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Monday, April 15, 2019

Dear Wandering Wildebeest and Other Poems From the Water Hole, written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Anna Wadham. Millbrook Press, Thomas Allen and Son. 2014. $$23.95 ages 8 and up

"Wander with me,
meander with me.

Come, be my companion
in this wildebeest sea.

We'll drink when we can,
stampede when we must.

We'll storm the savanna,
create waves of dust."

Come visit the African grasslands and wander with the wildebeest and the many other creatures who find sustenance and shelter within this amazing environment. Irene Latham writes a celebratory and poetic tribute that is sure to entice readers and encourage their learning about animals they are not likely to see in their natural habitat.

The blurb on the back cover explains that Ms.Latham was inspired by the impressive wildlife photography of Greg du Toit who spent years at a Kenyan water hole capturing images of the animals that made their way to it. After much research, and an abiding interest in the creatures seen in the photos, she turned her exceptional writing talent to sharing her thoughts and abiding interest in poetry with her readers.

The 15 poems are placed on illustrations that attest to both the warmth and the importance of the water hole to life on the grasslands. The double page spreads feature a clear look at the animals who find their way to this oasis where they find the water needed to survive. They venture forth despite many dangers; it is vital to their survival during the dry season. 

The creatures featured are diverse. There is humor in the poems, as well as an honest depiction of the creature itself.

"Dung beetle at work 

With hard-hat shell
and shovel claws
Dung Beetle doesn't
ask for applause.

She rolls and scurries,
scurries and rolls -
no break, no water
till ball reaches hole.

African sun beams;
roller birds swoop.
Dung Beetle lays eggs
in elephant poop.

Eggs keep warm;
grass seeds grow.
Busy Dung Beetle's
a recycling pro!"

In an accompanying information box, Ms. Latham explains how elephant dung provides moisture for butterflies, a place for beetles to lay more eggs, and the replenishing growth of grass around the water hole.

Kids love books about animals, known and unknown. This one is entertaining and enlightening. It checks all the boxes.

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