Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and
By Kwame Alexander and others.
2017. 48p. illus. National Geographic, $15.99 (9781426327674). 590. Gr. 1–4.
The world’s threatened species are celebrated in gorgeously hued photos and haiku in this engaging informational picture book. Photographer
Joel Sartore, working with National Geographic Photo Ark, is attempting
to photograph every captive species, including mammals, birds, reptiles,
amphibians, fish, and insects, to inspire people to save them. Full-color
photographs show species alone or in groups on full- or double-page
spreads. Three gatefolds display species in smaller portraits, labeled to indicate their risk of extinction. Newbery medalist Alexander’s haiku leaps
across the pages to express through poetry what Sartore does with images. Variations in font size, color, and placement on the page emphasizes
each haiku’s meaning, which, purposely, doesn’t always align with traditional haiku syllable form (an author’s note explains further). Sartore’s
eye-catching photographs, accompanied by Alexander’s poetry—most
notably the multistanza “Chorus of Creatures”—movingly affirms that
“our actions matter” and may lead readers to endeavor to help save these
endangered species. —Sharon Rawlins
Cricket in the Thicket: Poems about Bugs.
By Carol Murray. Illus. by Melissa Sweet.
May 2017. 40p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano, $17.99 (9780805098181). 811. Gr. 1–3.
This smart collection of more than 30 poems about bugs offers
surprising facts about common insects. A welcome balance of lilting
poetry and informational text boxes set to Sweet’s eye-catching collage
illustrations, Murray’s narrative is designed to reach a broad range of
young readers. While weaving factual tidbits into her verses, Murray
incorporates a little bit of everything, including couplets, visual poetry,
tongue twisters, alliteration, puns, and riddles, such as, “Just imagine, /
if you could, / a creepy crawler / crunching wood,” and “Pray tell us,
Mr. Mantis, / do you pray or simply prey?” Short informational text
boxes bolster the playful verse with facts about each poem’s subject; for
example, “There are more ants in the world than any other insect,” and
“Surprise! That ladybug may actually be male—it’s hard to tell.” Sweet’s
signature illustrations, full of cartoonish renditions of the bugs and enhanced with humorous details, pops of bright watercolor washes, and
cut-paper elements, further enliven Murray’s captivating rhymes. An
approachable poetry collection on a genial topic, chock-full of visual
delights. —Anita Lock
The Land of Nod.
By Robert Louis Stevenson. Illus. by Robert Hunter.
2017. 32p. Flying Eye, $16.95 (9781911171041). 811. PreS–Gr. 1.
Hunter arrestingly reimagines Stevenson’s classic children’s poem in
this warmly illustrated picture book. A little boy housebound by an
injured leg gazes out the window at his friends playing outside, but
has his own imaginative kingdom indoors to keep him company. At
night, the toys and objects that filled his waking world take on new
life in his dreams, becoming gargantuan, animated creatures or parts
of the geography of the Land of Nod. Glowing sunset-pink highlights
and shadowy, nighttime blues color the fantastical scenes of Nod, and
discovering links between the boy’s daytime games and his dreamworld
makes for an engaging hunt. With only one or two lines per page, the
pictures do the majority of the storytelling, but they’re rich in detail
and carry it well. Savvy little ones might notice, for instance, that an
injury the boy suffers in Nod—he steps on a cactus while leading a
jaunty parade—recalls the cast he wears in the daytime. This brightly
illustrated take on a classic is a natural fit for bedtime. —Sarah Hunter
A Rocketful of Space Poems.
Ed. by John Foster. Illus. by Korky Paul.
2017. 32p. Frances Lincoln, $17.99 (9781847804860). 821.914. K–Gr. 3.
In this lovely, lilting anthology of poems, selections offer whimsical looks at outer space themes: letters home to Mom, the rules for
an indecipherable athletic undertaking, an intergalactic yard sale, offerings from a deep-space fast-food store, descriptions of fascinating
(and occasionally revolting) aliens, visitors to Earth whose missions go
dreadfully awry, and a requisite revisitation of that cow jumping over
the moon. There are a number of Briticisms, but they’re generally manageable in context. The book is visually appealing, beginning with an
alluring cover, endpapers illustrated by young artists, and busy pages
full of witty, cartoonlike drawings that provide all sorts of amusing
details. Poems are written in various meters, offering a nice changeup
from selection to selection. Appropriately, the book ends with a knock-knock joke and a limerick. This collection would be fun to share out
loud, whether reading cover to cover or using specific examples to inspire young rhymesters. Be sure to display this during poetry month in
April—it should fly off the shelf. —Kathleen McBroom
Snark: Being a True History of the Expedition That
Discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock . . . and Its
By David Elliot and Lewis Carroll. Illus. by David Elliot.
2016. 208p. Otago Univ., $47.95 (9781877578946). 811. Gr. 6–9.
“’Twas brillig and the slithy toves . . .” Surely you recognize this line
from Lewis Carroll’s immortal nonsense poem “Jabberwocky,” which
appeared in Through the Looking-Glass. Less famous, perhaps, though
equally imaginative, is another of Carroll’s poetic
exercises, a stand-alone poem titled “The Hunt-
ing of the Snark.” New Zealand author-illustrator
Elliot has now conflated the two and come up
with a rollicking adventure. The book’s conceit
is that it is the journal of a young man, known
only as “the Boots,” who records an ill-fated
nineteenth-century expedition to find “the most
famous and elusive delicacy, the Snark.” What is
this? The Snark is real? Yes, and so is the Jabberwock. Carroll, it seems,
must have read the journal and “borrowed” the creatures to claim as
his own (imagine the literati’s consternation at this perfidy!). But back
to the adventure, which includes a sea voyage, a near-deadly encounter
with an actual Jabberwock, an infestation of Snarks, and—most menac-
ing of all—the appearance of a (omigod) boojum! There’s plenty more,
and the reader is invited to examine this oversize, eye-pleasing volume,
which contains this extravagant adventure; it is beautifully designed and
splendidly illustrated. The result is an irresistible invitation to imagina-
tion that will delight readers of all ages. —Michael Cart
Youth Poetry Roundup