Book Review

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Our Dispatch colleague, Nancy Gilson, has a great suggestion for a book that originated in Central Ohio and combines the best of science and art for children who love both!

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry (185 pages, $24.95, all ages), edited by J. Patrick Lewis

Central Ohio's J. Patrick Lewis, the nation's children's poet laureate, has put together a big, beautiful book of poetry that combines works by favorite writers with impressive photographs – all about animals.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry contains 200 brief poems – sharp and economical as all good poetry should be – juxtaposed with large color photographs of fierce, funny or fantastical members of the animal kingdom.

After the introductory section of poems about birth – titled "Welcome to the World" and including Jack Prelutsky's The Egg and David McCord's Cocoon, among others – the collection divides works into categories of critters including "The Little Ones," The Big Ones," The Winged Ones" and "The Strange Ones."

As Lewis says in his introduction, this is a book to be sampled at random. And, it doesn't hurt to read the poems aloud.

Masters of the genre are represented, often with several poems. Emily Dickinson's The Pedigree of Honey is included along with Lewis Carroll's The Crocodile; John Ciardi's 'I Am Home,' Said the Turtle; Rudyard Kipling's Seal Lullaby; Lillian Moore's Squirrel Forgets; Carl Sandburg's Buffalo Dusk; Robert Louis Stevenson's The Cow; and Walt Whitman's Animals.

Favorite children's poets are here, too: Douglas Florian, Myra Cohn Livingston, Prelutsky, Michael J. Rosen (another Central Ohio writer), Christina Rossetti, Jane Yolen – and Lewis.

As a sample of the collection's range and appeal, consider these two entries:

Carl Sandburg's Splinter:

The voice of the last cricket/across the first frost/is one kind of good-bye./It is so thin a splinter of singing. The poem is paired with a larger-than-life portrait of the insect captured on a lush, green leaf.

And, Ogden Nash's The Eel:

I don't mind eels/Excepts as meals/And the way they feels, placed beside a photo of two of the squirmy things.