Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Beast Feast : Poems

Beast Feast : Poems

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Harcourt, 1998   ISBN: 978-0152017378

Most of us tend to take a long time to say what we want to say. We don’t try to describe things in a concise way, and sometimes what we want to say or describe gets lost in the throng of words. In this collection, poet and illustrator, Douglas Florian, beautifully captures the nature or habits of twenty-one animals using very few words.

   Often the poems are amusing. For example in The Anteater we are told that this animal has a “long and tacky tongue,” which goes “snaking from its snout.” The anteater uses this tongue to snag termites, a thousand of which go “riding in” to the anteater’s mouth, but none come “riding out.”

   In the shortest of the poems Douglas Florian often tweaks the words he uses, and the result is clever and amusing. In The Rhea he tells us that this large bird is “rheally” strange. It is just like an ostrich that has been “rhearranged.”

   Sometimes the poem is told from the animal’s point of view, and sometimes the poet himself expresses an opinion. In The Pigeon, he admits that he does not “Love the pigeon” but he does “like it” because the bird has its own way of doing things. It bobs its head when it walks, and pigeons are brave creatures, who may even we willing to sit on one’s shoulder.

   There are some poems that tell us exactly what the animal in question is like. For example we learn that toads, the “squat and plump” relative of the frog, does not jump very often. It is a nocturnal creature that hunts during the night and that “hops into an earthy borrow” to nap until it is time to hunt again.

   With poems that amuse, intrigue, and inform, this is a collection that young readers will enjoy sharing with friends and family members.