Tuesday, April 17

Animal Poems





by Valerie Worth
pictures by Steve Jenkins
FSG 2007

Nearly two dozen poems about animals in this lovely collection that showcase the poet's sharp eye for the telling detail and the beauty of poetic brevity. It's so nice to pick up a book of poetry for young readers that doesn't condescend to the notion that young readers need poems that rhyme.

Snail

Only compare
Our kitchens
And bedrooms,
Our lamps and
Rugs and chairs,

To the bare
Stone spiral
Of his one
Unlighted
Stairwell

Sparse, evocative, and concrete enough for even younger readers to understand the power of good poetry. In these posthumously published poems Worth isn't afraid to make the experience personal, in this case concerning Cockroaches:

One that I can't
In the least abide
Is the cockroach: not
So much that it
Scuttles

And Bristles, and glues
Its slippery eggs in
The cracks of books, but
That it looks so clever:
As though it knows
My particular horror...

Jenkin's illustrations, in his usual torn and cut paper collages, seem almost sterile alongside the text. Not to take away from the artistry of what he does, but the mere portraits of the featured animals convey none of their spirit or expressive characteristics. It's a beautiful book, but sad when the words have to carry all the weight.
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