________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 12. . . .November 20, 2009


Zoopoesies: An Illustrated Book of Educational Animal Poems for Young Readers.

Bernell MacDonald.
Roslin, ON: Chipmunk Books, in association with Lion Head’s Press (1820 Monerymore Rd., K0K 2Y0), 2009.
120 pp., pbk., $25.00.
ISBN 978-0-9686034-9-9.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Linda Ludke.

*1/2 /4




Pigs are wild boars which we turn into pigs by stabling them up in thingamajigs called stalls, hem-ins, styes or pens

We fatten them up with slop and swill; take them to the abattoir or butcher to killthen with knives and forks we call them pork

Pigs are clean when allowed to roam They cool off in mud (can’t sweat on their own) and they toidy in a spot that is remote and hidden which scientists refer to as a "midden"

From some of the people I’ve watched eat it’s people who are pigs and the pigs who are neat; and from some of the homes I have seen it’s people who are pigs and the pigs who are clean

In this collection, 67 lighthearted poems take a look at the animal world. Told mostly in rhyming couplets, there are also list poems, limericks and free verse. The majority of the poems describe the animal’s appearance: "He has great big warts on his face - /gristled lumps on either side;/ and his grotesque head is mostly snout/ with two big tucks sticking out" (from “The Warthog”); "He has 10,000 spines (which are hairs not quills)/ and he’s not very pretty (having no frills)/ and he lumbers along as slow as you please/ not much faster than a great big toad/ which is why so many are killed on the road" (from “The Porcupine”).

     There seems to be no particular order in which the poems are presented. "The Birds" is followed by "The Mole" and "The Bat" and then "Blue Birds." Each poem is accompanied by colour photographs or illustrations that are available in the public domain. When more than one photograph is included, the images continue on the next page. Instead of enhancing the poems, this layout often detracts because the images don’t match the poem on the facing page. If you are browsing the collection and open to page 24, you will see two photos of snakes. The facing page is the poem "The African Aardvark."

     In another example, the word-play poem "Blue Birds" on page 7 addresses the differences between species of birds: "For the bluebird is a blue bird/ And the blue jay is a blue bird/ But the blue jay is not a bluebird." At the bottom of the page is a photograph of an "Eastern Bluebird." You have to turn to page 8 to see the photo of a "Blue jay." The comparison would be stronger if smaller photos were used and both appeared below the poem.

     The book’s subtitle alludes to an educational intention. Unfortunately, the overall effort tends to fall short. While the poems do include information about a wide variety of animals, many are awkward to read aloud. There are examples of unimaginative lines such as “Snakes are neat!" Canadian children may not be familiar with measurements presented in feet and pounds. There is also a grammar mistake in the caption about rats: "Despite its destructiveness in the wild .... "

     The author clearly has a passion for the natural world that he wants to share with animal enthusiasts; however, this collection wouldn’t be a first choice to introduce poetry to children.

Not recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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