In anticipation of Poetry Friday tomorrow, this post celebrates not only poetry but some good, new nonfiction. The poem featured above, “Food Chain,” comes from the above spread (left-side illustration) and is one of the many poems in What’s for Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World (Charlesbridge, February 2011), written by Katherine B. Hauth and illustrated by David Clark. As I scan reviews for this post, seeing as how I’m a review nerd, I see that Publishers Weekly calls this one a “satisfying mix of tutelage and repartee.” But my favorite of all? Kirkus writes that this is “an enriching overview of the natural world spiced with a Dorothy Parker–esque sense of the macabre that children will absolutely relish.” And, as you can see by the cover alone (below), Clark’s ink and watercolor illustrations are, indeed, macabre, over-the-top fun.
Kirkus adds that the “conclusion of this volume’s title poem—’finding food / is not a joke. / Living things must eat / or croak’—with its blunt appraisal of the whey of the world per se, sets the tone of Hauth and Clark’s graphic exploration of who eats what.” This post is good timing, given that just the other day author and illustrator Paul Schmid stopped by 7-Imp and discussed, amongst other things, how—as he put it—children are so eager to explore the wholeness of life, including play-acting death and savagery, noting that his own child, when younger, often played predator/prey, pretending to be a creature dining off one of her stuffed animals. Yup, children—as Adrienne Furness and I have discussed before in one of my favorite 7-Imp posts from years ago—are quite taken by the good, ‘ol-fashioned food chain.
In nearly thirty informative, accessible, and funny poems, Hauth explores the gory (to us humans, that is) eat-and-be-eaten realities of animal appetites — from the female praying mantis’s tendency to dine on her hubby, to the Pacific Coast banana slug’s ability to discourage predators with its mouth-numbing slime, to the little brown bat stunning insects with its wings, eating them like popcorn. Hauth manages to depart a whole heapin’ ton of science in these fun verses — from the notions of animal decay to hawking (or hunting on the wing) to other animal hunting techniques and much more. The illustrations are laugh-outloud funny — with repeated visits from some very Charles-Addams-esque Marabou Storks, waiting patiently for a meal. (One of them takes us out, in more ways that one, in the final poem in a very funny illustration.)
The book also closes with “More Words About the Animals,” Hauth giving children even more information about the ways of the food chain.
Here’s “Fast Food,” its illustration on the right side of the above spread:
And I’ll close with “Four Ways to Catch a Seal.”
The wonderful Carol Rasco from RIF will host tomorrow’s Poetry Friday right at this link.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER?: QUIRKY, SQUIRMY POEMS FROM THE ANIMAL WORLD. Copyright 2011 by Katherine B. Hauth. Illustration © 2011 by David Clark. Published by Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA.