Happy Poetry Friday!
It’s always a treat to see a new poetry collection by the one and only Marilyn Singer, who, if I’m not mistaken, has published six books this year (what a slacker :))!
Today, I’m happy to feature two poems from her latest picture book, A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & The Animals That Call Them Home (Chronicle, 2012), which is officially out this week.
In A Strange Place, we meet 14 wondrous creatures who’ve somehow managed to survive and adapt despite harsh, extreme, unusual and/or dangerous conditions. Who would expect to find billions of ice worms flourishing in glaciers and ice fields, flies who hatch in petroleum pools, or blind freshwater fish living in deep underground caves?
Not only are these animals a great testament to the miraculous resilience and persistence of life, some can surprise us and shatter our assumptions by thriving in digs just the opposite of what we would expect. For example, it’s natural to assume all penguins need snow and ice, but in the opening poem, “Think Cold,” we see how Humboldt penguins have successfully adapted to the warm, arid conditions of coastal Chile and Peru.
And what type of habitat would you associate with monkeys? I think of tropical rainforests in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Snow Monkeys take the prize for living the farthest north of the equator, in the coldest climate of any non-human primate. “Think Heat” will encourage young readers not only to marvel, but to investigate the ‘why’ and ‘how.’
Hear “monkeys,” think heat, think swinging in trees.
Who imagines them huddled in minus degrees,
heads white with snow from the latest storm,
on their isolated island, trying to keep warm,
submerged in a hot spring, taking a bath?
How did they get there? What was their path?
Why did they stay? Did they feel they were trapped?
Who first got the message:
We have to adapt?
My favorite poem in the collection is “City Living,” which is about urban foxes who’ve been driven from their woodland homes as our cities and suburbs have continued to expand and proliferate. I like the reminder that as humans we need to be a lot more mindful of how our actions impact the balance of nature.
quit forests and
fields for sheds, flowerbeds;
forfeited wild berries for shrimp
an easy life,
but in close quarters, cars,
capture, and contagion take
city living find it
full of plenty — but plentiful
I don’t live in the city, but on two acres of woods, an uncharacteristic strip of land sandwiched between two tract developments. To build one of the neighborhoods, the developer clear cut all the trees, totally destroying the natural habitat of many deer, foxes, birds, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, snakes, groundhogs, and possums.
Our quiet back yard has become a kind of sanctuary for these animals, and over the years, we’ve become especially fond of the deer and foxes. Generations of fox families, descended from the Great Reynaldo, have adapted to a much smaller roaming area, and it’s always heartbreaking when a fox is killed by a car. I’m no naturalist, but I enjoy living here with them, and am grateful for what they have taught me. This week I’ve been seeing three foxes napping in the yard together.
So far, they haven’t complained about my cooking — happily noshing on roast chicken, sushi, spaghetti, blueberries, ribs, and smoked salmon. But they draw the line on carrots. Baked potatoes, no, french fries, yes. Truly omnivorous on their own terms. They know my husband’s voice, and come running when he calls. The deal is, we’ll share our food if they’ll keep the rodent population in check.
But a bit more about this beautiful book:
Ed Young’s earthy, soft-toned cut-and-torn paper collages, presented in gorgeous double page spreads, perfectly showcase all the poems, giving the reader adequate time and space to examine and reflect. The interesting textures, lines and layers enhance the uniqueness of the animals and their challenging environments. Love the tiny pearl eyes of the spadefoot toads and the shimmery foil wings of the petroleum flies!
Interesting Endnotes provide more info about each of the animals. Some descriptions also mention factors threatening their existence (deforestation, diseases, capture, predators). In the case of the ice worms, we learn how scientists are studying their “antifreeze,” to better understand how life can survive on cold moons and planets, and to find ways to freeze organs for transplants.
A final note explaining the poetic forms used (free verse, triolet, haiku, sonnet, cinquain, villanelle, terza rima) rounds out this handsome offering, which will likely pique curiosity about other animals living in extreme conditions, generate meaningful discussion, and inspire readers to write their own poems. A brilliant thematic poetry collection by two award winning children’s literature veterans that’s not to be missed!
A STRANGE PLACE TO CALL HOME
written by Marilyn Singer
illustrated by Ed Young
published by Chronicle Books, August 2012
Poetry for ages 6+, 44 pp.
Hardcover Picture Book with Full Color Illustrations
*A beautiful synthesis of literature, science and art
**Positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus
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- Humboldt Penguins
- Snow Monkeys
- Spadefood Toads
- Ice Worms
- Blind Cave Fish
- Tube Worms
- Mountain Goats
- Petroleum Flies
- Urban Foxes
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♥ See more spreads from this book at Scribd.
♥ Marilyn Singer’s Official Website
♥ Ed Young’s Official Website
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The always lovely and enviably talented Doraine Bennett is hosting the Roundup this week at Dori Reads. Don a fedora, tap on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week!
*Spreads from A Strange Place to Call Home posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2012 Marilyn Singer, illustrations © 2012 Ed Young, published by Chronicle Books. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.