|Grandits, J. Technically, It's Not My Fault Jacket Cover. 2004. From http://www.betterworldbooks.com/technically-it-s-not-my-fault-id-0618503617.aspx|
Grandits, John. 2004. TECHNICALLY, IT’S NOT MY FAULT: CONCRETE POEMS. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN: 9780618428335
- PLOT SUMMARY
This humorous and clever book features concrete poems written from the perspective of 11 year old Robert. Through these highly visual and witty poems, Robert gives us a snapshot of his life, his family, and the unique workings of his imaginative mind. The visual nature of the poems makes the book feel interactive and the familiar subject matter, from school to baseball, annoying sisters to nagging parents, make this collection attractive to kids, especially boys.
- CRITICAL ANALYSIS
This creative collection of unrhymed poetry is intriguing and attractive from the front cover, which features the title poem, all the way to the author’s note about writing poetry and presented as a concrete poem. The highly visual poems focus on the image the words create on the page, rather than auditory rhythm. However, Grandits has chosen his words well, for when the poems are read aloud it is unquestionably the voice of an 11 year old boy.
The illustrations behind and around the poems often include additional text and provide context, often funny or ironic, to the poems. Each of the poems ends with a twist that makes you laugh (and sometimes groan). The tone is conversational with lots of wordplays and puns, such as, “It’s Not Fair,” in which Robert wraps his sister’s math homework around a firecracker and sets it off in a blaze of algebraic glory. Robert is grounded, but he gets the last word, “And my parents made me apologize to my sister. But it’s not all bad. Now she’s not talking to me.”
Onomatopoeias, as well as 32 different fonts of varying sizes, are used frequently and to great effect. For instance, in the poem, “On the Stairs in the Middle of the Night,” the reader can hear and see Robert as he stumbles down the stairs.
The topics of the poems will be familiar and accessible to kids in grades 4-8, particularly boys. The subjects are sometimes grossly funny, such as “The Autobiography of Murray the Fart.” But this will probably be a pro rather than a con to boys, especially those who enjoyed series books, such as CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS and THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. This comic collection is a great way to introduce kids because the poems are contemporary, relevant, and outrageously funny.
- AWARDS/REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
ALA Notable Books for Children
Review in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “Grandits crafts an 11-year-old protagonist, Robert, whose perspective throughout is authentically adolescent. He is both immature and intelligent, and delights in all things gross as can be seen in such offerings as "The Autobiography of Murray the Fart," "Spew Machine," and "Sick Day."”
Review in BOOKLIST: “The Autobiography of Murray the Fart, written in lines that flow from a soda can-shaped block to a thin line that turns into intestinelike loops, will, like the other selections in this winning, highly creative collection, convince readers that poetry can be loud, outrageous, gross fun.”
Review in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: “Grandits (Pictures Tell Stories) weaves Robert's portrait in distorted letterforms, language mazes and comic first-person narration. A technically (and imaginatively) inspired typeface experiment.”
*Discuss how the typeface a word affects the poem. If you changed the font would the meaning of the poem change?
*Have students write journal entries as concrete poems.
*Have students create their ideal roller coaster in a concrete poem, as Robert does in the poem, “Spew Machine.”
*Other collections of concrete poems for kids:
Janeczko, Paul B. 2005. A POKE IN THE I: A COLLECTION OF CONCRETE POEMS. Ill. by Chris Raschka. ISBN 9780763623760
Burg, Brad. 2002. OUTSIDE THE LINES. Ill. by Rebecca Gibbon. ISBN 9780399234460
Graham, Joan Bransfield. 1999. FLICKER FLASH. Ill. by Nancy Davis. ISBN 978039590512
*Other poetry collections about being a middle/high school student
George, Kristine O’Connell. 2002. SWIMMING UPSTREAM: MIDDLE SCHOOL POEMS. ISBN 978061815206
Holbrook, Sara. 1997. THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK. Ill. by Reuben Martin. ISBN 9781563976384
Holbrook, Sara. 1997. I NEVER SAID I WASN’T DIFFICULT. Ill. by Reuben Martin. ISBN 9781563976391