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Friday, July 8, 2011

Cousins of Clouds, written by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer and illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy. Clarion, Thomas Allen & Son. 2011. $19.99 ages 8 and up


Excuse me?
You want what?
Two of my teeth? I think not!
Find another souvenir.
My enemy is drawing near -
my calf and I must disappear."

Children are always on the lookout for books about elephants. There is something so appealing and intriguing about the giant pachyderms. They can generally find those books in the nonfiction section of the library; but there are more and more books being written about these graceful, intelligent creatures on the picture book shelves. Think Elephant and Piggie!

In her new book, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer introduces us to elephants in a series of twenty-five poems while also feeding our need for factual information. There is so much that endears this gentle giant to us. The text boxes that accompany the poems offer a connection between poetry and the history of the elephant, through time and around the world.

"Mud Spa


Completely divine,
muddy chocolate sublime
splattered onto my skin -
better yet, I'll dive in."

And accompanying the poem is the following information box:

"Elephants rarely seem happier that when they are pitching mud on each other and slathering themselves in gooey clay. Although an elephant's skin feels rough to the touch, it is actually quite sensitive to sunburn, insect bites, and rashes. So while it looks only like play to us, the mud spa is necessary for an elephant's survival in harsh climates."

Beautiful language? YES...
Accessible? YES...
Informative? YES...

There is much here to learn. Using variety in form for her poems (haiku, free verse, musical rhythms, captions, a letter, a riddle), the author offers an abundance of material that her audience will find quite fascinating. I have read it a number of times and each time I keep one more fact in this old head. So much I did not's true that we do learn something new every single day!

I will leave you with my favorite, so far...


She detours through brush
to caress the sun-bleached bones
of her lost sister."

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