In this lesson, we’ll talk about the poem ‘Adventures of Isabel’ by Ogden Nash. What happens when one girl runs into a witch, a giant, a bear, and a doctor? The answer may surprise you!
In the Face of Fear
What do you do when something challenging or even frightening happens in your life? It might be related to school, family, or friends, and it could be a big challenge or a small one. The question is how you react. In the poem ‘Adventures of Isabel’ by Ogden Nash, we see what a brave girl named Isabel does in the face of a challenge, and it’s not what you’d expect.
Ogden Nash, a famous American poet, wrote the ‘Adventures of Isabel’ in the 1930s. Like many of the other poems he wrote, this was a funny poem. Isabel, the main character in the poem, is also the name of one of Nash’s daughters.
Understanding the Poem
Just as its title suggests, the poem features a girl named Isabel who goes on a series of adventures. The way Nash writes allows you to really picture what is happening. She faces four scary things: a bear, a witch, a giant, and a doctor.The bear Isabel faces is ‘enormous,’ ‘ravenous’ (very hungry), and has a ‘cruel’ and ‘cavernous’ (large and deep) mouth.
Not a creature you would ever want to meet! Another time, Isabel meets a ‘wicked’ witch with a ‘cross’ face. She also comes across a ‘hideous,’ ‘horrid’ giant with only one eye, and a doctor who pokes her and has a bag full of medicine.It would be understandable to shout or hide in the face of any of these scary creatures, but that’s not what Isabel does! Every time she meets a new scary person or thing, the poem repeats her response. ‘Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry/Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.’Instead, Isabel gets cleaned up and ‘quietly’ eats the bear! When the witch wants to turn Isabel into a toad, Isabel ‘turned the witch into milk and drank her.’ Isabel cuts off the giant’s head.
Isabel takes the medicine the doctor gives her and ‘calmly cured the doctor,’ making him better instead.Through it all, Isabel doesn’t freak out. Even though it seems that the creatures are much bigger and stronger than Isabel, she cleverly and calmly beats all of them. What a surprise! The poem gives us a lot to think about in terms of how we deal with problems that seem impossible to solve.
Structure of the Poem
When reading over a poem, we want to look at its structure and how it’s written.
‘Adventures of Isabel’ is forty lines long. In one version, there are two extra lines teaching children not to be afraid. But these lines were not written by Nash and they are not part of the official poem according to Nash’s family.Nash uses ten lines to tell about each of Isabel’s adventures. There are five couplets, or a set of two lines about the same length that rhyme at the end.
They all follow the same pattern:
- Couplet 1: Who does Isabel meet?
- Couplet 2: Why is this creature scary?
- Couplet 3: What does this creature want to do to Isabel?
- Couplet 4: These two lines are repeated each time: ‘Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry/Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.’
- Couplet 5: What does Isabel do to the creature?
Ogden Nash’s ‘Adventures of Isabel’ is a funny poem that tells what happens when a girl named Isabel meets a ravenous bear with a cavernous mouth, a witch, a giant, and a doctor, who all want to harm her. Instead of worrying or panicking, Isabel thinks fast and calmly beats them all. The poem is written in forty lines and follows the same pattern on each of Isabel’s adventure with a group of five couplets.