Saturday, April 19, 2008

Poetry in the Classroom - Animals Abound

In highlighting poetry books this month, many of them have had animals as the subject. There are many, many books of animals poetry available. I would like to highlight one anthology and two books that I particularly enjoy.
Eric Carle's Animals, Animals is a collection of 62 poems about more than 70 different kinds of animals, from ant to yak. These poems come from authors and poets as varied as Emily Dickinson, Edward Lear, Eve Merriam, Rudyard Kipling, Benjamin Franklin, Lewis Carroll, Karla Kuskin, Judith Viorst, and many, many others. The poems are accompanied by brightly colored, exuberant illustrations by Eric Carle. This is an excellent source of poems on a variety of animals, in a range of poetic forms. One of my favorites is this gem by Rudyard Kipling.
Commissariat Camels
We haven't a camelty tune of our own
To help us trollop along.
But every neck is a hairy trombone,
Rtt-ta-ta-ta! is a hairy trombone.
And this is our marching song:
Can't! Don't! Shan't! Won't!
Pass it along the line!
Here is another poem, this one by Mary Ann Hoberman. The double-page spread that accompanies it is so lovely that you can almost feel the texture of the rhino's skin.
I often wonder whether
The rhinocerous's leather
Is as bumpy on the inside
As it is upon the skinside.
The book concludes with an index of animals arranged alphabetically, as well as an index of first lines.

Animal Poems, written by Valerie Worth and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a posthumously published collection of 23 poems that highlight Worth's keen sense of observation. Animals range from small to large and simple to complex. You will find poems about jellyfish, cockroaches, kangaroos, elephants, minnows, and more. They are all accompanied by Jenkins' amazingly beautiful cut- and torn-paper collages. Here is a snippet of one poem.
They can afford to be ugly
And ungainly, to stand
About munching and belching
Like smug old maids

Remembering their ancient
Sway, when bearded
Traders sailed them over
The starry sand-waves,
While these first two books cover a range of animals, the third book contains poems that are topically connected. Just Us Two: Poems About Animal Dads, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Susan Swan, looks specifically at animals where dads take responsibility for guarding eggs and raising young. Here is an excerpt from the poem about the Peregrine falcon.
Flying Lesson
This time, Father says,
he will not bring me my dinner.
This time
he will let it fall,
and I must try to catch it.

Flying, Father says,
is like seeing the air.
Not just the blue shimmer,
not just the bright clouds,
but the air itself
as it swells and swirls
around our rocky cliff.
Other animals include the Emperor penguin, giant water bug, Nile crocodile, Arctic wolf, ostrich and more. The book concludes with photographs of the animals and a short section of information on each.

Here are some additional resources you may find useful.

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