No More Poems! A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
No More Poems! A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse Book Poster Image
Funny, mostly realistic poems include some edgy humor.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduces poetry about everyday things and familiar situations. 

Positive Messages

Implied message that poetry is fun -- reading it or hearing it read aloud. Poem about obsessive cell phone use says: "I used to find it charming / I used to think it nice / But now I am a prisoner / Of my own device." During a baseball game, a kid yells at his relentlessly yelling and bullying dad/coach: "Lighten up, Dad, / Us kids wanna have some fun!" Iffy messages in the poem "Brotherly Love": The parent lists many ways for the daughter not to kill her brother but suggests less-fatal ways to be mean to him (flatten his tires, push him in the pool) and points out more than once that if the girl kills him, the parent will be blamed and sent to prison. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Adults portrayed are often goofy or misbehaving, like a baseball coach who yells at his own son on the field, embarrassing him, making him feel bad. The boy, a pitcher, "sends one flying / toward his old man's head / Turns out it's a curveball / And hits the dirt instead." Kids portrayed are mostly cool, fun-loving, but poem "My Manners" shows a kid who admits "My manners are A MESS"; the kid in "My Homework" makes up excuses for not having his homework to turn in; and "Purple Pox" shows kid faking being sick to stay home from school. In poem "Brotherly Love," parent tells daughter she shouldn't kill her brother -- but suggests ways to be mean to him, like giving his bike flat tires or shoving him into the pool. 

Violence & Scariness

In poem "Brotherly Love," parent tells daughter all the ways she shouldn't kill her brother: Don't push him out the window, drown him in the bathtub, smother him with a pillow, pour gasoline on him and set him on fire, tie him to an active railroad track, feed him poison, or drop him down a well. Then parent suggests alternative ways to be mean: Maybe give his bike flat tires or shove him into swimming pool. The illustration shows girl with her brother behind her, bound and gagged and tied to their toy train track. In poem about bullying dad/coach who yells at his son from the sidelines, the son throws a pitch at his dad's head -- but it's a curveball, so it lands in the dirt.

 

Language

In a poem about an older man who can't remember a kid's name, the man says, "No flippin' way." In a poem in which a boy talks about his rivalry with his twin brother, he ends almost every verse with "He's dumb." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that No More Poems! A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse is by Rhett Miller, frontman of the alt-country band Old 97's, and is illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat. It's funny and irreverent and has fun, cartoon-like art that includes some edgy images, like a baseball coach angrily yelling at his son on the team and a boy peeing in the bathroom in the middle of the night (showing the yellow stream going in the toilet). And for a poem in which a parent tells a little girl all the ways she shouldn't kill her brother (don't push him out the window, don't drown him, don't take a pillow and smother him, don't pour gasoline on him and set set him on fire, etc.), there's a picture of a boy tied up on the railroad tracks of a toy train set. The poem is clearly intended to be funny, but joking about killing/hurting your sibling -- and the accompanying image -- could upset parents and/or kids.

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What's the story?

NO MORE POEMS! A BOOK IN VERSE THAT JUST GETS WORSE presents 23 funny, silly poems mainly about common kid situations -- in school, at home, in dealing with parents, friends, siblings, and cell phones. 

Is it any good?

This collection of funny poems for kids is full of sly observations, sizzling sarcasm, and potty humor, and it also has a few edgy moments. Each poem gets a double-page spread, and Dan Santat's dynamic cartoon-like illustrations highlight kids' expressive faces and body language. No More Poems! A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse offers biting takes on adults' bad breath ("Stinky-Mouth You"), creative homework excuses, rivalry between twins, and more, and there's a poignant poem about a baseball coach who mercilessly yells at his own son when he's on the field during the game. 

There's been some controversy over the poem "Brotherly Love" and its illustration: In the poem, a parent tells a girl all the ways she shouldn't kill her brother (don't push him out the window, don't drown him, don't take a pillow and smother him, don't pour gasoline on him and set him on fire, etc.), and in the illustration, readers see the little boy behind her, bound and gagged and tied to a toy train track. But the words talk about a real one: "If you tie your brother / To an active railroad track / I'm the one they'll take away / Never to come back / Feed your brother poison / Maybe drop him in a well / And I'm the one who'll wind up / Living in a prison cell." The poem concludes with the parent suggesting some less-than-fatal alternatives: "And so I beg you, Honey Pie / Ignore your dark desires / maybe give his dirt bike / A couple of flat tires / Or if he's by a swimming pool / Give a gentle shove / But please, my angel, show a little / Brotherly love." It's clearly intended as an over-the-top joke, but some kids and parents may find it more disturbing than funny. 

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the poems in No More Poems! A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse. Which ones are your favorites? Why?

  • Do you think the poem "Brotherly Love" is appropriate for kids? Why or why not?

  • Are you surprised to read poems about realistic things like using the bathroom and using cell phones? What would you like to write a poem about? Try writing a poem! 

Book details

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