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ANIMAL SENSE by Diane Ackerman Kirkus Star


by Diane Ackerman & illustrated by Peter Sís

Age Range: 7 - 12

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2003
ISBN: 0-375-82384-0
Publisher: Knopf

Poet and naturalist Ackerman (The Night Crossing, 1994, etc.) examines the five senses by way of the animal kingdom. In “Hearing,” she talks first about the sounds of bats, which we cannot hear; then the sound of humpback whales; and lastly, of birds: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. / It sings because it has a song.” For “Vision,” the way bees and owls, “binoculars with wings,” view the world plays against how we perceive swans and polar bears and blue jays, with a tiny lesson in how light makes color happen. “Taste” fascinates with a certain amount of ickiness, “Flies taste food with their feet. / If it’s good to dance in, it’s good to eat.” She finds all the myriad flavors of grass for a cow and the vicious daintiness of a leopard on the prowl. The rhymed verse is by turns giddy, extravagant, and thoughtful, and always unsentimental. Sís (Scranimals, p. 1042, etc.) opens each section with a kid’s round head, a labyrinth sketched where the seat of that sense is—at the mouth for taste, two labyrinth spirals for ears, etc. The poems have full-page images faced with text and a related vignette, Sís’s shimmering, calligraphic pointillism rendered in a single color, contrasts with the color of the sans-serif type font. Brown, black, blue, magenta, and green are used in saturated but subdued tones, and the whole makes quite a pretty piece of bookmaking. Good poetry, fine illustration, a bit of natural history gently rendered and more than occasionally funny—what child could ask for anything more than this exquisite little gem? (Poetry. 7-12)