Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Swan Song:

Swan Song:

J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrator:   Christopher Wormell 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 12
Creative Editions, 2003   ISBN: 978-1568461755

There are millions of species of animals living on Earth. This may make many people feel that we are lucky, that we are rich in natural wonders, but the truth is that these animals are only a small fraction of the animal species that have inhabited our planet. “More than ninety-nine of all species that have ever lived are now extinct.” Many of these absent creatures were dinosaurs, animals who disappeared due to changes that took place on Earth long ago. However, many other species have vanished more recently, and they have done so because of us.

This collection of poems is about some of the “recently departed” animal species. The poems serve as an epitaph for twenty extinct animals, and they also serve as a warning. We need to remember the species that are gone, so that we can protect the species of the present.

Often considered the poster child of extinct animals, the dodo was a flightless bird that lived in an environment where they had no enemies, and who therefore had no fears. Then humans arrived, who hunted the dodo and thus the poor dodo “ceased to be.”

Great Auks where another species of flightless bird who also had the unfortunate tendency not to fear the humans who came to their island homes. They too paid the ultimate price, providing hunters with feathers for eiderdown and meat for the table.

In 1937, many momentous events took place that attracted a lot of attention in the media. The Hindenburg crashed, Amelia Earhart disappeared, Japan declared war on China, and Hitler announced that God was his “friend and ally.” People all over the world mourned and worried as they read the articles, but few of them grieved over the article that announced that the last Bali Tiger was dead. She had died without anyone mourning her loss.

In his rich and powerful poems, Patrick J. Lewis beautifully captures the loss that we should all feel when we consider how many animal species have gone extinct because of human greed and thoughtlessness.

At the back of the book readers will find further information about the animal species mentioned in the poems.