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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Thunder Underground, by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Josee Masse. Wordsong, An Imprint of Highlights. 2017. $23.50 ages 5 and up

the sound
beetles make
like a ... "

I have always enjoyed Jane Yolen's works. I have a number of her books on my 'keeper' shelves. She has an exemplary record for finding a subject that interests her, and writing a collection of poems that celebrate that interest. In Thunder Underground she turns her attention to things we might find beneath the ground's surface. There are twenty-one poems, some rhyming, some not. Each explores what we might find if we were to go below ground, and open our eyes and our ears.

What comes first to mind are the many creatures whose homes are made there - ants, worms, beetles, moles, even bunnies. But, have you considered what is beneath the main floor of your house or under the ground in your garden? Or what about the subways and tubes that transport people from one place to another in cities of the world?

"I like the sound the subway makes
deep in its underground den.
I like the growling as it goes
from street to street,
                                  and then
I like the squeals its iron wheels
make coming 'round again."

There is variety in poetic form, which makes for an interesting read. They explore natural and man-made objects, even considering a lost city, fossils and pirate treasure. There is much to be considered and enjoyed as the poems are shared.

"Hidden in trunks
bolted tight
the gold doubloons stay
out of sight.

But follow quickly,
now you know
what treasure waits you
far below.

See? On the map,
X marks the spot.
Am I quite sure?
I Kidd you not."

Ha ... and some humor, as well. It is a most enjoyable collection, accompanied by mixed media artwork that puts the two children seen on the cover in or near every conceivable underground setting. In back matter, Ms. Yolen adds Notes on the Poems: Both Scientific and Personal.

"When I was a child, I lived in New York City. My apartment house was on 97th Street and Central Park West, right over the subway. It growled and rumbled at night like some great animal in its den. I used to lie in bed imagining it, not a scary creature but a comfortable, well-tamed beast."

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