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April's Poetry Month Is Celebrated With These Rhyming Books

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"A Dazzling Display of Dogs" by Betsy Franco; illustrated by Michael Wertz; Tricycle Press/Random House; 40 pages; $16.99.

Following on the footsteps of the equally energetic "A Curious Collection of Cats," comes this new collection of visual poems celebrating all things canine. The 34 concrete poems, some winding themselves around the pages, others with words that form the shapes of fences, waves and newspapers, are zesty and fun. Completely wacky and imaginative, the poems feature personality-laden pets. A dog named Apollo wishes he was a seagull at the beach, and "Tough Bert struts around like he owns the park. And he's earned it with every fight." Plus, "Emmett's Ode to His Tennis Ball" is a "slobbery, sloppy, slimy sphere — oh, tennis ball, I hold you dear. You bounce, I bound up in the air. We make the most inseparable pair."

Wertz' modern, retro pages are as appealingly fresh as the flowing, moving, descriptive ditties they illustrate.

"His Shoes Were Far Too Tight" by Edward Lear; masterminded by Daniel Pinkwater; illustrated by Calef Brown; Chronicle Books; 40 pages; $16.99.

Speaking of wacky funky cool, this update of "The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear" is just as nonsensical but made even more lighthearted, artsy and fun with Pinkwater's selections and Brown's hilariously creative pictures.

In "The Pobble Who Has No Toes," the green spotted-faced pobble paddles across the Bristol Channel, "but not before he wrapped his nose in a piece of scarlet flannel." And just who are the Jumblies? Green-headed, blue-handed folks who go to sea in a Sieve that "ain't big, but we don't care a button! We don't care a fig! In a Sieve we'll go to sea!"

Need some ridiculousness and joy in your household? Then this dream-like picture book fits the read-aloud bill.

"Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku" by Lee Wardlaw; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin; Henry Holt; 40 pages; $16.99.

Haiku is an accessible form of poetry taught in most schools. This cleverly worded tale of a cat's adoption from a shelter is funny and touching, with gorgeous art reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints. Heartwarming and absorbing, the story perfectly captures the feline alternation between aloof independence and purring, with words like "No rush.

I've got plants. Gnaw this paw. Nip that flea. And wish: Please, Boy, pick me."

Humor also reigns, as the wide-eyed, newly adopted cat is dressed up for tea with the boy's sister and thinks aloud - "Letmeoutletmeoutletmeoutletmeout. Wait! Let me back in!"

Powerfully effective, "Won Ton" will steal the hearts of those who love shelter cats and haiku poetry.

"Birds of a Feather" by Jane Yolen; photographs by Jason Semple; Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press; 32 pages; $17.95.

Prolific author Yolen teams up with her son, nature photographer Jason Semple, for this spectacular, full-color view of wild birds. Beginning with a bang with "The Regal Eagle," Yolen's thoughtfully entertaining poems then follow-up with a sidebar of pertinent facts about each bird, and it ends with the "Creation of the Marbled Godwit." Young readers will laugh at this strange bird, full of body parts seemingly very ill-fitted, then learn that it actually uses its strange, super long bill to search in the sand for clams, crabs, and snails.

Much more than a straightforward book of nature poems for bird lovers, Yolen's collection appeals to all. In "Haiku for a Cool Kingfisher," the blue-haired bird perches atop a branch while the brief ditty calls out, "Hey, girl, fish lover. Sitting on a dead gray tree, Love the blue Mohawk." She calls an Eastern Kingbird a flying ninja with "You are a spy, a guerilla, a ninja of the air, and any who get close to your next, better take care, better take care."

A lovely, refreshing collection of prose with a zippy array of bird facts thrown in, "Birds of a Feather" is a must for poetry week and springtime read-alouds.

"At the Sea Floor Cafe" by Leslie Bulion; illustrated by Leslie Evans; Peachtree Publishers; 45 pages; $14.95.

With lots of ocean-colored splendor (turquoises, corals), the pages of these "Odd Ocean Critter Poems" are worthy of hanging on walls. Witty poems with titles such as "Party Poppers" and "Walk Like a Nut" introduce youngsters to intriguing underwater creatures, and sidebars explain how they forage for food, capture prey, trick predators, and protect their young.

An appendix and glossary explains the variety of poetic forms and the animals inside this cross-curricular treasure.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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