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Saturday, September 22, 2012

National Geographic book of animal poetry, edited by J. Patrick Lewis. National Geographic, Random House. 2012. $27.95 ages 6 and up

"Every time
I stand and stare
At the big
White polar bear,
I wonder
While he's
Swimming there,
If he has on
Long underwear."  
     -  Leland B Jacobs

As I paged through this book. skipping from place to place, I found many of the poems that have found a space in my poetry journals. Some are from years ago, when I first started making a concerted effort to read poetry daily with my students and also with the kids at home. It was a great deal of fun discovering poems that I knew as a kid alongside new poets and their amazing work. Some of them I have been reciting or reading for all these years. Now, I can add new favorites to those frayed and constantly growing journals.

J. Patrick Lewis has another hit on his hands and he must be delighted to be sharing space with such revered company. Really, it is a grand book and should be on every school library shelf and in homes everywhere.

"Polliwogs

Come see
What I found!
Chubby commas,
Mouths round,
Plump babies,
Stubby as toes.
Polliwogs!
Tadpoles!

Come see
What I found!
Frogs-in-waiting!
Huddled in puddles,
Snuggled in mud."
      -  Kristine O'Connell George

The poetry chosen is full of small moments, funny and serious. The variety ranges from old to new, short to longer, loud to quiet, gentle to harsh...all meant to entice youngsters into a world of poetry that focuses on the animals they so love. The poetic forms cover a wide and intriguing range, allowing us to see how many poets look closely at their own world and what form they use to describe it. The voices are clear and clever, and oh, so memorable.

The design of the book is awesome. Each photo has a very carefully placed caption so that readers will know what animals are on each page. It is my understanding that Mr. Lewis anthologized  the poems, a senior photography editor at National Geographic selected the spectacular photographs that adorn each page, and then a truly brilliant designer put the two together...what an inspired team!

"I Saw A Sloth Play Soccer

I saw a sloth play soccer
with a tortoise and a snail.
They were all enthusiastic
and determined to prevail.

They were positively passionate
and truly in the groove,
and by watching very closely
I could almost see them move."
            - Kenn Nesbitt

Listen closely to J. Patrick Lewis' final poem here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4l_EQCwzJc

He follows the text with a two page lesson on writing poems about animals, and then with welcome lists which include the resources he used, and title, poet, first line, subject indexes which are sure to prove useful for future perusal. Wonderful!

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