Puns keep Dublin the fun for one well-versed write
edited: Wednesday, August 02, 2000
By Brian P Cleary
Posted: Monday, June 12, 2000
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How an author turned puns and rhyme into a vocabulary-expanding teaching tool. For more "clippings" see: http://www.lkwdpl.org/lfiles/cleary
Puns keep Dublin the fun for one well-versed writer by Roger Vozar (Reprinted with permission from the Lakewood Sun Post, December 19, 1996)
For better or verse, when you read a Brian Cleary book, Juneau it’s going to be punny. The 37-year-old Clevelander has turned a childhood fascination with corny rhymes into a four-book series for children, with more on the way. “I wrote another series teaching nouns, verbs, and adjectives,” he said. Geography, animals, music and food get the Cleary treatment in “Jamaica Sandwich,” “It Looks a Lot Like Reindeer,” “Give Me Bach My Schubert” and “You Never Sausage Love.” Intended for children, his books are the sort that parents read aloud to them at younger ages, as the puns might not make sense. The, as children get older, the books take on new meaning.
“It’s directed around fourth grade. They’ll get a certain percentage of the puns. As they grow older, it’s a books that will grow with your capacity to comprehend,”
Cleary said. He was a 10-year-old when he bought a 40-cent scholastic book club offering of joke verses. “Little Willie” included a bit about a woman with water on the knee, and mentioned she should get water pumps. “I asked what that meant. If I was reading something in school, I would never have asked. My enjoyment hinged on knowing what that meant,” Cleary said. “When I discovered that words could have two meanings, I wanted to learn more."
He’s hoping to spur the same interest in his readers.
“They’re not educational books, as such. Children reading the books might wonder who are Bach and Schubert, and want to find out,” Cleary said.
A graduate of St. Ignatius High School and John Carroll University, Cleary wasn’t as bad of a student as he portrays – a speech to teachers included a line about driving himself to school in the seventh grade, and realizing he had more seniority than some teachers. But he wasn’t always focused on the task at hand, as evidenced by a
note from a teacher on the final day of elementary school.
“Dear Dreamer – Someday you’re going to be very successful – but please hurry up,” the teacher wrote. In his frequent talks at schools, Cleary ponders what rough dragts the teacher wrote before settling on that note – such as:
“Hello, Doorstop. You’ve spent more time in left field than Ted Williams. If I were you, I’d practice saying, ‘Would you like fries with that?’” Cleary said.
Not being particularly interested in sports, rhymes provided something at which Cleary could excel. Still, he points out that it’s been a long time developing a way to
channel his creative energies. “When you’re five years out of college, it’s a whole different league. What counts then is having a credit card, a job and a car,” Cleary
said. “By the time you’re in your mid-30’s, the stakes are raised. The example of Grandma Moses not painting until she was 80 is the song of the truly desperate.” “Jamaica Sandwich” was written in 1994. He then had to shop around for a publisher.
“I went alphabetically. When I got to ‘L,’ someone happened to call and say yes,” Cleary said. But Lerner Publishing Group. didn’t want a single volume. “I used all the capitals and countries I could. What was left – Bangladesh?” he said. So, he set off writing additional books, visiting supermarkets for food ideas for “You Never Sausage Love.” “I went through the local supermarket with a notebook looking for things that were funny, like mangoes. That’s a funny word,” Cleary said.
If the joke works, the reader may laugh. More likely, a line like “his Sudan Thailand on the floor” will elicit groans, which is fine for Cleary. “I don’t whether they laugh or groan. As long as there’s a lot behind it, I’ll take one or the other,” he said.