Alarcon, Francisco X. 2008. Animal Poems of the Iguazu. Ill. by Maya Christina Gonzalez. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press. ISBN – 9780892392254.
Critical Review –
Alarcon presents a collection of 24 poems that paints a wonderful picture of the landscape and wild life that are native to the Iguazu National Park in South America. He introduces the collection by explaining where this rainforest is located and that the poems were written from his first hand experience in visiting the area. His introduction as well as the poems is bilingual written in Spanish and English. After the poems, Alarcon presents information on how to find out more about the national park, information on Gonzales the illustrator, and information on himself. The illustrations are painted in rich earth tones of blue, green, brown, orange, and deep red mimicking the naturally vivid colors found in the rainforest. Particularly noteworthy are the eyes of each animal loaded with expression.
The inspiration for the eyes that make the animals come alive is probably due in large part to the number of poems that are told from the animal’s point of view, such as, “Giant Ants” and “Observant Monkey.” In the poem, “Observant Monkey” the reader can read in the lines exactly what the monkey is thinking, and in his eyes see confirmation of the thoughts. Alarcon has an interesting way of matching the literary element or technique to the animal in the poem. One example is the poem “Jote” which is written in a circular pattern matching the flight pattern of the birds. Another example is the poem “Hummingbird” in which he uses repetition imitating the rapid movement of their wings. When necessary, Alarcon also includes extra notes on the page that help make connections to the poems. In this collection, the poems and illustrations worked perfectly together to create an enlightening and entertaining trip through the Igauzu National Park. Below is a poem from this collection.
antes de caer
es tan quieta
de cara al cielo
it plunges down
is as still
as a mirror
facing the sky
To introduce this poem, take the children outside and have them sit on a blanket in the grass. Have a hand-held mirror and allow each child to take a turn holding it toward the sky. Allow children to volunteer their thoughts on how still the sky looks in the mirror. Then read the poem. As a follow-up, ask the children to draw what the waterfall looks like to them.