Runny Babbit Returns: Another Billy Sook

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Runny Babbit Returns: Another Billy Sook Book Poster Image
Scrambled letters make funny poems even sillier.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Sounds of letters. Sound and spelling of words. Wordplay. Intro to poetry via fun poems tailor-made for kids' silly sensibilities.

Positive Messages

Implicit message that it's fun to play with words and language, and that poetry's fun and enjoyable.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Shows fun-loving animals and kind Ramma Mabbit.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Runny Babbit Returns: Another Billy Sook is by beloved poet Shel Silverstein (Falling Up) and is a follow-up to his long-running bestseller Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. Though Silverstein died in 1999, he'd worked for years on these poems and accompanying illustrations, and they're now published posthumously. In each poem, the first letters of some of the words have been swapped. For instance, Bunny Rabbit becomes Runny Babbit, and Silly Book morphs into Billy Sook. Silverstein's poetry books for kids are always fun, and the wordplay in this one makes it even more so.

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What's the story?

RUNNY BABBIT RETURNS: ANOTHER BILLY SOOK is a collection of short poems about Runny Babbit and his animal friends. Each poem is different, and the animals do all sorts of silly, improbable things. With some of the initial letters of words transposed, Runny meets "a wevil itch with prinkled wurple skin." He "mactices his prusic" and "slays the paxophone." He has a "Bappy Hirthday" with a "cirthday bake," along with "fresents" from "his preinds." And at bedtime? "Ramma Mabbit" reads "stedtime bories."

Is it any good?

Shel Silverstein is a master at short, kid-friendly poems with a fun twist at the end, and in these poems, he adds another playful element: switching around the initial letters of some words. These spoonerisms make Runny Babbit Returns: Another Billy Sook even more fun to read. The poems, all centered around "Runny Babbit" and his animal friends, are puzzles to solve, requiring kids to actively listen and flip letters to decode the words and uncover the sense. The opening poem orients kids and explains how it works. Since kids are much closer to the experience of learning language in the first place, it's not so long ago that real words sounded equally new and silly to them, so these scrambles will tickle young funny bones.

But even without the switcheroos, these punch-line poems would be classic. Silverstein was a noted editorial cartoonist, and the black-and-white line drawings of the animals are perfect companions to the jaunty rhymes. Though the book has 42 poems that span 96 pages, don't be scared off from picking this up as a bedtime book. It guarantees giggles.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the wordplay in Runny Babbit Returns: Another Billy Sook. Is it hard for you to figure out some of the words? Which ones are harder? Do the pictures help you make sense of them?

  • Can you write your own poems about Runny Babbit? Try writing some poems, and after they're finished, switch some of the initial letters.

  • Do you know any other ways to scramble words and make a secret language or code? Have you ever heard of pig Latin, Obbish, or any other language games?

Book details

For kids who love poetry and humor

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