Gathered by the United States children's poet laureate, 200 (mostly) lighthearted poems from the likes of Basho and Ben Franklin, Leadbelly, Jack Prelutsky and Joyce Sidman share space with eye-popping animal photographs.
A well-stirred mix of old and recent limericks, haiku, short lyrics, shaped poems and free verse, the poetry ranges far and wide. There are rib ticklers like Gelett Burgess’ “Purple Cow” and Laura E. Richards’ “Eletelephony” (the latter’s line “Howe’er it was, he got his trunk / Entangled in the telephunk” dated in these days of cellphones but still hilarious to read, especially aloud). Others are more serious, such as Tracie Vaughn Zimmer’s graceful tribute to an indoor centipede—“a ballet of legs / gliding / skating / skimming / across the stage of white porcelain”—and David McCord’s elegiac “Cocoon.” All are placed on or next to page after page of riveting wildlife portraits (with discreet identifying labels), from a ground-level view of a towering elephant to a rare shot of a butterfly perched atop a turtle. Other standouts include a dramatic spray of white egret plumage against a black background and a precipitous bug’s-eye look down a bullfrog’s throat. Lewis adds advice for budding animal poets to the excellent bibliography and multiple indexes at the end.
A spectacular collection—“And,” the editor notes with remarkable understatement, “the pictures are pretty nice too!” (Poetry. 7-12)