Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face by Jack Prelutsky is a childish tale that provides an example of why being grateful for the current state of things can be a grand thing. The reason for the childishness of the tale is because Prelutsky has chosen children as his audience for the work, a detail which leads him to use a simple rhyme scheme and sensory details that a child would not only understand, but find humor in. With the addition of that humor, he has managed to offer children a great moral that is humorous and whimsical enough to catch and keep their attention, giving them their best chance at remembering and retaining the ideas that were offered within the verses. Overall, based on the ways in which Prelutsky has designed this work for children, it is a work of art and intellect. You can read the full poem here.
Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face Analysis
The wording of this first stanza allows a childlike tone to be embraced, given that no word would be out of a child’s reach of understanding. In fact, the wording seems as though it could have been more sophisticated, but has been toned down to allow a child to enjoy and understand it. Specifically, a child might relate to the idea of “past[ing’]” from school and craft projects, and “a lot” is a very informal phrasing choice that is simplistic enough to match the typical vernacular of a young child. The final lines of this stanza, as it happens, almost have a Dr. Seuss sound to them that reel the child into the story so they can more effectively grasp the message of being content and happy with what they have.
Even the idea of using the “nose” in this fashion is such a leap of logic that it fits into the thought process of a child. While most people might have insecurities, few probably lament the idea that their “nose is on [their] face.” To take something as universally accepted as having the “nose” “place[d]” there to express more common insecurities is arguably a genius move from Prelutsky. The concept is so bizarre and farfetched that it caters to children’s amusement in order to draw them in for an impacting lesson.
This stanza continues with the childlike traits by relating his ideas to things a child would comprehend—like a “sandwich”—as well as things a child would find funny. There is no good reason why a person would seriously consider having their “precious noise” “between [their] toes,” so already there is the same stretch of thought that was at the forefront of the previous stanza’s ideas. This particular stanza pushes the idea further by turning the situation into something that a child would find funny—that they would “be forced to smell [their] feet” in this situation.
Once more, this tactic is arguably genius because a child does not have to understand larger concepts to grasp the main idea of the stanza. Children reading would already know that the result of having their “nose” in this circumstance would be unpleasant because of the very basic consequence that Prelutsky has listed. They can easily grasp the concept, and it is juvenile enough to keep their attention with laughter.
Notice as well that the AABB rhyme scheme from the first stanza is used again in this second stanza. This creates a structure that a child can latch onto for the sake of familiarity, guiding them easily in a step by step motion to journey through evidence of Prelutsky’s core idea—that the “nose” should be on the “face.”
The familiar rhyme scheme continues in this section so that children reading would be able to remain settled into the grounded foundation that Prelutsky constructed in the first stanza. This allows an undisturbed transition into the idea of having the “nose” “atop [the] head.”
Yet again as well, the ideas in the stanza are simplistic enough for a child to understand and find humor in. A great example is “tickled.” A child would understand that word, and the idea is linked to laughter and amusement so that the child could find entertainment through this new idea of where the “nose” could go. This lightens the notion of being “drive[n]… to despair,” which on its own would have brought a very heavy, grave feeling to what has otherwise been a light story. By this strategy then, Prelutsky has allowed the rationale to step into more serious territory, as this is a serious topic, but not in a way that sacrifices the childlike atmosphere that a young reader would appreciate.
Again as well, the result of having the “nose” moved to a new position is unnatural and bizarre, but those qualities are provided in ways that are not too dark or gloomy. In the second stanza, it was just a “smell” that was humorously unpleasant, and this time it is a “tickle,” which is hardly the harshest of punishments. These gentle concepts ease the ideas into the child’s mind without growing so serious that the child separates from the narrative. Yet again then, Prelutsky has toed a line that is arguably genius.
Children can read this poem with the continued foundation of the ABAB rhyme scheme, all while being presented with a combination of language that is sturdy and serious enough to solidify the importance of the poem’s theme, but also innocent and entertained enough to suit a child’s mentality. Specifically, “absolute catastrophe” expresses the significance of what would happen if the “nose” were “[w]ithin [the] ear.” By labeling the change in such a drastic way, Prelutsky has constructed a stanza that holds warning about trying to rearrange what is already in a good situation.
The somberness and drastic quality of his account, however, do not remain as he slips once more into childlike notions of fun and whimsy as a consequence for the action. A child understands a “sneeze,” after all, and the idea that a change in “nose” position could lead to the “brain” having to “rattle” from the jarring motion is amusing on that innocent, youthful level. This is once more pairing a serious, adult lesson with a childish representation to create a simple story to showcase to young readers that acceptance of one’s being, to some extent, is the right way to go.
It is worth noting as well that in this stanza, the very notion of a “rattle” brings in a new sense that a child can relate to. Already, the first stanza has utilized “smell,” and the second has embraced touch through a “tickle.” Now, the young reader can have a third sense acclimated to the notion through sound. As these senses are things a child would understand, once more, Prelutsky has catered to their level of thought to give them a clear, full view of his message of contentment with things that are already good.
Almost like the conclusion of a research paper, this stanza wraps up the ideas that were addressed in earlier stanzas with the same use of simple verbiage and grounded ABAB rhyme scheme. This is not necessarily a tactic that readers often see in poetry, but given that this one is geared toward children, the strategy is solid and useful. It is possible, after all, that a child would have gotten caught up in the humor of the tale to forget the underlying message behind all of the whimsy, so to remind that young reader about the core idea in the poem is a strong way to wrap up the verses.
That core idea is that the “nose” is where it should be “on [the] face,” but the subtler message at play is to be grateful for the good things that are known without wishing that they were something else. By describing this idea through a simple concept of “nose” “place[ment],” Prelutsky has provided children with a story that can begin instilling this core value into them at a very young age—maybe even before they fully understand the message beyond “smell[s]” and “rattle[s].”
Overall, this is a strong product that is expertly geared toward its targeted audience, one where the meaning is as clear as the “nose” on “your face.”
About Jack Prelutsky
Born in 1940 in New York, Jack Prelutsky is an American poet who has written a number of works that are targeted toward children, so much that he was the Children’s Poet Laureate for a number of years. In addition to his writing, he is also interested in the musical world, though his literary works for children are seemingly his main claim to fame.