Singer (A Stick Is an Excellent Thing) approaches zoology from a literary standpoint in 14 idiosyncratic poems, with cut-and-torn-paper imagery by Young (The House Baba Built). Each spread features one species and the bizarre conditions in which it thrives. Ice worms squirm “beneath the glacial ice/ helped by their own antifreeze.” Flamingos feature in a villanelle set in the salt flats they occupy: “This harsh and salty land—/ Flamingos find it grand.” Torn, fibrous brown papers, representing a sandstorm, dwarf a nearly hidden camel; crumpled iridescent paper suggests the shimmery wings of petroleum flies: “Thousands/ of them are born/ in carrion, water,/ or soil. But not this crew. They hatch/ in oil.” Endnotes provide paragraph-length descriptions of each creature, yet the experimental verse and minimalist collage can keep the remarkable animals abstract and distant (“ limpet is resourceful/ Its fine construction/ employs suction./ In other words, its thing/ is mightily to cling”). Better shared than read solo, Singer’s poems marvel at unlikely existences. Ages 6–9. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. Illustrator’s agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, McIntosh & Otis. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Fascinating, enlightening, and strikingly illustrated." - School Library Journal"
This enlightening collection brings beauty and respect to strangeness." - Booklist"
Singer's poems marvel at unlikely existences." - Publishers Weekly
Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
Would you like to live in a lush forest where it's always warm or in a barren desert with little water? Or would you prefer to dwell on a freezing-cold glacier? Many animals live in extreme habitats, and this book contains wonderful poems and illustrations documenting these creatures. There is an appendix at the back of this collection with a detailed explanation about different habitats, making this an enjoyable educational tool as well. Young readers can explore the habitats of Humboldt penguins, mountain goats, dippers, urban foxes, snow monkeys, tube worms, flamingos, limpets, camels, mudskippers, and ice worms in lyrical poetry and illustrations that appear to be three-dimensional. Reading through this text, I was enchanted by the perfect merger between Marilyn Singer's poetic abilities and Ed Young's award-winning illustrations. It's hard not to fall in love with these beautifully crafted poems and exquisite collage-style illustrations. This book will enchant readers of all ages. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In deftly wrought informative poems, some set in strict poetic formats, Singer helps readers explore fourteen extreme environments where a variety of creatures have adapted to live. Humboldt penguins have chosen the cold, arid coasts of Chile and Peru. Snow monkeys bathe far from jungles in hot springs amid the snow. Spadefoot toads manage in the desert; ice worms in glacial ice; blind cavefish in dark caves; flamingos in saline lakes; tube worms in hydrothermal vents deep in the sea; mountain goats atop snowy mountains; limpets on rocks in the intertidal zone; camels in the dry desert, mudskippers in the mangrove stand; dippers in rocky nooks behind a waterfall; petroleum flies in oil; and urban foxes in the risky city. Young's striking collages fill double pages with complex imagery, offering insights into the distinctive habitats. We feel the spray of breaking waves on coastal rocks and the heat of desert dust; we puzzle at the wet red woodlands and the flamingos' salty lake. Each image is as much as art object as a graphic scientific presentation. Endnotes add further information on each creature included. A note discusses various poetry forms, mentioning the six that are examples of these forms. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—Singer's poetic celebration of 14 animal species is fascinating, enlightening, and strikingly illustrated. The featured birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, insects, and mollusks have all adapted, over centuries, to life in extreme environments such as ice floes, salt lakes, and pools of oil, where they have found safety from predators and less competition for food. Many of the poems have unique, lilting rhythms; some are written in unusual poetic forms-triolet, cinquain, villanelle, terza rima-others in free verse and varying rhyme schemes. Singer demonstrates her ability to create vivid mental pictures in as few as two to five words. (The dipper-a songbird that eats aquatic insects and fish from clear streams and waterfalls-is "bathtub-toy small"; the limpet-a shelled sea creature's "…fine construction/employs suction." Singer has incorporated definitions of unusual words: "simoon," "hydrothermal vents," "intertidal zone," into her poems. Young, master of collage, has created a series of perfectly engineered stylized pieces that accurately portray the poeticized creatures by oh, so carefully piecing together torn and cut paper of varying thicknesses; photo segments showing lots of texture (prickly cacti, dune grasses, fur, wood, clouds, fibrous materials); foil; small basket clippings; pictures from magazines; and much painted paper. Six pages of endnotes include details on each animal species, along with brief information and a Web address that offer further details on poetic forms. This lovely, informative volume will attract poetry and animal lovers and prove useful in the classroom, as well.—Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, Ohio
Poems in varied forms urge readers to marvel at animals living in surprising environments. The prolific poet (Fireflies at Midnight, 2003) again celebrates the natural world, here describing 14 creatures surviving in unlikely places. From Humboldt penguins on arid South American coasts to foxes in cities, Singer points out the contrast between our expectations and their lives. Worms in ice, flies in oil, swimming songbirds and fish in the air…her choices range widely. Though the focus is their odd surroundings, she weaves in information about some of their interesting adaptations as well. Her poetry features judicious use of rhyme and alliteration. Some is free verse; others are written in traditional forms, described in an author's note in the back. They're set directly on double-page illustrations, collages of painted and textured papers, cut and torn, which, though reminiscent of Eric Carle and Steve Jenkins, have Young's irregular lines, distinctive brushwork and soft colors. This is a book for enjoyment rather than information. An additional paragraph about each creature appears in the endnotes, but these don't always answer the basic question of where it might be found. The author acknowledges some expert help but provides no source or index. A felicitous pairing of two children's literature pros to encourage our sense of wonder. (Picture book/poetry. 5-12)