Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cousins of Clouds: Elephant Poems

By Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy
$16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

You may be fond of elephants, but read this beguiling book of poetry and you'll wish you could save every one.

Zimmer brings elephants into greater focus and heightens our respect for them, in a whimsical, if at times sobering tribute to the world's largest land mammal.

Every spread combines meticulously worded poems and soft, winsome collages, along with notes that expound upon their traits and threats to their survival.

In one, the profile of a sweet-eyed elephant spans the fold of two pages, its appendages painted to resemble objects that are similar in size or form.

Ears look like "tattered sails," the tail swishes like a "tapered rope" with a "fancy tassel," a sturdy hind leg becomes a Grecian pillar and another is inset with a slipper to suggest lightness of foot.

In another, Zimmer rejoices for elephants rescued from circuses or fairs, now living out their last days on a 2,700-acre refuge in Tennessee, their "trumpets and rumblings as hopeful as light."

Though Zimmer never comes out and appeals for help saving the endangered elephant, she deepens our understanding of these sapient creatures and asks us to contemplate how humans affect their lives.

In doing so, she skillfully involves us in their plight and makes us want to protect them.