LONG LIST REVIEW: Apes to Zebras An A-Z of Shape Poems


A colourful, fun and stylish menagerie of familiar, exotic and unusual creatures.  A quokka!  A Narwhal!  Xantu’s Murrelet!  What?  Mythical creatures also put in an appearance too: a Yeti and a unicorn. 

The book is visually inspiring and stimulating, asking the reader to consider animals in new ways and to consider the purpose of poetry itself in new ways.  The beauty and charm of the birds, beasts and insects on show is immediately evident, but there is also humour in the illustration and of course the language itself.  There’s so much to value here: there’s Liz Brownlee’s sinister ‘Boa’ which echoes Kaa from ‘The Jungle Book’; environmental messages also subtly feature, for instance, in Roger Stevens’ ‘Fish Farm’; and there’s the educational value of presenting such a variety of animals. 

The use of silhouette, different font styles and sizes, the colour and positioning make for a clever and inspiring book.  I like traditional poetry, the consistent verse style of words on a page, but this anthology is something else.  It has an immediate pleasure and impact and then the little details start to draw attention to themselves and my grin just gets wider and wider, marvelling at the sheer invention on display.  And isn’t this what a great reading experience should be like?  I want to put them up all over my classroom!