Reviews for Pug and Other Animal Poems

Booklist Reviews 2013 February #2
As with the highly regarded Animal Poems (2007), Jenkins' meticulous cut-paper collage images successfully catch the essence of Worth's concise, vivid poems about a startling variety of creatures. The 18 featured animals, each radiant upon a separate double-page spread against boldly colored backgrounds, run the gamut from large (bull) to small (fly), from beautiful (Bengal tiger) to "ugly" (pug), from lively (fox) to dead (mouse), and from unusual (wood thrush) to more common ("My Cat"). Rendered in action close-ups, each should be recognizable to children. Worth's free-verse poems are chock-full of delicious metaphor ("The Bengal tiger / Batters his cage; / His rage is thunder, / Sharp stripes flash"), providing a precise mental image. While some concepts may be a tad sophisticated for the youngest, the language and images should inspire appreciation in audiences of all ages. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2013 April
Having fun with rhythm & rhyme

These six sparkling poetry books speak to young readers of all ages, addressing a symphony of subjects with creativity, humor and style.


In the introduction to Wee Rhymes: Baby’s First Poetry Book, longtime collaborators Jane Yolen and artist Jane Dyer explain how vital poetry is: “Children who are given poetry early will have a fullness inside. Mother Goose rhymes, baby verse—that kind of singsong, sing-along rhythm—is as important as a heartbeat.”

In this charming collection, Yolen includes a few Mother Goose rhymes alongside her own poems for babies (such as “Five Little Fingers” and “Baby Snores”) and toddlers (“My Slide” and “Soap Dragons”). All are filled with warmth and sometimes a dose of well-placed humor, such as these lines from “Sitting in the Quiet Chair”:

When you’re bad
And make a riot
You must go
And be real quiet.

Dyer’s pencil-and-watercolor illustrations are lovingly sweet and a perfect blend of classic nostalgia and modernism.


Older children and even adults will be charmed by the short, thought-provoking poems in Pug: And Other Animal Poems. These short verses were crafted by the late poetic virtuoso Valerie Worth, whose talents are apparent in each selection. Take, for example, the last lines of “Fox”:

Streaking the
Dark like
A fabulous
Famous, but
Seldom seen.

Illustrator Steve Jenkins’ bold illustrations are a vibrant match for each poem, filled with color, texture and depth. Never cutesy, Jenkins creates animals whose fur can practically be touched, such as an opossum “Staring with serious/Eyes at nothing.” The eyes of Jenkins’ creatures will grab your attention, including those of a soulful pug, a fierce fish and a singing wood thrush.

Although no one has ever seen the imaginary critters in Stardines Swim High Across the Sky, they are indeed intriguingly beautiful. This creative venture by the king of children’s poetry, Jack Prelutsky, and fine artist Carin Berger is presented as though it were a naturalist’s field guide.

As the cover flap cheerfully explains: “While many creatures (two dozen species in all) were discovered and recorded and their precise qualities examined, we are presenting sixteen here for the first time and for the enjoyment and education of the general public.” Berger’s illustrations continue the ruse, consisting of dioramas, shadow boxes and a variety of other materials, giving this book unique visual appeal.

“Chormorants,” for example, are birds who never stop doing chores, and you can easily guess the characteristics of “slobsters,” “jollyfish” and “sobcats.” Prelutsky brings humor and verbal acrobatics to his poems, as would be expected, while Berger has created perfect pairings of artistic wit and cleverness.

Very much back on terra firma, Forest Has a Song is a lovely compendium of woods-related poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. A girl and her dog wander through the forest in a variety of seasons, inviting readers to share their discoveries.

Poems such as “Bone Pile,” “Colorful Actor” (about a cardinal) and “First Flight” (chronicling an owl) nicely convey the discoveries that an observant hiker might make. Gentle watercolors by Robbin Gourley add just the right suggestion of realism, while bringing the poems together into a narrative whole.


The zany poems found in If You Were a Chocolate Mustache remind me of Prelutsky’s beloved antics. Instead, they are written by J. Patrick Lewis, the current children’s poet laureate. He is certainly deserving of the title, judging from the smiles you’ll see if you put this volume into the hands of any elementary student.

Fun is the operative word here, with plenty of poems, some very short, such as “Rules for Tightrope Walking Between Tall Buildings”:

1. Whatever you do, don’t laugh.
2. Avoid looking down at the traf—

Matthew Cordell’s simple line drawings add plenty of whimsy—in this case showing a terrified tightrope walker making his way over honking traffic.

There are riddle poems, too, to keep readers engaged, and slightly snarky humor throughout, such as the short and sweet “A Special Bond”:

Each time a child folds her hands,
She may be saying prayers for you,
Or else she just misunderstands
How to use the Elmer’s glue.

Young readers will also relish the abundant humor in Tamera Will Wissinger’s Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse, also illustrated by Cordell. The poems here tell the story of a memorable summer day of lake fishing.

Young Sam is excited to spend the day with his dad, and righteously dismayed when his younger sister decides to tag along. What’s worse, she quickly catches eight bluegills while Sam still has none.

Happily, Sam soon lands a big one, and the trio ends up having an unforgettable day. Using varied poetic forms, Wissinger captures the fun and family dynamics of this fisherman’s tale.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Like Jenkins's first collection of Worth's poems, Animal Poems, bold collages of precisely observed creatures dramatize eighteen welcome additions to Worth's oeuvre. The soulful "Pug" is a worried charmer ("Perhaps because, for / Dogs, they look / A lot like people"); a primeval black bull is "Rough-hewn, / From the planet's / Hard side, / From the cold / Black rock / That abides."

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #2
Valerie Worth is fondly remembered for her small books of "small poems" -- delicate epiphanies springing from thoughts on such ordinary things as a book, a fence, an acorn, rags -- all exquisitely illustrated with Natalie Babbitt's small, delicate line drawings (gathered in All the Small Poems and Fourteen More, rev. 3/95). Like Jenkins's first collection of Worth's poems, Animal Poems (rev. 5/07), Pug features a radically different design from that of those quiet earlier books, so in tune with Worth's elegantly simple verse. Still, times change, and Jenkins's bold collages of precisely observed creatures effectively dramatize these eighteen welcome additions to Worth's oeuvre. The soulful, lifesize "Pug" face on the jacket is a worried charmer ("Perhaps because, for / Dogs, they look / A lot like people"); a primeval black bull personifies his kind ("Rough-hewn, / From the planet's / Hard side, / From the cold / Black rock / That abides"). A few illustrations seem out of scale with their subjects and with the lovely verse: Jenkins's thrush is outsize and raucous, an unlikely source for one of nature's sweetest songs. Worth's poems remain a marvel and a joy: each offers, like the firefly here, its "Gold-green / Revelation, before / Slipping out / Between crossed / Thumbs, and slyly / Winking away." joanna rudge long

Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #1
Jenkins again provides stunning collage illustrations for a posthumous collection of poems by esteemed poet Worth, following Animal Poems (2007). This collection features 18 free-verse poems about the animal kingdom, including insects, fish, birds, wild animals and three pets: a dachshund, a prowling cat and the titular pug, shown in an appealing head-on view on the cover. Some of the animal subjects are less than engaging (a dead mouse left on the doorstep, a rat surrounded by garbage), but Worth finds tiny details and meaningful observations in each animal she examines, asking readers to accept any animal as a worthy subject for poetic examination. A few of the poems will be accessible to younger children, but most are more appropriate for children in upper-elementary grades or middle school; some will demand an adult's help in interpretation. Jenkins provides illustrations in his dazzling paper-collage format with impressive results, from a luminous firefly to a snarling tiger. There is no thematic flow or organization of the poems, so readers hop about the animal world in a slightly jarring manner, though the illustrations are captivating whatever the subject. Another welcome collection. (Picture book/poetry. 6-13) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 October
This collection of Worth's unpublished poems delight the eye and the ear. Pug may have his mug on the cover but there are many animals, birds, and insects that populate the pages . Worth's carefully chosen words talk about them, while Jenkins has chosen just the right background. On one two-page spread a firefly "lights up" the page with its bioluminescence. Here it is Worth's writing and cadence that shines. Savor a master's work, in both writing and art. Leslie Greaves Radloff, Educational Reviewer, South St. Paul, Minnesota [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 January #1

In the late Worth's follow-up to Animal Poems (2007), sharply observant and powerfully descriptive verses portray fauna in both wild and domesticated environments. Of a captive Bengal tiger, Worth writes, "Is it too wicked/ To wish/ He would break out,/ Fill the zoo/ With storms,/ Run his lightning/ Into the world?" Jenkins casts his typically precise and expressive cut-paper compositions against bright, spare backgrounds. With each poem, Worth expresses fascination and astonishment at each animals' singular, sometimes alien existence. Toads are "Leathery/ Lumps of/ Earth with/ Gilded eyes," while a cicada is "A fairy/ Tale come/ True: the/ Humped brown/ Gnome split/ Up the back,/ The silver-/ Caped prince/ Set free." A resonant and soulful compilation. Ages 4-up. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 March

Gr 3-5--A vividly crafted collection of 18 animal poems with subjects ranging from pugs to geese to fireflies. As in Animal Poems (Farrar, 2007), the poet's undeniable expertise is elegantly expressed in Jenkins's collage art. Each entry is featured on a spread with a paper collage depiction of the animal that complements the singular focus and brevity of the free-verse selection. Each poem captures a brief moment or an unusual perspective: from the mysterious nature of the fox, to the quiet stillness of a dead mouse left on the doorstep, to the power and raw ferocity of the tiger. The art reflects the shifting moods of the work deftly, allowing both to compel readers. Whether read aloud or scanned silently, this lovely book shines with the same qualities as the previous collection. Poetry readers who are hungry for more might want to peruse The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry, edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic, 2012), to continue the exploration of the creature kingdom.--Stephanie Whelan, New York Public Library

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