The World's Greatest Poems, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Keith Graves, is a book that highlights in verse and illustration some of the strangest world records, such as the talkingest bird, longest traffic jam, and stone skipping record. Before each poem, the record is briefly described. Here is an example.
The Tallest Roller CoasterThe poems in this book come in a variety of forms, including acrostic, limerick, sonnet and more. Accompanied by whimsical illustrations, Lewis' verse really shines.
Superman the Escape
Six Flags Magic Mountain
415-foot steel support structure
You're swerving north,
You're swerving south,
Your stomach sits
Inside your month.
You hold your breath,
You lose your nerve,
Your scared to death
At every curve.
You're feeling very
Sick, but then
You tell your Dad,
"Let's go again!"
The vast majority of the poems are based on records that include numbers. Before reading the poems, consider asking students to estimate the answers to questions like these:
- How long was the longest traffic jam (in miles)?
- How many people did one man kiss in eight hours to set a world record?
- What is the longest time someone was stuck in an elevator?
- How tall was the tallest scarecrow?
- What was the weight of the biggest potato?
Kids love record-breaking numbers and comparisons of this sort. I recommend pairing this book of poetry with Steven Jenkins' book Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest, in which he identifies and describes places such as the hottest, coldest, wettest, driest, and windiest places on Earth, as well as the longest river, highest waterfall, deepest lake, highest mountain and more. Once you've read this book and shared some of these records of the natural world, look again at Lewis' poems and encourage students to write some of their own "World's Greatest" poems.