Pettit and Pierson’s debut collection features poetry and watercolors of animals for each letter of the alphabet.
The poems are educational and fun; they identify each animal’s characteristics: diet, activities and behavior, appearance, environment. The volume often lists the names of the male, female and baby animal and the specialized name for a group. Each poem follows an AABB rhyme scheme, but the poems have fewer language contortions than many books of verse for children. There are a few tics (repeated rhyming of “hotter” and “water,” for example), but these do not distract. The author clearly understands his audience and its likely level of knowledge, and he defines or explains terms that might be more challenging, such as tusk, antler, proboscis and gizzard. Self-deprecating humor adds fun to the mix. The final verse of “VOLES (and Moles)” reads, “This poem was meant to be about voles / But then it, somehow, got mixed up with moles / And there’s even some mice in one dumb verse / And also a skunk which just makes it worse.” In a similar vein is the “Special Notice to the Absent Animals,” an apology to animals that were not included in the book. On a few occasions, internal rhyme underpins couplets that are simply fun to say, like this one about the elephant’s trunk: “They also use it to breathe and smell / It’s their nose and a hose and works just swell.” The watercolor illustrations suit the work: They realistically convey the animals’ anatomy, but they occasionally have anthropomorphic poses or speech balloons for humor. Regrettably, the book is almost entirely punctuation-free, with periods appearing only at the ends of poems, most of which have a minimum of 10 stanzas, and little attention paid to punctuation in any other place. Middle school students might enjoy the challenge of accurately punctuating it.
A fun, informative collection of animal poems that overcomes its weaknesses.