ANIMAL ARK: Photos and Poems to Inspire Action

BookendsLynn: What do you get when you put an award-winning photographer and a Newbery Award-winning author together? When the photographer is Joel Sartore, longtime National Geographic contributor and creator of the Photo Ark project, and the author is the novelist and poet Kwame Alexander, the result is a glorious celebration of our world’s wild creatures. Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures (2017) is an ideal way to introduce young readers to the stunning diversity of life that shares our planet.

Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and PicturesThirty-two captivating photographs paired with rhyming haiku create a book perfect for group story hour or lap-time sharing. The photographs come from Sartore’s Photo Ark project, his enormous effort to photograph 12,000 creatures in captivity. With 6,000 creatures already photographed, Sartore hopes that his pictures will allow people to look other creatures in the eye, fall in love, and join the critical effort to preserve them.

Using either a plain black or white background, the pictures put the viewer’s focus entirely on the subject so that each exquisite detail can be appreciated. Many of the animals look directly out of the picture, providing an intense feeling of connection. A wide variety of species appear—a magnificent tiger, a baby tapir, a millipede crawling across a double page spread—each with its own haiku.

This book is pure pleasure to read and seems suitable for a wide variety of ages. I truly hope it will inspire children to become actively involved in conservation efforts.

Cindy: Alexander’s short poems, rendered in bright colors and fun fonts.  slide across the pages and curl around the animals. Three gatefolds expand to offer small photos of more animals, and to identify those featured in the book, each marked with an IUCN status for their risk of extinction. I hope we are listening: These creatures depend on it.

If you want to know more about the Photo Ark project, you can read this April 2016 National Geographic article, or listen to this recent NPR Fresh Air interview with Sartore, which caught Lynn’s attention. Sartore suggests some ways that children can help with conservation, starting with a call they’ve likely heard: reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s the first step in preserving all animal ecosystems. Look into the eyes of these creatures and then figure out what you can do to help.

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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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