DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST and Other Poems from the Water Hole, by Irene Latham, illustrated by Anna Wadham, Millbrook Press, 2014
Day begins. Illustrator Wadham wakes up the book, the reader, and an assortment of animals with the warm colors of morning. It’s a time to meet, greet and gather the news of the day.
Poet Latham, in the first of 15 engaging poems, extends an invitation: “To all the beasts who enter here.”
While the illustrator uses backgrounds to advance the day, the writer plays with a variety of poetic devices to bring each animal to life as it meets daily needs for food, shelter, and safety.
Pacing is prime when author Latham describes the impala, the picture of grace. The meerkat is bright eyed and disciplined and so are its stanzas. A snake slithers across the painted page while letters drape and sounds delight.
A change of pace allows a break for a commercial, an ad for the efficient cleaning service run by the enterprising oxpeckers. “Oxpecker Cleaning Service.” Clean is guaranteed!
When day comes to a close, it’s time for a bath. Be careful how you handle “Dust bath at dusk” if you decide to read this poem to an imaginative child. You might have to explain why a dust bath is not an option for a non-elephant, a.k.a. the child in your lap.
“What Rhino Knows” is about your typical loner. You may have one in your family, the one your mother’s sisters are always trying to marry off. Rhinos are not friendly to other rhinos. If one crowds another at the watering hole, the protestor could charge, kick up dust, or, worst of all, simply ignore the other. But, between rhinos, being ignored may not matter.
Second and third grade readers will lap up the fact filled sections. Call these blocks of sprightly text another type of watering hole. A glossary and other books add breadth to knowledge.
Irene Latham has written 3 collections of poetry for grown-ups and two novels for kids, Leaving Gee’s Bend and Don’t Feed the Boy.
Illustrator Anna Wadham lives in England in a flat with a rooftop view.
While you read Dear Wandering Wildebeest dozens of times to your eager little listener, recall the office water cooler. Which co-worker is which animal? Which animal are you?