Beastly Verse by JooHee Yoon

[I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.  No other compensation was received.]

Beastly Verse is a mischievously beautiful work of art.  This book of 16 poems is simultaneously gorgeous, thrilling, and very funny. It presents a wide range of delightful poetry from the very familiar “The Tiger” by William Blake and “The Crocodile” by Lewis Carroll to poems that I’m thrilled to be introduced to such as “Eletelephony” by Laura E. Richards and “The Friendly Hen” by Arthur Waugh.

This book should certainly be hailed and celebrated for its incredible design and artwork — as far as books of poetry go there’s nothing I’ve found to rival this book. The use of colors and layout are nothing but perfect. The illustrations match, reflect, and elevate poems you didn’t really think could be added to — and yet here it is.

What is so striking about this book is how appealing Yoon has made poetry to some of the world’s newest members.  The vast majority of these 16 poems are funny and the illustrations dance with this humor and give us quite the show. What’s more is the child-like focus and distortion that Yoon gives to the characters.  Do you remember when you were a child and you’d fixate on one aspect of something?  Yoon takes this common characteristic of childhood imagining and deftly applies it to these poems making them imminently accessible and delightful.

My eldest son (who is a fairly typical four-year-old boy and tends to prefer narrative prose over poetry) enthusiastically declared that, “This book is exciting!”  He was especially intrigued by Robert Desnos’ “The Pelican” and Hilaire Belloc’s “The Yak.” (He has me read those to him over and over — and over– again.)

Throughout our first reading he asked so many questions:  What is a sorrel wig? A demi-veil? What is fearful symmetry? Is the tiger really burning? What is a lapel? A verbena?  Do pelican eggs taste like chicken eggs?  Did you really pee next to a yak in Tibet? (I did! True story!) Is a Spangled Pandemonium real?  Can penguins understand what we say? Why are hummingbirds so small?  Can we have a pelican egg omelet? His questions kept me on my toes — so I highly recommend being alert and willing to field an endless array of questions when reading this with littler ones.

Yoon also adds a thrilling element to many of the poems by making the images of the beasts a bit unsettling.  Many of the creatures have jagged teeth and a variety of expressions that remind you they are beasts with an edge of danger to them and not cute, fluffy animals for you to hold and cuddle. (Hence the title, Beastly Verse and not Cute and Fluffy Animal Verse.)

The illustrations are created using only three colors — cyan, magenta, and yellow — but the end result is a dazzling display of luminosity, where the sum is greater than its individual parts. At the end of the book, in small print, Yoon says that she, “Marveled at poetry for its ability to capture thoughts and emotions using just a handful of words.” Well, I marvel at how Yoon has captured thoughts and emotions using just a handful of colors. She has done with color what poets do with words — and the result is a book that looks, feels, sounds, and even smells amazing.

What does it for me, though, is that this book feels like a treasure.  These are some of Yoon’s favorite childhood poems and illustrated using a medium that clearly inspires and excites her. When you look at the dedication and see that this book is “For the Reader” — you know that this is a work of art created especially for you.

Recommended Ages Roughly 3 and up. Enchanted Lion Books. April 14, 2015. 32 pages. ISBN:978-0399166068 Fiction. Hardcover.

Where to Get it:

From Beastly Verse © 2015 JooHee Yoon. Used with Permission.

From Beastly Verse © 2015 JooHee Yoon. Used with Permission.

Author and Illustrator Websites:

More Reviews of this Book:

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

5 comments

  1. Reblogged this on newTeachrtips and commented:

    Sounds like a great book! I love “The Tiger” 🙂 poetry is a great thing to incorporate into the classroom, and I definitely want to try and do this. There are so many books of poetry, so it will be difficult to pick and choose which ones – BUT it is good to see what’s out there!

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  2. Agree completely — this is a juicy tome, to be savored again and again!
    I also commend the paper selection, a non-coated extra heavy stock, which makes the printing pop even more. And the surprise fold-outs are pitch-perfect.

    There is a technical error in your review — which was probably picked up from Kirkus, which cited the same. Don’t perpetuate this obvious error. It’s clearly stated on the copyright page that the colors are custom-selected Pantone colors. Any graphic designer will tell you at a glance from 10 paces away that is not cyan, magenta, or process yellow on those pages. Just so you know.

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