Odes to Odd Creatures

“A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & The Animals That Call Them Home,” by Marilyn Singer, illustrations by Ed Young; Chronicle Books, $16.99, 44 pages, ages 6-10. 

Mudskippers, snow monkeys and limpets are three of the fourteen remarkable animals profiled in this poetry collection by award-winning author Marilyn Singer. This book would be an exciting introduction to poetry for the young reader who may not yet  understand that poems can take many forms. A compact lexicon explains the types of poetry found in the book, and which poems are examples of them, such as free verse, sonnet, and villanelle. “Well-Oiled,” for instance, is a cinquain homage to insects born in petroleum.  (Thousands/of them are born/in carrion, water, /or soil. But not this crew. /They hatch/in oil.)  A second glossary details the animals described in verse. Collages of land and seascapes by the unstoppable Ed Young (“Nighttime Ninja;” see our review here) capture perfectly the essence of these dangerous dwellings.

Mid-Week Pop-Ups

The arrival of crisp weather and bright colors also heralds the arrival of vibrant pop-up books.  Below are two standout selections. 

 

“One Spotted Giraffe,” by Petr Horácek; Candlewick Press, $15.99, 20 pages, ages 2 and up.

Learning to count becomes an exciting trip into the wild in the latest book by veteran illustrator Petr Horácek (“Beep Beep”; “Silly Suzy Goose”). This gorgeous gift of color and texture is delightful and charming.  Children will adore pointing out the animals – from “One spotted giraffe,” to  "Ten swimming fish.“  Meanwhile, a fold-over flap awaits on each page, offering a corresponding furry, spotted, or scaly three-dimensional numeral. Horácek’s boldly pigmented mixed-media illustrations on white background bring young readers focus directly to the whimsical creatures and numbers.

“Cinderella; a Three-Dimensional Fairy-Tale Theater,” by Jane Ray; Candlewick Press,  $19.99, 12 pages, ages 4 and up. 

Author-illustrator Jane Ray creates a whimsical fairytale theater similar to her 2007 three-dimensional adaptation of “Snow White”.  Layered cut-paper artwork tells the classic story of the underappreciated diamond in the rough. The sumptuous backgrounds, ornate decoration and biracial characters seem to conjure a magical port city in the American South. (I’d like to think it may be New Orleans.) Budding engineers might want to disassemble the book to figure out how all the pieces work together.  As the title suggests, the pages evoke theater sets, and the side panels hiding the text resemble stage curtains. “Cinderella” would be a beautiful and thoughtful gift for the serious pop-up collector and fairytale aficionado.

(On Sale September 25, 2012)


Mini Pop-up Book

This may be the season for beautiful pop-up books. Here’s one that’s portable, affordable and clever.  

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art; A 3D Expanding Pocket Guide,” illustrated by Sarah McMenemy; Candlewick Press/MMA, $8.99, 30 pages, ages 4 and up.


This lovely 3D pocket guide is the latest in a series which began as charming mementos for major world cities such as London, Paris, and Washington D.C. The yellow slipcased miniature barely scales three inches in height, but reaches five feet in length when fully extended.  The guide highlights thirteen top galleries, from the Great Hall to the Modern Art Gallery, and veteran illustrator Sarah McMenemy’s soft and inviting watercolors on cut paper make this souvenir as vibrant as the works of art themselves.