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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Polar Bear, Arctic Hare

Polar Bear Arctic hare poems from the frozen north book review spinelliPolar Bear Arctic Hare
Poems of the Frozen North
by Eileen Spinelli
Illustrations by Eugenie Fernandes
Ages 4-8

Ideally, I refrain from recommending books. It feels presumptuous, even slightly overbearing. At least that's the way I feel when some book list is thrust in my face (good-intentioned, of course), with the assumption that those are the best books that need to be read.

On the other hand, it is very refreshing to read about books that appealed to kids and their parents, and is presented in the spirit of sharing... "Here's something we enjoyed" and left at that, with no strings attached like, "Read it to your kids, they'll like it", because that's where the trouble is: Not all kids are alike, and not all kids enjoy the same things, even if the adult mind thinks they should because the adult mind has decided that this book is all that.

And not just kids' books, adults' as well. Not all of us like the same genres or styles of writing. And it is cheeky to assume what one is reading is somehow intrinsically better than what somebody else is... I am rambling again.

Anyway, I got this book from the library during the recent Winter Holidays, along with other winter-y tales, to set the mood of the season for Ana.

This is a book of short poems about the Arctic wildlife. The illustrations are simple and complement the poems well. I liked what it had to offer. And, Ana seems to echo my feelings about this book. There is no discounting the appeal of rhyme when reading to children.

What impressed me was that it educates about Arctic wildlife in such a way as to leave a lasting impression. And the verses are charming and catchy.

The Arctic Nursery Rhyme early in the book piqued my curiosity right away:
Arctic Tundra, Arctic Tundra,
How does your garden grow?
With lupine seeds and fireweeds
And bearberries all in a row.

And at the back of the book, we have notes about Arctic Lupine, Fireweed and Bearberries. Three things I had not heard of until this book!

Being a fan of this song, Narwhal Sighting easily became Ana's favorite poem in the book, especially with bold large illustration of one poking out from the icy Arctic:
What is that in the Arctic sea?
That creature with a single horn?
Some sailors saw it long ago
And thought it was a unicorn.

And, at the back of the book, in the notes, we find out that only male narwhals have this horn which is actually a tooth! No one knows what it is used for...

In Racing The Peregrine Falcon, we discover that the peregrine falcon is the fastest creature in the world:
Faster than a school bus,
Faster than a hare.
Faster than a race car,
Faster than a bear.
Faster than a cheetah -
The awesome peregrine.
I think I'll save my running shoes
For races I can win!

It wouldn't be fair for me to present all the poems here. Hopefully the sample above speaks for itself.

We learn about the only white whale, Beluga; the killer whale, Orca (which is actually a large dolphin); the Arctic Tern which happens to be the long-distance champion of the world flying from Arctic to Antarctic and back again following the summer sun...

We learn about the Tundra Wolf, Musk Ox, Ptarmigan... Polar Bear, Caribou, even Snow Fleas and Orange-Golden Bumblebee... and the iceberg!

All in simple verse, accompanied by stark illustrations.

Some poems are short and warm, some set the heart racing with its rhythm and meter. Some just flow like a gentle brook while some make us chuckle.

The permanent harsh coldness of the Arctic seems like a tough place to sustain life. And it is. But we learn about the animals and plants that have adapted and evolved to survive there. It seems like a good starting point to learn about geography and biology of the world we live in.

Every time we've read the book so far, Ana has insisted on reading the notes section at the back of the book. Since there are so many interesting facts, after the first few reads, we decided that she gets to choose only 5 things there that she wants to know about that night:)

This is a book I certainly want to add to our home library and look forward to reading to Oggie in a couple of years.

[this post written for Saffron Tree]

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