We’re Irene Latham fans here, as well as fellow Alabamians, so when she emailed me asking if I’d like to review her latest collection of poetry, it was a no-brainer. I was delighted to receive it (and to see her very sweet inscription on the title page). I mean, how sweet is this?
Sharing it with my children for poetry tea time this past Fun Friday was even sweeter, though. When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems About the Frozen Continent is an entirely delightful collection of fifteen poems. As the title and subtitle indicate, they’re all about the flora and fauna of the frozen continent. Each poem is accompanied by an interesting and thorough informative paragraph about the subject at hand: Adélie penguins; Weddell seals; chinstrap penguins; giant petrels; Antarctic moss, lichen, and algae; humpback whales; krill; brinicles; elephant seals; Gentoo penguins, midges; emperor penguins; leopard seals; and finally, the encroaching iceberg that spells the end of the Antarctic summer. I marvel at Ms. Latham’s ability to encapsulate huge images and ideas into accessible bites:
At the top of the hill
they belly flop,
slide, and glide on built-in sleds.
The five year old understood the image of the emperor penguins’ “build in sleds,” which made me quite happy. I love the formatting of the poem, with the flop and drop suggesting the movement. [Note: I couldn’t format it exactly the way it is in the book, with the drop more diagonally below the flop.] Another favorite of mine is the one about the elephant seals, which is written from the perspective of an announcer at a prize fight or boxing match:
Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen
to the title event of the summer:
Beachmaster of Antarcticaaaaaa!
At stake, the fate of fifty cows
and the right to roam the beach.
These poems pack quite a punch, as well as very concise bits of information. This collection would make an excellent addition to a unit study about Antarctica or about winter time [er, an Antarctica summer, rather], or just for any old poetry tea time. A note in one of the paragraphs about the fact that Antarctica has no permanent human residents, but that scientists visit there every year to conduct research, sent me scurrying for one of my favorite penguin books which we just happened to have home from the library: A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis. (It also reminded me that I haven’t read Mr. Popper’s Penguins with the DLM, which I need to rectify soon!) Using the “Further Reading” addendum in the back of the book, we also looked up some information about exactly what a brinicle is. Wow! Who knew? Like all good
roads books, “way leads on to way,” so the possibilities for serendipitous learning are almost endless. Paired with Anna Wadham’s lovely illustrations, this is a collection not to be missed! We Highly Recommend When the Sun Shines on Antarctica for your poetry tea time! (Millbrook, 2016)
Many thanks to Irene Latham for sending this book our way! All opinions about the book are my own, of course.
- My review of Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole by Irene Latham
- My review of Leaving Gee’s Bend by Irene Latham
- Meeting Irene Latham
- Irene Latham’s website
- Anna Wadham’s blog