Selected by J. Patrick Lewis
Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1426320941
ISBN-10: 9781426320941

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When words in verse are paired with the awesomeness of nature, something magical happens! Beloved former U.S. Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis curates an exuberant poetic celebration of the natural world in this stellar collection of nature poems. From trickling streams to deafening thrunderstorms to soaring mountains, discover majestic photography perfectly paired with contemporary (such as Billy Collins), classics (such as Robert Frost), and never-before-published works.

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In a superb companion to Lewis’s 2012 animal-themed collection, poems from writers both classic (Dickinson, Millay, Yeats) and contemporary (Grimes, Sidman, Yolen) pair with breathtaking nature photography that celebrates the variety of life on Earth and some one-of-a-kind landscapes. Most of the images evoke wonder and splendor, though a harrowing picture of the 2011 tsunami in Japan accompanies three poems (“it rushes with something/ to tell the shore/ But by the time it arrives/ it can only roar,” writes JonArno Lawson). Jack Prelutsky’s “The Ways of Living Things,” appearing beside a bald eagle about to take flight, sums up the collection succinctly: “In a fish’s joyful splashing,/ in a snake that makes no sound,/ in the smallest salamander/ there is wonder to be found.” Few books make it clearer why nature inspires so many poets to reach for the pen.


Compiled by former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Lewis, this assortment of nature-themed verse is, in a word, breathtaking. The selections represent a variety of styles, time periods, countries of origin, lengths, and themes; all are set against a stunning backdrop of full-bleed photographs. Offerings are divided into sections such as “In the sky,” “In the Sea,” and “On the Move” and run the gamut from whimsical to informative to comical and back again. William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” Li Po’s “You Ask Why,” and Jack Prelutsky’s “The Ways of Living Things” provide myriad entry points into exploring and celebrating the natural world. Photographs, of the superior caliber one might expect from National Geographic, are labeled with a description of the animal, plant, or location depicted. At book’s end, budding poets (and their teachers) will find a list of recommended children’s materials on wordplay in poetry, sorted by type (acrostics, palindromes, haiku, and more). An index, divided by poem, subject, poem first line, and poet, renders this work exceedingly useful.

VERDICT An excellent addition to any poetry collection.