Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pug and Other Animal Poems

Horn Book (March/April, 2013)

Valerie Worth is fondly remembered for her small books of "small poems" -- delicate epiphanies springing from thoughts on such ordinary things as a book, a fence, an acorn, rags -- all exquisitely illustrated with Natalie Babbitt's small, delicate line drawings (gathered in All the Small Poems and Fourteen More, rev. 3/95). Like Jenkins's first collection of Worth's poems, Animal Poems (rev. 5/07), Pug features a radically different design from that of those quiet earlier books, so in tune with Worth's elegantly simple verse. Still, times change, and Jenkins's bold collages of precisely observed creatures effectively dramatize these eighteen welcome additions to Worth's oeuvre. The soulful, lifesize "Pug" face on the jacket is a worried charmer ("Perhaps because, for / Dogs, they look / A lot like people"); a primeval black bull personifies his kind ("Rough-hewn, / From the planet's / Hard side, / From the cold / Black rock / That abides"). A few illustrations seem out of scale with their subjects and with the lovely verse: Jenkins's thrush is outsize and raucous, an unlikely source for one of nature's sweetest songs. Worth's poems remain a marvel and a joy: each offers, like the firefly here, its "Gold-green / Revelation, before / Slipping out / Between crossed / Thumbs, and slyly / Winking away." joanna rudge long

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