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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Bless Our Pets


Greetings, Poetry Lovers! I'm beyond delighted to share a new picture book poetry anthology from Eerdmans which launches on April 16, Bless Our Pets – Poems of Gratitude for our Animal Friends. This was one of the last books compiled by the incomparable Lee Bennett Hopkins, and he chose 14 gems celebrating our furred, feathered, and scaled friends.

(I might mention that I've personally had 10 of these pets as animal companions myself, so this book is right up my alley!)


This treasure includes poems by Ann Whitford Paul, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Linda Trott Dickman, Eric Ode, Ralph Fletcher, Sarah Grace Tuttle, Joan Bransfield Graham, Kristine O'Connell George, Darren Sardelli, B.J. Lee, Charles Ghigna, Lois Lowry, Prince Redcloud, and Lee himself.  


The watercolor and colored pencil illustrations by Lita Judge are warm and dreamy and full of expression.  I can't help but notice that the color palette, with fresh greens and yellows and pinks and blues and purples, feels just like spring! [Lita Judge's website is very much worth a visit, where she generously shares photos and process videos and behind-the-scenes peeks into the many books she's created as an author/illustrator and illustrator. ]


The poems in this book include prayers, hopes, blessings, and dreams – reflecting the important bond between children and their pets.


Rebecca Kai Dotlich's "Puppy" begins:


Those brown eyes, round as chestnuts,

Calm me, message me I love you without words.


In "A Prayer for My Gerbil," Eric Ode begins and ends with:


Watch over every tiny part.


I appreciate that in Ann Whitford Paul's "Kitten," in Sarah Grace Tuttle's "Hamster Hoping," and in Lois Lowry's "Mouse Dreams," each child-narrator imagines and sympathizes with a new pet's perspective, promising to care for their animal companions.


Ralph Fletcher's "Prayer for a Parakeet" acknowledges "some essential wildness" in a caged bird whose "wild cousins flit across/a thick jungle canopy." And in "Box Turtle," B. J. Lee affirms how difficult it can be when one might want to keep an animal that belongs in the wild. (Don't worry – a compassionate child, after helping a turtle get back on its feet, makes the right decision.)


As Irene Latham noted in her post about this book, Kristine O'Connell George's "Dreaming of Savannah" perfectly captures the wild spirit of a horse-loving youngster, in a particularly magical spread. Also, in another Poetry Friday post, Buffy Silverman offers peeks at several wonderful pages. An early and fulsome review by Tracey Kiff-Judson can be found here


From sensitive, sweet poems to Charles Ghigna's humorous "Pet Snake?," young readers will delight in this colorful menagerie.


This book reminds me once again that Lee Bennett Hopkins was an absolute master at creating anthologies, with his eye for each individual poem and his vision for a collection as a whole. Echoing themes, unexpected surprises, and a thread of tenderness are woven through these words from beginning to full-circle end.


Lee's own poem is the final one, "My Old Dog." It contains his usual simple but profound phrases, such as "let's cherish/the many wondrous/times we have together" and ends with:


I'll forever

recall each and every


I had with you.


I know you'll forever

remember, too.


As one who was lucky enough to know Lee (and who still hears his voice in my head), those last lines particularly got me. We will forever remember, and we'll celebrate that generations to come will enjoy this loving tribute to the non-human members of our families.


For the Eerdmans page about the book, click here.  And for all the goodness in the first Poetry Friday roundup of SPRING, flap on over to visit Rose at Imagine the Possibilities.  The birds are already there!

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