Forbes tenders a curiously wayward collection of animal love poetry.
“For soon they’ll grow up and want to go play / With game skunky guys for a sniff and a spray.” Sure, if educated fleas do it, then skunks do it: They fall in love. But Cole Porter might have framed it differently, as it seems a little rich for 7-year-olds, the starting audience for which this book is disingenuously pegged in its marketing: 7 to 70. Elsewhere, readers will find “a pig whose name is Squig,” a “camel named Kim” and a “doe gazelle named Mellow”—not to forget “[t]wo raccoons, Liz and Rick” (whose name suddenly turns to Dick in the last stanza), none of whom will tickle too many 60-year-olds. And for such a handsome production—the paper is lovely, and the reproductions of Searles’ illustrations, with their wonderful spidery, anarchic linework and trails of color that leave afterimages, are terrific—it is jarring to find “unfatihfulness” and “morning dove” (though the last occurs in one of the better poems, about a sea gull leaving home—the beach—because he is tired of the soggy French fries). Of the 27 poems here, Forbes best hits his stride in the longer pieces, especially “Down at the Old Mill Inn,” with its cast of unsavories kept in check by the headwaiter.
Unfortunately, the extended poems are too few and far between, though Searles’ artwork (he died in 2011) saves the book’s bacon. (Poetry. 10-12)