Poetry for Children


Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole

ISBN: 978-1-4677-1232-3



Millbrook Press/Lerner
Illustrations by Anna Wadham

Fifteen poems celebrate the flora and fauna of the African grasslands, accompanied by background information and stylized illustrations from British illustrator Wadham, which draw out the personalities of the animals on parade. Latham doesn’t ignore some of the hard realities of life in the wild: “Wildebeest down:/ weakling drowned/ during migration,” begins “Calling Carcass Control,” about scavengers; her ode to a lioness takes place “After the choosing,/ after the chase,” as the sleepy huntress “savors favorite flavors” before falling asleep. There’s also room for beauty and humor, as in a lighthearted ode to oxpeckers and the mammals whose ticks they happily eat: “Got earwax? Dead skin? We’re the best!/ Deep wound cleaning upon request.” An assured and often amusing grouping of verse that informs as it entertains. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Sept.)
- Publisher's Weekly
Poems set at an African water hole, coming fall 2014 from Millbrook Press with illustrations by Anna Wadham

"In DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST Irene Latham asks readers to 'Wander with me, meander with me...'. They will -- and they will return for more -- again and again."
- Lee Bennett Hopkins

"well-crafted poems... charming illustrations... a strong choice." - School Library Journal STARRED

Kirkus Reviews STARRED

A poetic celebration of animal life found in the African grasslands.

Inspired by wildlife photographer Greg du Toit, who submerged himself in a Kenyan water hole to capture glimpses of the creatures gathering there, Latham and illustrator Wadham showcase the splendors of that world in this riveting picture-book tribute. Through spare lyric poems and brief but illuminating prose descriptions set within warm, subdued-toned spreads, the duo invite young readers to explore the importance of the water hole for no fewer than 15 species who congregate at this vital life source. Unusual beasts with sonorous names like impala, oxpecker, nightjar and wildebeest all come to drink, sometimes risking life and limb when met by dangerous snakes—“Puff adder / hisses— / rarely misses”—who also frequent the water hole to survive. In an effort to ward off other would-be predators, including the unrelenting African sun, a “rugby tangle” of frolicking zebras or a herd of elephants luxuriating in a “dust bath at dusk” may be spotted, all hoping to evade the services of the “mean-eyed marabou,” the bald-headed carrion-eating stork. Latham’s finely crafted verse, at once humorous and serious, dazzlingly opens the imagination to the wilds of the world.

Enlightening and engaging, a thrilling panorama of the diversity to be found throughout the animal kingdom. (glossary, further reading) (Picture book/poetry. 8-12)


Booklist
Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole.
Latham, Irene (Author) , Wadham, Anna (Illustrator)
Sep 2014. 32 p. Lerner/Millbrook, hardcover, $17.95. (9781467712323). 811.

A water hole in the African grasslands provides the setting for this attractive book, in which 15 short poems spotlight different animals. A thirsty giraffe struggles to maneuver its legs in order to reach the water with its tongue. A well-fed lioness dozes nearby. Meanwhile, a dung beetle works tirelessly, rolling a ball of elephant dung to her underground tunnel. Each double-page spread features a large, expressive illustration; one or two poems; and a box of information closely related to each poem’s subject. Precisely worded, pithy, and often playful, these enjoyable poems often focus on a particular aspect of the subject, such as the meerkat sentries’ communications or the oxpecker birds’ grooming service for large mammals. Wadham varies the book’s single setting by isolating parts of the area in the illustrations and by altering her palette as the light changes throughout the day and night. A fine volume of verse for independent reading or sharing with a class.
— Carolyn Phelan

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (Jan. 2015)
Latham, Irene Dear Wandering Wildebeest and Other Poems from the Water Hole; illus. by Anna Wadham. Millbrook, 2014 33p
Library ed. ISBN 978-1-4677-1232-3 $17.95 R Gr. 3-6

Fifteen poems capture the denizens of the African water hole, from impalas and elephants to oxpecker birds and dung beetles. Entries vary between rhymed and unrhymed, but all are compact, rhythmic, and short-lined, with frequent tasty soundplay (“white tackles/ in a rugby tangle”) that will enhance readaloud pleasure. Spreads follow the format best known in Joyce Sidman’s work, counterpointing the poem with a prose paragraph adding factual information about the featured topic. The mixed-media art creates an immersive milieu in the full-bleed spreads; the folkloric naďveté of the animal portraits and touches of pattern and background details have a fanciful air that’s not always congruent with the natural history emphasis of the text but is nonetheless visually pleasing. The book would pair effectively with the African entries in the Face to Face with Animals photoessay series (Joubert’s Face to Face with Elephants, BCCB 1/09, etc.) or make a lively script for a performance. End matter includes a brief bibliography for further reading on water hole animals and a list of websites. DS

School Library Journal
*LATHAM, Irene. Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole. illus. by Anna Wadham. 32p. ebook available. further reading. glossary. websites. Millbrook. Sept. 2014. lib. ed. $17.95. ISBN 9781467712323. LC 2013030195.
Gr 2-5–This will be a much-sought-after book for teaching reading and inquiry skills. Each animal (which include the wildebeest, impala, meerkat, black mamba, puff adder, and more) features a poem on the left side of the spread and an informational text box on the right. Latham’s knowledge of these creatures enhances both the well-crafted poems and the informational texts, the two working in tandem. In “Dust Bath at Dusk,” Latham explains how elephants’ “skin/is powdered/in a red-grit shower...” while the text box reads “As this dirt coating on their hides dries, it forms a crusty layer that protects them from damaging sun and irritating insects.” There are many interesting facts to be gleaned, such as a step-by-step description of the uses of elephant dung before a dung beetle lays its eggs within it. The book is not only edifying but also funny. For instance, a poem about a symbiotic relationship between the oxpecker and its host begins, “Ticks got you dancing in an ear-flapping way?/Try our Basic Tick Removal Plan Today!” Charming illustrations in dusty colors convey the habitat of the African grasslands while portraying the passing of a day. A strong choice.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA

March/April 2015 issue of Library Media Connection
Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole by Irene Latham, Illustrated by Anna Wadham. 2014. 32pp. $17.95 lb. Millbrook Press (Lerner Publishing Group). 978-1-4677-1232-3. Grades 3-6

The author was inspired by an adventurous photographer named Greg du Toit. He became one with a water hole in Kenya in order to see thirsty animals up close. As a result, Latham wrote 15 fun, descriptive poems about intriguing animals such as impalas, dung beetles, meerkats, and lionesses. Accompanying each poem is a highlighted box of additional information about each animal. Children will learn how oxpeckers groom large African mammals, wildebeests move in herds to find water, and elephants trumpet in the water hole. This information is presented in an entertaining, light manner with playful illustrations. Although websites are referenced to du Toit’s photographs, viewing a few of the pictures in the book would have enhanced the reading experience. Bibliography. Glossary. Websites. Missy Van Dusen, Educational Reviewer, Lubbock, Texas [Editor’s Note: Available in e-book format.] Recommended

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