Laura Purdie Salas is hosting us today for Poetry Friday. Find her, and the links to everyone's poetry shares at Writing The World for Kids. Thanks, Laura!
Next Wednesday, Oct. 1st, Irene Latham's Dear Wandering Wildebeest, And Other Poems from the Water Hole will celebrate its two month anniversary. I'd like to refresh your memory about this wonderful collection, to be sure that you've read it, and if not, you'll run out to purchase a copy!
It's a pleasure to find poetry I love, and it's additionally wonderful when there is one that I can share with children when I teach poetry at school. And this one, a poetic response to a particularly special habitat by Irene and illustrated by Anna Wadham, is one I know I will use again and again. This year I'm especially fortunate to have one young class studying habitats for their class units. They are our youngest students, but they know about zoo animals, and Rocky mountain animals because we have a great zoo in Denver, and the Rockies are "their" habitat, too.
Yet, opening these young children's hearts to other animals in far away places is what the poems of Dear Wandering Wildebeest will help me do. How can each not become excited hearing the words from Irene's poem, Impala Explosion: "ears twitch/tails hitch" and "peace shatters/beasts scatter--", learning how quickly these animals can escape, probably from lions in wait. And then, later we hear from the Lioness, after the hunt: "She crouches,/slouches.//savors favorite flavors." Students will not only learn about the animals, but about the use of vivid images, the strong, and to young writers, new verbs.
Each page shows a poem introducing the animal, and a short paragraph explaining the habits at the water hole, when they visit, how they protect themselves, who is most vulnerable, and who is a helper. The information is just enough to connect thoroughly to Irene's poems, and for older children, the motivation to find out more, too. I didn't realize the variety of animals that do gather at these water holes, found in the African grasslands, often no bigger than a puddle, but sometimes large enough for elephants to bathe and drink. Anna Wadham's illustrations respond to the time that the animals usually visit the water hole. When we turn to the elephant page, we are struck by the hot, hot setting sun. Elephants bathe, but also wallow in the mud which coats their skins, a protection from insects. Here are some words from the poem dust bath at dusk: "Trunks become/dust hoses;/beasts strike poses" and "Soon skin/is powdered/in a red-grit shower".
I'm thankful that Irene Latham and Anna Wadham's book came out just at the right time for me. And hope everyone will find the book enjoyable in some personal way. It will be a book I'll carry in my poetry suitcase all year long! Thanks for a beautiful book, Irene and Anna!
Numerous others have written about this book. Here are a few posts with additional information if needed, including Irene's blog post about her launch with kids!
Irene's blog, Live Your Poem, Jama's Alphabet Soup, Kid-Lit Reviews, Today's Little Ditty
Anna's website: AnnaWadham