Apes to Zebras: An A-Z of Shape Poems

Don’t miss this book of shape or ‘concrete’ animal poems by this accomplished triumvirate of children’s poets.

It is a wonderfully inventive A-Z, both restrained and lively, where every letter has at least one animal ‘shape’ poem. Some make exuberant use of type to draw the animal using the words of the poem, either following the outline of the creature or filling it in, and in others the letters and words are placed on the page to create movement, as in Mosquito which repeats the words ‘I’m coming to get you’, over and over, the letters getting bigger and bigger with the curling flight of the insect as it gets closer and closer.

Some of the poems are rhyming verses which have been given extra life through being fitted into the animal shape, while the poems that really soar are the ones that couldn’t be put on the page in another way without losing something. For example in Bird of Prey, ‘If you can see my shadow it’s too late’ the page is covered in the phrase in grey type, with the shadow of the bird in black with a hapless rabbit picked out in orange.

There is lots of humour and wit in the poems, but ecological and environmental concerns mean some are poignant and thoughtful. In Bees the dying ‘b’s have fallen off their words and the Buffalo is a skull shown on the page in bone white on grey, with a background implying a prairie turned to dust. Throughout the book different sizes of letters and words give pace and emphasis and high production values, great quality paper, with illustration and design in a sophisticated graphic style, using shades of black, white and grey with the zing of orange make this a delicious book, sure to fire children’s imagination and their own creativity.