Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Dear Wandering Wildebeest and other poems from the water hole

Dear Wandering Wildebeest and other poems from the water hole

Irene Latham
Illustrator:  Anna Wadham 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Lerner, 2014   ISBN: 978-1467712323

If you visit an African savannah and want to see some of the grassland animals, the best place to go is to a water hole. All the animals need water at some point, and they often travel long distances to get to a water hole, where they gather during the day or night. Bush willow trees are often found growing near or around the water hole and they provide animals with shade, a place to rest, and even a source of food.

   The voice of the bush willow is heard in one of the poems in this book. It tells us how its “buffet never closes” for animals like giraffes, which feed on its leaves. We hear about how rhinos doze in its shade, and baboons “scramble up and down my trunk.” On its branches and truck animals such as owls, skinks, and ants make their homes and go about their business.

   We also read poems about some of the creatures that come to the water hole. There are several deadly snake species that may pay a visit, including the deadly and fast moving black mamba, the tree-living boomslang, the cape cobra, the saw-scaled viper, and the puff adder, which “rarely misses.”

   Here we see the fast and elegant impala, a deer that can leap great distances and whose “flawless flight” is a “dancer’s delight.” Elegance is not the way of the elephants who come to the water hole. They bathe and drink and then they have a wonderful “red-grit shower” rolling in the dust. The dust coats their skin and it protects them from the sun and biting insects. The rhino, another large animal, also comes to the water hole, though it only comes when the stars are high in the sky and when “moonshine” touches the land. The rhino, a solitary creature, “charges like a bull / at the rodeo” if it hears or smells danger.

   On the pages of this memorable poetry book readers will find poems that beautifully capture the sounds, sights, and smells of Africa. Readers will meet some of the animal characters who live in this captivating place. Accompanying every poem there is a section of text that gives readers further information about the animals (or plants) mentioned in the poem. The poems come in many forms and use different ‘voices’ so that readers are kept guessing. Who will come next? Will we get to read about a meerkat or a giraffe? What about lions? Will we get to meet them too?

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