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African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways    by Avis Harley & Deborah Noyes order for
African Acrostics
by Avis Harley
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Avis Harley's delightful poems (actually varied and subtle acrostics) about African animals are accompanied by Deborah Noyes' spectacular and (mostly) close-up color photographs in African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways, an entrancing picture book for all ages.

Harley begins by greeting her readers: 'Welcome, all poets - both new / Or well versed. Non-rhymers or / Rhymers! Come, / Dive in headfirst!' Do so and you won't be disappointed, either with the verses themselves or in exploring the acrostics that ride down the pages.

The first, A Croc Acrostic, is accompanied by a picture of a smug, well-fed looking beastie, definitely not one you want to meet in a dark swamp! The croc is followed by a rhino; a kudu; a lion; a hornbill; an elephant ('There is wonder abuzz, / Staring into eyes so wise'); a stork; zebras; giraffes ('Nibbling on high, they / Decorate the / Sky'); a buffalo; an ostrich; an African wildcat; a lioness; a bonobo; an impala; a hippo; a bat-eared fox; and a leopard.

There are brief yet fascinating Nature Notes on all these animals at the back of the book, as well as A Note from the Photographer on where (Namibia mostly) and how the pictures were taken. The poet also offers More About Acrostics, explaining the variations in forms demonstrated in African Acrostics and encouraging young readers to try their own.

There's quite a menagerie of animals and word puzzles in this gorgeous book. Enjoy your safari through African Acrostics. Gaze at these amazing animals, puzzle out the hidden words - and then try writing your own acrostics.

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