Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Impressive Inhabitants

In thinking of the most unlikely places for any specie to live, only to discover something actually lives there, is cause for filing these notable nuggets of information in the amazing folder.  It makes you pause to ponder the instinct for survival, the ability to adapt in extreme conditions.  Then the questions start to come; the how, the why, the when.

With National Poetry Month fast approaching an enjoyable introduction to such unusual creatures with  unique features, would be through the reading of poems.  A Strange Place To Call Home:  The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & The Animals That Call Them Home (Chronicle Books, August 22, 2012) written by Marilyn Singer with illustrations by Ed Young is a collection of fourteen poems as singular as the animals they describe.  These poems give us eyes into worlds and animals we might otherwise never encounter.

Hear "penguins," think cold,
think riding on floes.
Who pictures them swimming
where it seldomly snows,
on the dry, dry coasts
of Chile or Peru,
with no ice to slide on,
no glaciers to view?

We travel to the western edge of South America, to the island of Japan, to assorted points within the United States, inside glaciers in the northern hemisphere, to underground caves in Texas and Mexico, to salt flats, deep under the sea, mountaintops, the intertidal zone, deserts, the mangroves, and pools of oil to discover the living quarters of these astonishing inhabitants. We are introduced to penguins who bury their eggs to avoid the heat, monkeys who stay warm by bathing in hot springs, toads who only come above ground when it rains, worms who live in tubes deep under the sea, blind fish and foxes who now prefer life in the city. Each poem focuses on the uncommon characteristics of animal and area dispelling what readers may have thought they knew about either.

Marilyn Singer has chosen to use a variety of poetic forms throughout, selecting a style which best serves to highlight each animal and its habitat.  Free verse, informal rhyme, triolet, haiku, sonnet, cinquain, villanelle and terza rima are matched to the blind cave fish, limpets, mudskippers, spadefoot toads, mountain goats, petroleum flies, flamingos and camels respectively.  Singer not only informs but guides readers to seek answers.

The mysterious, deep sea dark jacket and matching cover serve to draw readers to the selections as well as highlight an introductory poem on the back.  Bright sky blue opening and closing endpapers marbleized in white to give the appearance of splashing water, are in sharp contrast as are the environments visited in the poems.  Caldecott Medal winner Ed Young beautifully renders the title's illustrations in collage.

Each two-page spread is dedicated to a single animal with a color palette reflecting their home and their physical characteristics.  Young alternates perspective to give readers a more intimate relationship with each; much like a photographer does peering through the camera lens.  His use of different materials gives an authentic quality of texture to each visual; an appeal to the senses.  Of the fourteen my two favorites are those for the flamingos and the limpets; shades of coral, red and pink, long legs, graceful necks feeding in the salty land and the waves crashing among the rocks, lined spirals clinging like clustered hats.

A Strange Place To Call Home:  The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & The Animals That Call Them Home is a collection of poems written by Marilyn Singer with collage illustrations by Ed Young that is meant to be shared.  Surely they are to be read for enjoyment but each one invites further investigation.  I found myself frequently looking for more information after the reading of several.  There are endnotes for the animals at the back as well as a single page explaining poetic forms.

In this video from Reading Rockets Marilyn Singer talks about poetry in general and writing poetry with students.  She includes some great ideas.

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