Absolutely Wild by Dennis Webster, ill. by Kim Webster Cunningham
Rating: 5 Stars
Summary: A collection of poems about unusual animals, this book uses witty rhymes to describe yaks, puffins, gnus, gibbons, and more.
I have always loved poetry and animals, and Absolutely Wild is an intriguing combination of the two! Webster’s descriptions are so hysterical and yet logical at the same time, for instance, when he describes the yak: “A shaggy species is the yak / With hairy front and hairy back / It isn’t very hard to spot him / With hairy top and hairy bottom.” I found myself laughing and eagerly turning from page to page to see what peculiar details are revealed about the next animal. Each poem has a slightly different style and rhyme scheme, but the overarching presence of rhyme and meter stabilizes the structure of the book as a whole and offers “unity and coherence” that help to make this book a success (Peterson & Eeds, 2007, p. 35). Also, the illustrations are absolutely amazing as they depict each species in dark ink and contrastingly vibrant color. This combination is simply stunning and adds to the text in a funky way that is very complementary to the spiritedness of the words themselves. I particularly enjoyed the picture of the snail with a house literally drawn on its back in reference to the lines, “Still, moving at all is hard, you know / When you carry your house wherever you go.”
In the classroom, this book would be a great choice to introduce poetry to young students. Its animal subject matter is popular and relatable for children, as most are usually interested in animals. I think the illustrations would also be appealing to kids and would invite them to observe the pages during their independent reading. The fun descriptions might be useful when teaching a mini-lesson on adding detail to writing or using your voice in writing. For this purpose, I think this book would be a great choice in order to familiarize kids with poetry rather than the typical choice of a fictional picture book. I find that many children are unsure or unaware of poetry as a genre, so overall Absolutely Wild would be a good selection to have in a classroom library in order to expose students to the wonderful world of poetry.