating up these poems, aren’t you? Well, next come three poems in which termites, sharks, and a “hippo-po-tah-tum” do a bit of nibbling of their own. The fun multiplies in Ogden Nash’s Buggy Rugs, where 313 little wood chompers hide; in John Ciardi’s Shark Dentist, in which you’ll want to brace yourself for the ending; and in Shel Silverstein’s Hippo-po-tah-tum, which is fractionally frightening.
These seven poems are added to seven more, plus two pages full of “prose about the poets,” to equal one smart, tantalizing poetic brainteaser of a book!
Patrick Lewis, who served as the US Children’s Poet Lauriat from 2011 to 2013, has honored 16 of the world’s most beloved poets the way kids love best—with humor. Adapting the original poem’s rhythm, rhyme scheme, and length with a dash of the ridiculous and a dose of numerical heft, Lewis has created poems that will have kids giggling while they ponder the answers to the lyrical math problems the verses pose. While arithmetic aficionados will gobble these poems up, there’s plenty for language arts lovers to sink their teeth into too. Each witty poem just begs to be compared to the original, which would make for a fun afternoon at home or lesson in the classroom. Admit it—aren’t you just the tiniest bit curious what Edward Lear’s “There was an Old Man with a Beard” has to do with an 80-foot hotdog?
Michael Slack gets things off and running on the first spread, where a sharp-taloned blackbird stands over a knife that’s plunged into the center of a pie. While readers of Walt Whitman’s Web-Covered Shoe may wonder exactly how long the boot has been untouched, they’ll be more distracted by the number of eyes on two very fierce-looking spiders. And there may be nothing more diverting than the potbellied cowboy wearing only his tightie whities as he waits for his snowflake, flame, spaceship, and other uniquely decorated boxers to dry. Slack illustrates each poem with distinctive, vibrant images that ramp up the humor and give every page an individual look.
Answers to the math problems proposed are included with every poem, and brief biographies accompanied by tiny portraits, reveal information about the poets represented and their work.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie is a fantastic way to get kids interested in math and poetry. The brain ticklers, as well as the wonderful wordplay and illustrations, make this a book that should be on classroom shelves and would be welcome in home libraries too.
Ages 6 – 9
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2015 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0544456129
To learn more about J. Patrick Lewis, his books, and resources for kids and teachers, visit his website!
View a gallery of books, illustration, and other art by Michael Slack on his website!
National Pie Day Activity
Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle
Each winner of a poetry contest were supposed to get two identical pies, but they got mixed up! Can you find the matching pies in this printable Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle and save the day?
Picture Book Review