Tom and Tess Hannah's The Endless String
Book review by P.J. Rooks
Beware of those strings that say, "Pull me, please!"
(You may find your pants down around your knees.)
With its clean, clear pages and simple line drawings, The Endless String by Tom and Tess Hannah, is very Silverstein-esque. What more do these cute, clever poems have in common with those of the late and much-loved Uncle Shelby, author of Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree, and The Light in the Attic (to name a few)?
Well, for starters, like Silverstein, the poems in The Endless String were written first for kids instead of for profit -- not exactly a novel concept but an increasingly rare one these days.
So many of the things that claim to be written for kids have never actually been tested on kids. The unfortunate result is a story or poem that isn't remotely interesting to a child and a writer or publisher that keeps cranking out this boring brand of hard-bound swill without much regard (or respect) for the short attention span of a rather finicky audience.
Tom and Tess Hannah, the lyrically gifted parents of four, however, officially committed their many poems to paper after their children had grown. The Endless String is a treasury of favorite family poems -- remembered, loved, tested and now, shared.
Another welcome feature of the Hannahs' book is the avoidance of nonsense words or ideas that are out of league with a child's developing vocabulary. Kids who are still just learning the lexicon are doing so in a very literal way. There is not a lot of appreciation of irony, sarcasm, complex confabulations or nonsense words.
Children's writers who invent words just to make a rhyme work or to stray too far with their vocabulary tend to really alienate young readers -- and to lose them very quickly (not to mention annoying their parents!)
It appears that the Hannahs, being most experienced in the department of parenthood, are well aware of this. The text and rhymes in The Endless String keep it at kid-level -- there are no fancy stunts to send your child screeching off in search of another activity, just good fun and great poems.
Kids loved Shel Silverstein because he was whimsical, zany and well, he just "got them" -- and the Hannah's book offers a similar charm.
A child with a jelly bean stuck to the sole of his shoe, for example, spends his day collecting junk, even a small Christmas tree, on the bottom of his foot. As it gets increasingly difficult to walk, the child is relieved at the end of the day to be able to dump his shoe just inside the gate at home, but wonders how he will ever restore the shoe to normal.
Jungle animals gather after hours at a bar named Joe's to play instruments and sing, but the cacophony they create is uninspiring at best. With giant sandwiches, dancing caterpillars, kangaroos in the kitchen, giraffes in the grocery store and sharks that set out in search of Jules Verne and end up in the bathtub, The Endless String entertains at every turn while often offering little lessons (like "eat your peas" or "scrub your knees") that might help to sweeten the deal a bit when parents have to get tough and lay down the law.
Great for long car drives or even to pass around for reading practice, the nutty poems in The Endless String will appeal to a wide age range. This funny book would make a wonderful holiday gift for just about any family or, pick it up for your own family and enjoy it as it was originally intended -- together.
An abridged version of The Endless String is available for immediate download, reading and coloring!
Read more of P.J.'s reviews.
Elsewhere on this site, Tom Hannah discusses his publishing adventure.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.