The Art of the Almost Rhyme, with Sweet Pea and Boogaloo

By Mij Kelly (author) and Nick Maland (illustrator)
Published by Hodder Children’s Books, 2007

“Sweet Pea and Boogaloo walked under the trees, under the sun and the dancing leaves. They walked and they talked, just like me and you, and suddenly – quite out of the blue – Sweet Pea said:
‘Are giants kind?’
‘Are you out of your mind?’ said Boogaloo. ‘Giants are horrible through and through. They don’t lift a finger to help me and you.’”

When I first read this book to myself, I didn’t hear it. Then I read it aloud to my daughter and I did. There’s a strong rhyme scheme in this book but it’s not the dum-di-dum-di-dum-di-dum march-to-the-beat-of-the-same-old-drum kind of rhyme scheme that often turns up in picture books. This feels more natural, more conversational. And I think this is because the rhyming words are paired with an irregular rhythm. The rhyming words don’t fall on the syllable/beat you might expect them too.

Incidentally, it’s no accident one of the main characters in this book is called Boogaloo. Most of the rhymes use that ‘oo’ sound.

Another book I admire for this type of free-flowing rhyme scheme is Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown/Clement Hurd):

“In the great green room, there was a telephone and a red balloon, and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon.”

By the way, all the long vowel sounds in that sentence – the oo’s and the ee’s and the oh’s and the ea’s – are what make it so hypnotic. Everytime I begin reading that book, time slows down and the rest of the world falls away.

I haven’t attempted to write a rhyming picture book yet. I think it would be incredibly difficult. It’s hard enough trying to write one without making it rhyme! If I did ever feel brave enough though, I’d love to write one that uses this kind of irregular rhythm.