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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pug and Other Animal Poems, written by Valerie Worth and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux. Raincoast, 2013. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"With their goggling
Eyes and stumpy
Noses, wrinkled
Brows and hairy
Moles, they're what
Some people
Might call plug-ugly;
Perhaps because, for
Dogs, they look
A lot like people."

Steve Jenkins is a hero of mine...I collect his many books with admiration and astonishment. I use his books in workshops telling those in attendance that I believe he lies awake at night, not thinking about his day and the days to come but the next idea for a book. It is a wondrous mind he has to think about animals we should never smile at, tails that do a variety of amazing things, the number of bones in a human hand and that it only takes three more to have a whole arm, or the animals that live in six different habitats around the world and how they are protected and nurtured within that biome. So much research and such incredible accompanying collage artwork. No wonder kids love to look!

In this second collection of poems written by Valerie Worth, he again creates praiseworthy collages to attract attention and give life to just some of the remarkably small poems she wrote so well. If you haven't read Animal Poems (Farrar, 2007), you might want to check it out from your public library.

There are eighteen poems here. They are representative of the animal kingdom and include birds, wild animals, pets, fish and birds. Each one is a small gem of perfect words; meaning-filled observations that are awash with the tiniest of details. Some will find an audience in our youngest readers. Others will be better understood and appreciated by more sophisticated older readers. I love the choices made to include in this collection. One of my favorites is this one:


Papery ears
Silk fur
Slim paws

Caught by
The cat
At midnight:

Left as a
Gift on
The step."

What a keen eye she had! What a loss to the world of poetry when she died in 1994. As with so many others, her legacy to us is her incredible gift of words. Those brief moments captured in elegant text are complimented by the vivid craftsmanship of an artist whose astonishing images continue to amaze! Thank you to Steve Jenkins and the people at Farrar for bringing them to a brand new audience.

Just one more tiny gift to you as we welcome the geese back to Manitoba skies and fields:


Then, they
Wavered away
Down the cold
Sky, with cries
Like grieving;

Now, we
Hear in those
Same high voices
Returning, a noisy

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