What is it about kids that they enjoy a good, scary story...and at the same time shriek, "STOP!" Such was the effect of "The Skippery Boo" by Earl L. Newton on me. I hated that story (I think of poems as stories, just in a slightly different format) and loved it at the same time. My mom would read it to me once in awhile. Not content, however, to simply read it to me, she had to be the Skippery Boo.
The impact of this was twofold. One, I would squeal and scream with both delight and terror. Two, it made the literature come alive. It wasn't a poem. It was a true story for that brief moment in time she was reading it to me. There really was a hunter wandering in the wood (I always pictured him dressed in Robin Hood-type garb) humming along and stopping for drink along a sparkling, rippling stream. Perhaps there were fish mingling about the surface. I could picture the tall tall pines surrounding his camp offering him shade and perhaps a bit of protection from the elements.
Of course, this meant, too, that the Skippery Boo really existed, a creature that in my mind was a cross between a lion, mermaid, bat, "a grizzly hare/And webfoot bear/A goof and a bumble-cat" that could shatter a tree like a toothpick. "Nooooo! Stooooooop!" I'd wail as the Skippery Boo came to life at the foot of my bed. I'd try to run away down the hall, but my mom would chase me--albeit good naturedly--still reading. I was convinced for those few glorious, terrifying, exhilarating, and enchanting minutes that I was the hunter (or huntress in this case) running from the Skippery Boo. Isn't that what any good four year old huntress would do? Arguing with Mr. Boo just didn't seem like a worthwhile pursuit.
But, isn't this what stories are supposed to do? To bring pretend worlds to life even for just a little while? To transport us to a realm with magical creatures and let our imaginations run wild down the hall? "So as you wade/This vale of shade/And jog life's journey through/At day, at night,/Be it dark or light,/Watch out for the Skippery Boo." Oh that wonderful warty-toed Skippery Boo. Has he met you?