Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis

Cindy: It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite page in this book. Okay, maybe I am partial to the grasshopper opposite the title page. The angle of the photograph makes it appear as if the little guy is flying overhead. But there’s no poetry on that page, so that can’t be my favorite. 2011 U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis edits the Book of Animal Poetry (National Geographic 2012) a collection of two hundred animal poems from many favorite classic poets and many new voices. The poems are divided into animal groups chapters: The Big Ones, The Little Ones, The Winged Ones, The Water Ones, The Strange Ones, The Noisy Ones and The Quiet Ones. Some pages feature a single poem, others 2-4 poems. All of them are illustrated with gorgeous animal photography of the quality you’d expect from National Geographic: a close-up of a hippo with a mouthful of grass or a barrel jellyfish glowing in the deep or the famous overhead photo of a group of flamingos standing in the shape of a flamingo to illustrate a concrete poem about flamingos.

The poems range from short couplets or haikus to longer poems, and from the serious and respectful to silly and humorous like this one:


Here’s a fact that will cause you to frown–
Instead of growing up a goose grows down.

–William Cole

The illustrations on many pages are big enough to share with a group, but others will need a visual presenter to make them visible to the back of the class. This is worthy of all library collections and would make a great gift for an animal lover of any age.

Lynn:  Here’s a book that has SO many uses!  It’s a treasure for teachers who love to start each day with a poem and here’s a year’s worth – all paired with the most glorious of pictures.  Poetry units?  Here are examples of many forms of poems, all in one lovely book.   And the incredibly useful Resources section  in the back includes a page of other poetry books listed by poetic forms!  Writing poetry?  Get the kids hooked on the many fun poems and forms here and then have them write their own.  Another section of the Resources section includes explanations of several poetic forms and provides fun examples.  Writing animal reports?  Start each day of the unit with an animal poem and a breath-taking picture.  Let your students explore the book and add an animal poem to their report.  Pleasure reading?  This incredibly enticing book beckons irresistibly and is a sheer delight to browse through, dipping in and out as time allows.  Teaching indexes?  There are several types provided including a subject index.  Have each child locate a poem about an animal using the subject index and choose one to share with the class over the next few weeks.

Cindy and I usually donate these books that generous publishers send us to the schools here but this is one I’m selfishly keeping for my grandsons.  We’ve been working our way through, reading a poem each day at breakfast, each one of us getting a turn to choose.  Already the boys have decided that Ogden Nash writes really funny poems, that they’re getting much better at using the index and that they change their mind about which is their favorite poem at least once a week!

In short – this is a must buy for schools, public libraries and personal collections everywhere!

Check out other Nonfiction Monday books at Practically Paradise.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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