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The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom    by Jack Prelutsky & Meilo So order for
Beauty of the Beast
by Jack Prelutsky
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2006 (1997)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jack Prelutsky has selected poems for this delightful collection, The Beauty of the Beast, in five categories: In Trillions We Thrive (ant to daddylonglegs); Jubilant, We Swim (trout to crab); Dragons in Miniature (tortoise to frog); Hollow-Boned Singers (crow to ostrich); and Wrapped in Coats of Fur (kangaroo to whale). Meilo So's delicate watercolors embellish the verses and feed the imagination (the owl in particular is splendid).

I enjoyed Odette Tchernine's gnats much more than I like the reality: 'The gnats are dancing in the sun ... Darting, jiving, / Target-diving. / In orbit on orbit of dazzle-gold light, / The gnats are limbering up to bite.' William Sharp aptly describes the wasp as 'A tiger soul on elfin wings.' And I love Moritake's 'Fallen petals rise / back to the branch - I watch: / oh ... butterflies!' Mary Ann Hoberman's Fish fizzle with energy, and her Penguin is outstanding. Colin West reminded me of Ogden Nash (whose verse is also in the collection) in: 'The tortoise has a tendency / To live beyond his prime, / Thus letting his descendants see / How they will look in time.' Maxine W. Kumin calls her alligator 'old dinosaur cousin, / with scales by the hundreds / and teeth by the dozen.'

Jack Prelutsky tells us (in a poem that reminded me of a Gilbert and Sullivan song) 'you'll never find a finer bird / than the multilingual mynah bird.' Ted Hughes speaks of 'The Loon, the Loon / Hatched from the Moon', while Jane Yolen shows how 'mallards on a pond' engage in Calligraphy. X. J. Kennedy tells us that 'there's nothing like / A bat to clear the air.' And you have to feel for Michael Baldwin's Small Brown Bear, who eats 'ice salmon / all waterfall slippery / till his teeth ache.' Several canine and feline rhymes include Esther Valck Georges' charming Alley Cat: 'A bit of jungle in the street / He goes on velvet toes, / And slinking through the shadows, stalks / Imaginary foes.' While Tony Johnston's beagle pleas as he drags his owner everywhere, 'Please don't be cross. / My nose is boss.'

Can you tell I love these poems about all the beastly beauty surrounding us in the outdoors? Read this collection of rhymed natural history together - it's a delight for all ages.

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