Alice Schertle’s ‘Button Up! Wrinkled Rhymes’

by Alicia Rudnicki, Library Mix

If your shoes or jacket could talk, what might they say? Children’s poet Alice Schertle has some ideas on the subject. She shares them in, Button Up! Wrinkled Rhymes , which is on many libraries’ lists of the most popular children’s picture books of 2009.

A pleasing discovery
I am thankful for librarians who do a great job of putting lots of tempting picture books on display. That is what recently led a young friend of mine to find Button Up!. His discovery of the book led to my discovery of the author.

Schertle is a former school teacher who is a prolific and popular writer of rhyming picture books with topics ranging from how to build a snowman (see the second YouTube video below) to a history of humankind called We.

In an interview (the first YouTube video below) posted by the publisher of We, Schertle talks about the challenge of covering millennia in the classic 32-page spread of a picture book.

Couldn’t stop giggling
But back to Button Up! My friend, who is in second grade, couldn’t stop giggling at all the funny things the clothing said.

“Emily’s Undies” drew lots of laughs with its opening: “We’re Emily’s undies/ with laces and bows./ Emily shows us/ wherever she goes.”

Since he is a bicycling enthusiast, he found “Bob’s Bicycle Helmet” irresistible with lines such as “Bob skins his elbow./ Bob scrapes his knee./ Bob doesn’t hurt his head—/ Bob’s got me.”

Finally, we both got a kick out of “Bill’s Jacket,” in which a puffy blue jacket is anxious to go outside. Schertle writes, “Snap! goes the collar/ under Bill’s chin. / Everybody holler, / BILL’S ALL IN!”

A top pick for a Caldecott
Button Up is illustrated by Petra Mathers, who has been nominated for a Caldecott Award for her humorous and joyous illustrations. The American Library Association will announce the awards in mid- January.

Mathers has populated Schertle’s poems with a menagerie of animals such as Joshua the crocodile, whose jammies include a tube for his tail, and Rick the ostrich, whose eyes bug out —perhaps due to the prickly turtleneck sweater that tickles his long, long neck.

Schertle and Mathers are well matched. They share a silly aesthetic that tickles more than an ostrich neck. It would be a pleasure to see another project by this delightful duo.

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