I purchased Please Mrs Butler as a concession to my great enjoyment of poetry. As poems I enjoyed this collection a great deal – they were sprightly, had splendid rhymes, and were extremely realistic. As literature for children I did not enjoy them at all.
None except that the poems are well-written. But what’s the good of that if they aren’t fit to be read by their intended audience? The Ordeal of Robin Hood is the one exception to this; I laughed heartily at it.
All of the verses in Please Mrs Butler are based on class-room or school-related experiences. There are poems about trips to the school nurse, fights at recess, substitute teachers, lunchtime, games, etc. I hope my children never experience the public school environment, and do not intend to expose them to it for the sake of a few poems. But even apart from this there were elements which made this collection unacceptable.
There was an underlying element of tension between adults and children; this manifested itself in the form of back-talk, lying, and general disrespect towards adults on the part of the children. The adults in turn are usually exasperated at the children. The children also display a great deal of manipulativeness towards each other. Finally, a rather savage (unresolved) argument is reported between a husband and wife in which they throw things at each other.
Conclusion. If these elements had been the exception I would have been very reluctant to recommend Please Mrs Butler. Seeing as they were the rule, I find recommending it utterly impossible. This book simply is not worth purchasing, but if you ever get the opportunity, go ahead and read The Ordeal of Robin Hood.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret