Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

They Are Our World

Without a doubt the most popular and most circulated sections of the library are those focused on animals whether they are wild or domesticated, large or small, or make their homes on land, water or air.  Year after year for decades I have never seen this fascination fade; a curiosity needing to be fed.  I would like to think this kinship does not diminish as people grow up; somewhere deep inside it is waiting to be wakened to the strength it held in days past.

Sometimes all it takes is a pause, a moment of awareness seeing with an acuteness, listening for a new sound or a strange smell carried by the wind.  Sometimes when you least expect it you'll look, see a flash of rust knowing a fox has traveled past or catch the fluttering of wings knowing a hummingbird is near a group of flowers.  Sometimes a book with photographs so stunning in color and detail, poems carefully tucked within the pages, will lift the kinship to new heights.  National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry with favorites from Robert Frost, Jack Prelutsky, Emily Dickinson, and more, 200 poems with photographs that SQUEAK, SOAR, and ROAR! edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U. S. Children's Poet Laureate, is such a book.

Have you ever thought about a day in the life of a giraffe, a porcupine, a whale, or a snail?  At this very moment, each one of them (if they are not asleep) is bustling about, fast or slow, as busy in his day, in her way, as you are in yours.

J. Patrick Lewis introduces readers to this brilliant body of work he selected from a vast array of poetic literature from the past to present.  The chosen names are as mind-boggling as the selections; Carl Sandburg, Valerie Worth, Jane Yolen, Janet S. Wong, Michael J. Rosen, Kristine O'Connell George, William Cowper, Avis Harley, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Arnold Adoff, William Jay Smith, Rudyard Kipling, Douglas Florian, Lilian Moore, Myra Cohn Livingston, Bobbi Katz, and Mary Ann Hoberman to list only a hint of the many notables.  Some of the poems are familiar examples of the poet's work, others are a delightful surprise.

The 160 plus pages of poetic pleasure are divided into headings: Welcome to the World, The Big Ones, The Little Ones, The Winged Ones, The Water Ones, The Strange Ones, The Noisy Ones, The Quiet Ones and Final Thoughts.  Readers are treated to a range of types; free verse, rhyming couplets, shape poems, haiku, or limericks.  One poem flows into another seamlessly as alliteration, simile and metaphor weave words creating a meter, a movement from page to page.

Representation of every form of living creature from the animal kingdom takes readers to the four corners of the world; for brief moments as words are read you enter their space, knowing what they know.  Whether it's Buffalo Dusk, Cow, Grandpa Bear's Lullaby, Mountain Gorilla, Inchworm, Hamster Hide-and Seek, Dust of Snow, The Eagle, Anemone, The Walrus, The Anteater, How to Paint a Zebra, Summertime, The Breed You Need, or from The Law of the Jungle each voice is heard.  It's hard not to imagine the poem was specifically written for the individual photographs; they're so carefully matched.

Microscopic detail, panoramic spreads, a partial page, single page or two, all are pieced together so well it's like watching a movie with the page turn controlling the speed.  Zooming in to see a baby orangutan kissing a parent, catching an elephant mid spiraling spray, a chipmunk cheek packed with a peanut, a snail crawling up a blade of grass, raindrops hanging like diamonds, or zooming out to see an amazing group of hundreds of flamingos gathered to shape the form of a single flamingo, will have readers pausing not only at the wonder to be found in our world but in the skill of those taking these photographs.  Color, composition, perspective and lighting are impeccable.

The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry with favorites from Robert Frost, Jack Prelutsky, Emily Dickinson, and more, 200 poems with photographs that SQUEAK, SOAR, and ROAR! edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U. S. Children's Poet Laureate is an astounding blend of poetry and pictures.  You might have to pace yourself to keep from reading it at one sitting.  Even completed you will want to go back for rereads of your favorite poems or sections.  It will invite further exploration of the animal world and other poems penned by specific authors.

J. Patrick Lewis includes two special pages at the back for those interested in writing their own poems along with a bibliography on the following two pages of resources for wordplay.  A title, poet, first line and subject index are available.  J. Patrick Lewis concludes this volume with a poem of his own titled Make the Earth Your Companion.  A video of his reading this poem with pictures taken from this title can be viewed by following this link.  It's beautiful.

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