National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry, edited by J. Patrick Lewis
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! And seahorses! And beavers! And even a Blue-footed Booby!
Pair the time-honored splendor of National Geographic’s wildlife photography with the breadth of knowledge of U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis and you get this gorgeous, delightful book of poetry: 200 poems, all with animals playing the starring role, accompanied by stunning, full-color photos of everything from a hippopotamus to a firefly.
First, the poetry. I really like the selection, arranged ingenuously by animal groupings — big ones, little ones, winged ones, water ones, strange ones, noisy ones, quiet ones, plus a few others as book-ends. All are on the short-ish side, yet are rich with wonder, humor, clever word play, colorful observations. There are Haiku and shaped poems, tiny couplets and limericks, free verse and more traditional forms. Classic poets such as Tennyson and Dickinson and Frost and Kipling are here, as well as beloved children’s poets such as Aileen Fisher and Mary Ann Hoberman; Hilaire Belloc and Ogden Nash entertain, and poets new to me offer new ways of seeing and expressing the quirks and beauties and peculiarities and energy of the animal kingdom.
Then, although it’s a poetry book, the photographs visually dominate every page, exploding with color, personality, motion, and all the bulky, scaly, feathery, bristly-snoutedness of these magnificent beasts. Such a superb collection of photos to captivate readers and listeners, to prompt our own curiousity and observation, to elicit adoring gazes or laughs or shivers.
Lewis includes a couple of helpful pages about how to write animal poetry so we can try our hand at this after absorbing so much inspiration, and provides us with a nice list of excellent poetry books, arranged by poetic form from Acrostics to Tongue Twisters, to spur us on our way. Poems are indexed by Title, Poet, First Line, and Subject.
This is a collection to suit the youngest of listeners right on up the ages. Poetry and wildlife — two sets of wonders to share together; pictures to pore over, words to tickle our fancies. New in 2012. Check it out.