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BOOK REVIEW – Behind the Museum Door

Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums covers just about every kind of museum experience you can imagine – from Ancient Egypt and suits of armor to wooly mammoths and trilobites!

The poems were selected by children’s poet Lee Bennet Hopkins. Illustrator Stacey Dressen-McQueen create a magical world for each poem on the page.

The book begins with Bennet’s own poem, “Behind the Museum Door,” where he speculates about what visitors will see when they enter a museum. Vintage cars? A planetarium? Mummies?

“To the Skelton of a Dinosaur in the Museum” by Lilian Moore celebrates a children’s favorite – the enormous bones of ancient dinos! Moore beautifully captures the excitement dinosaurs create among children on field trips, or visiting with their families. Her poem begins:

Hey there, Brontosaurus!
You were here so long before us
Your deeds can never bore us.
How were the good old days?


Felice Holman contributed a poem simply called “Museum,” in which she explores the many portraits children will see in an art museum:

They seem so real
and near
but they are fixed there
on the wall
and I am
here.


In her celebration of an ancient mammal titled “Journey of the Wooly Mammoth,” Maria Fleming re-creates the life of this most favorite beast. Her poem concludes:

You walk again inside these walls,
a ghost that haunts museum halls.
Ice Age icon, here enshrined,
once frozen in earth,
now frozen in time.


A favorite in this delicious volume of museum-themed poetry is “The Moccasins,” by Kristine O’Connell George. She writes about a tiny pair of shoes sitting in a case behind glass, and speculates about what they might have seen when a young girls wore them, and what might happen when the museum is dark and closed for the night:

Watch for her tonight—tiptoe—
across the cold tile—open—
the glass display case—reclaim
her shoes. Watch for her tonight,
running, running soundlessly
into the moonlight, leaving
no footprints.


Other poems commemorate such museum artifacts as suits of armor, tapestries, and clay.

This wonderful book is one-of-a-kind. Its poems are easily accessible to children and celebrate what is so wonderful and fascinating about museums. Each poems beautifully captures the wonder of a child who is seeing a museum for the first time.

As the dust jacket suggests, “these poems are perfect for museum or classroom, library or bedtime.” Each poet has carefully crafted a museum experience and distilled it into verse. A must-read for any museum lover, young or old!



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