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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Animal Ark: Celebrating our WILD WORLD in poetry and pictures. Photographs by Joel Santore, Photo Ark Creator. Words by Kwame Alexander, with Mary Rand Hess and Deanna Nikaido. National Geographic, Random House. 2017. $21.99 all ages

Miraculous each.
The strangely inquisitive
and the dangerously direct.
Some nearly invisible with
oversized zest. Breathing one sky. Forever connected by this peculiar and wonderful family tree. Branches that soar, swim, stalk."

What a collaboration this is! Take a renowned National Geographic photographer and pair him a Newbery Medal winning author ... what a gorgeous book they have produced.

Joel Sartore is the creator of Photo Ark, a mission to take photographs of as many of the world's captive animals as he can. ''

"I want people around the world to look these animals in the eye, and then fall in love with creatures as dazzling as a pheasant or as odd as an octopus. And once we love something, won't we do anything to save it?"

One can only hope.

Kwame Alexander is an accomplished writer who loves the power poetry holds for readers. Of this new collaboration, he writes:

"Speaking of poetry, this project resonated with me as a writer because of the parallel nature between powerful photographs and poetry as narrative - which is its own way a kind of literary snapshot. Both have the ability to bypass the skin and enter through the heart ... "

Together, they match perfectly chosen words with stunning close-up images of endangered or threatened creatures to give clarity to the plight of the world's animals. The black and white backgrounds, the similar size for each animal, due to astute photography, give readers a sense that each is equally important. There are three gatefolds - the first one is at the beginning of the book and labels the animals pictured and adds the code used to describe their risk of extinction; the second opens in the middle with another group, also labeled and coded, and includes a plea to readers to take notice and do what needs to be done to help preserve their numbers; finally at the back, the third names each of the creatures included with accompanying poetry, their code and where they can be found in our world.

We are reminded that what we do matters:

"There are too few remaining.

In the rain forest
in the big blue sea
in the whole wide world

because of you and me."


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