Monday, March 15, 2010

A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems

Ruddell, Deborah. 2009. A WHIFF OF PINE, A HINT OF SKUNK: A FOREST OF POEMS. Ill. by Joan Rankin. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781416942115 [Suggested Grade Levels 1- 5]

In this collection Ruddell gives us an assortment of mostly-humorous, short poems in tongue-in-cheek admiration of woodland fauna. While a few are poems written with a Thoreau-esqe respect for the grandeur of nature, such as deer surveying “their kingdom built of trees and sky,” most recognize that each animal also has its absurdities that we can laugh at. In “Toad’s Lunch” the title character regrets having eaten one too many bugs – “but I made a mistake with the slug-on-a-stick – a smidgen too salty – and now I feel sick.”

Rankin’s illustrations perfectly mirror the tone of the poems, with soft water colors and (at first glance) romantic landscapes giving way to a comically flat-faced beaver, a horrified looking spider, and a sunbathing turtle, beach towel and all. A few of the illustrations also include children peering from behind bushes or underneath trees, encouraging readers to remember that these are poems about nature as we see it, rather than perhaps how it really is. A great collection to introduce readers to the fun side of poetry.

Read these poems aloud and be sure to share the artwork that accompanies each poem. Discuss why some of the illustrations are humorous. Talk about local wildlife and other animals such as pets and have children write their own humorous animal poems.

Other books of animal poems for young readers:
Alarcón, Francisco X. ANIMAL POEMS OF THE IGUAZÚ. ISBN 9780892392254
Paolilli, Paul and Dan Brewer. SILVER SEEDS: A BOOK OF NATURE POEMS. ISBN 0670889415

By Cecily Ponce de Leon

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