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Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box by JonArno Lawson and Alec Dempster  

Welcome to the world of JonArno Lawson, where sound rules supreme. It’s a bizarre world, where wolves live on the moon, bears inhabit the sun and bleating lambs get stuck in traffic jams. Here Sleeping Beauty is an insomniac, Little Red Riding Hood is a wolf and Snow White just needed a friend to tell her to be wary of strangers.


In this most recent addition to JonArno Lawson’s rapidly growing opus, the poet takes everything we thought we knew about the world ... and turns it completely on its head. And we couldn’t be more delighted. Best read aloud and with friends, Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box is great for kids who are just beginning to learn the subtle differences between sounds in the English language. Paper cuts by graphic artist Alec Dempster complement Lawson’s poems, giving life to the bizarre world within the book.


2013—The Lion and the Unicorn Award,

Table of contents

Our Imaginary Selves
The Golden Calf
Daniel in the Lion’s Den
The Solar Bears
Lunar Foxes
Beautiful Insomniac
Snow White
Little Red Riding Wolf
The Tree and the Telephone Pole
The Top
The Truth
The Bottom of the Box
Leaping, Creeping, Sheep, and Sleeping
Lambs and Rams in Traffic Jams
A Budgie in a Buggy
Monkeys in the Dump
Remember Where You Were?
A Coarse and Common Carrot
The Mansuramé Fish
There are Things You Face with Your Face
A Cock Can Crow
The Sun
A Second Water Waltz
The Alleycat Alley-Allocator Acting Like an Alligator
Does Rita Eat a Pitah?
Preposterous Fossils
The Fortitor and Fidelitor
Seize the Day
I Played with Toys
Robot Bones
Dadder Dan
The Minimum Amount of Money
I Broke the Bones of One O’Clock
Ping Molly
A Lazy Baby Lady Bug
Audrey and Aubrey
Gingerbread Injury
This Word
The Deep End
Ought a Taught Rat Gnaw at a Taut Knot?
Wouda Couda Shouda, Didn’t
Ma, Pa, Oops-A-Lah!
Night Kite
Divided Life
Fragile’s Fragility
Double You
First He was Thirsty
Mother Snake
Little Piggies
Flies Flee Fred’s French Fie Franchise
Dizzy Drifting
Solitary Tennis
I Reckon
Lift Her Aloft
Who Did I Write This For?
The Human Being
Michael and Mike
A Kitty Cat a Cookie and a Can of Pocacola
Underneath the School
Convincing Contradictions
Baa Baa
The Chilly Sicken
He Breaks Away
The Stickler and the Slacker
Blubbery Bears
Burning Hot Banana
During the Week
Push Broom Bum
Jispering Whibberish
Baburnama Kalevala
People Through the Peephole
Eunice’s Unicycle


Review quote

Playful in his use of sound patterns reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, Lawson’s lyrics uncover an acerbic and clever wit often found in both comedians and confuscians. In the line drawn between child and adult in Lawson’s poetry, the reader finds images reminiscent of school, bible stories and playtime, though their use in the wordplay suggests a requirement for adult experience to grasp their connotations. There is a sense of darkness and lost innocence in Lawson’s work, despite a creative spirit that prevails with an unassailable sense of humour.

—Steve Locke, THIN AIR: the blog

Review quote

‘A delight for fans of Shel Silverstein ... this volume touches on everything from Sleeping Beauty being afraid to fall back asleep to lunar foxes, to blubbery bears eating mounds of blueberries. Lawson plays with his words both visually and orally, happy, as Stephen Fry puts it, to “yoke impossible words together for the sound-sex of it.”’

—Boxes of Paper

Review quote

‘JonArno Lawson doesn’t see the world the way other people do, THANK GOODNESS. His most recent book release is Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, surreal poems decorated with the paper cuts of artist Alec Dempster.’

—Kristin Cashore, This is My Secret

Review quote

‘These poems feel like genuine nursery rhymes – mysterious, welcoming, polished by time and telling, concerned with real-life dilemmas, and suffused with an energetic appreciation of a rich variety of creatures, both animal and human.... Lawson’s rigorous craftsmanship results in structures that are sturdy and welcoming.’

—Sarah Ellis, Quill & Quire

Review quote

‘JonArno Lawson’s Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, with papercut illustrations by Alec Dempster, turns words on their heads and uses them to reimagine familiar notions and stories.’

—Shoshana Flax, Walk The Ridgepole

Review quote

Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box is a collection of nonsense poems for the young (and young at heart) in the tradition of Dennis Lee and Dr. Seuss. Lawson starts his poems from sounds and builds with orality in mind. The results are clever and fun to read.’

—Charlotte Ashley, Inklings

Review quote

‘Not since Shel Silverstein’s classic A Light in the Attic have I found myself so utterly spellbound by a collection of children’s poetry. JonArno Lawson sets a new standard, one that many will emulate and, I suspect, none will surpass. An extraordinary and truly delightful hymn to the imagination.’

—Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph’s House

Review quote

‘What I think is most important to remember about poetry for children is how they themselves play with language upon learning, words have fluid and flexible meanings, they are representative of big, massive imaginations, and hold all kinds of potential – all of which Lawson bottles and bursts out in various ways throughout the book. From the more whimsical in the collection, something like “The Minimum Amount of Money” ... , to poems that have a touch of what I hesitate to call magical realism ... , there’s a consistent dedication to not only how language presents itself on the page, but how it sounds as its spoken.’

—Deanna McFadden, My Tragic Right Hip

Review quote

Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box is an excellent work of poetry to consider, and is not to be missed.’

—Wisconsin Bookwatch

Review quote

‘...there’s no denying that, light and enjoyable as it is, Down in the Bottom of the Box contains real poetry. Recommended to anyone who likes to smile while reading poems.’

—Peter Dabbene, ForeWord Reviews

Review quote

‘Reminiscent of Ogden Nash’s, Lawson’s poetry combines deft wordplay with unexpected (often humorous) rhymes and a devotion to showcasing the rhythmic potential of the English language. But as always, Lawson’s signature focus on word sounds takes center stage. With masterful brevity, the majority of the poems stand alone as single quatrain stanzas, however, even the briefest poems contain a mouthful.’

—Shara Hardeson, The Horn Book

Review quote

Down in the Bottom [is] unquestionably the best book of children’s poetry published in 2012.... In its linguistic and intellectual play, accompanied throughout by Alec Dempster’s bold, compelling paper cuts—black and white with judicious bursts of color— Down in the Bottom reminds us why we love poetry. And more, it reminds us just how lovely a book of poetry can be.... [I]t is high time to acknowledge that JonArno Lawson may be the foremost children’s poet in North America. To borrow a phrase from W. B. Yeats, he’s the King of the Cats. Cognizant that our pronouncement might appear to be a touch hubristic (if not downright self-congratulatory credit snatching), and of the potential irony in ending an essay that reflects on the vagaries of blurbs and blurbitude with a big fat blurb, we can only point to the record—indeed, point to the poems themselves—and say, in our defense: res ipsa loquitur: the thing speaks for itself. We are merely obligated to hear.’

—Lion and the Unicorn Award citation

Excerpt from book

The Tree and the Telephone Pole

A tree stood next to a telephone pole and said ‘I’ve just detected; your branches and
your roots are gone, not only that, your bark’s not on! Poor tree, so disrespected!’
The telephone pole reflected: ‘It’s true in a way, you’re very astute, I lack branches,
bark and root, but I’m still held in high repute, because I’m well connected.’

Excerpt from book

The Truth

There is an important truth;
that seems both consistent and constant to me:
The truth is that the truth is never
What anybody wants it to be.

Excerpt from book

A Cock Can Crow

A cock can crow, but a crow can’t cock:
A macaw can’t caw but it sure can squawk
Let a mockingbird mock at the call of an auk
But a caw’s the law when crows talk.

Unpublished endorsement

‘Lawson’s inspired rhyme and wordplay is deft, clever and funny, taking us from the realms of the Bible and fairy tales through to the scary regions at the very bottom of the bottom of the box. This collection offers amusement, bemusement and the most refreshing of reflections on the self, reason and both imaginary and natural worlds – just what one can expect of this most accomplished poet for the young. Reliably surprising, smart and playful at every turn.’

—Deirdre Baker, Toronto Star columnist and author of Becca at Sea

Unpublished endorsement

‘JonArno Lawson is Father Goose! Going to sea with him is a trip of gentleness and humour where we are joyfully one with the lovely flotsam of language and being. I love rubbing elbows with his poems and rhymes, and share his philosophy of delight amid the pratfalls. Oh our lovely human pratfalls, as we ‘‘build an ark for our imaginary selves’’!’

—Erin Mouré, author of Furious and Little Theatres

Unpublished endorsement

‘Highlighting the punches of Lawson’s surreal wordplays and poems, Alec Dempster’s paper cuts add an archaic and mystic atmosphere that will make you feel happy as you understand the absurdity. The book is an opportunity for everyone who wishes to plunge into the realms of a surreal world full of metamorphic animals and colourful descriptions around the theme of love towards human nature.

‘The way Dempster handles the paper cut is representative of the experience he has gathered as one of the masters of his art. As a graphic artist, surreal poetry has always been his natural environment. Based on his passion for the Mexican fandango music that is full of riddles, he develops an unprecedented quality of work in Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, where he fuses the Mexican Graphic with music and poetry in a way that brings joy and love to all the people who open its pages.’

—Helga Prignitz-Poda, curator, art historian, and author of El Taller de Gráfica Popular en México 1937-1977

Unpublished endorsement

‘In this joyfully thoughtful collection, JonArno Lawson takes verbal leaps on the springboard of nonsense, tongue-twisters, nursery rhymes, fairytales, as well as invents creatures such as solar bears and lunar foxes to delight the imagination.’

—John Agard & Grace Nichols, editors of Pumpkin Grumpkin: Nonsense Poems From Around The World


Credit: Philip de Vos

Born in Hamilton, Ontario and raised nearby in Dundas, JonArno Lawson is a four-time winner of the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Children’s Poetry, for Black Stars in a White Night Sky in 2007, in 2009 for A Voweller’s Bestiary, in 2013 for Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box and again in 2014 for Enjoy It While It Hurts. In 2011 his poetry collection Think Again was short-listed for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award. Sidewalk Flowers won the Governor General’s Award for Illustrated Children’s Books in 2015. JonArno lives in Toronto with his wife Amy Freedman and his children Sophie, Ashey and Joseph, all of whom assist the author with phrases, topics and sometimes even complete lines for use in his poems.


Alec Dempster was born in Mexico City but moved to Toronto as a child. He later moved back to Mexico and settled in Xalapa, Veracruz, where his relief prints eventually became infused with the local tradition of son jarocho music. He has produced six CDs of son jarocho and has presented solo exhibitions of his prints throughout the world. Alec now lives in Toronto.

For more information please visit the Author’s website »

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

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ISBN-13: 9780889843547

Publication Date: 2012-09-01

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 80

Price: $16.95