Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Poetry: A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme

Lewis, J. Patrick. (2002). A WORLD OF WONDERS: GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELS IN VERSE AND RHYME. Ill. by Alison Jay. NY: Dial Books or Young Readers/Penguin Putnam, Inc. ISBN: 0803725795.

Through poems and art, A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme, poet J. Patrick Lewis and illustrator Alison Jay provide the passport for readers to visit and learn about fascinating places and famous explorers from around the world.

The combined work of J. Patrick Lewis and Alison Jay makes A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme a wonderful collection of poetry that is completely fun yet educational for readers of all ages.

There are several styles of poetry that Lewis uses in the book. The majority of them rhyme like How to Tell Latitude from Longitude:

Lines of latitude
Have flatitude.

Longitudinal lines
Rise like porcupines.

However, there are a few free verse poems, such the one about Christopher Columbus, which also spells out the name of the explorer’s famous ship:

Spain dispatched three ships
Across the Atlantic on a
Navigator’s hopeless dream of
Traveling westward to Asia
All dreams end in surprise.

Morning, October 12, 1492
Ahoy! In the Bahamas, he had
Reached the wilder shores of
Inhabitations, lost in the future,
Anchored at the far end of destiny.

There also rhymes that come in the form of riddles about famous cities (by asking “Where are you if…”) and questions about little known facts, such as Mount Everest is twenty-seven Eiffel Towers tall (Lewis, p. 18). The poems that are about specific places or people have name of the country and any important information relevant to the subject, for examples the information for the poem Ferdinand Magellan is “Portuguese-born Spanish explorer, First person to circumnavigate the globe, 1480-1521,” (Lewis, p. 4) and Angel Falls has “Venezuela, 3,212 feet tall” (Lewis, p. 14). Finally, there are poems that can be used to learn and/or memorize specific facts like which are “stalagmites” and which are “stalactites” in the poem How a Cave Will Behave and the difference in “Longitude” and “Latitude” in the poem given above.

What is truly wonderful about Lewis’ poems is his use of imaginative words to describe the places. A great example of this is the poem Who Could Somersault the San Andreas Fault. The format of this particular is three stanzas that have three lines each that rhyme with one another then a fourth and final one that has two rhyming lines. To creatively describe to the readers how large the fault is he uses the concept of leaping from one side to the other: “No one could possibly pole-vault/ Or trampoline or somersault/ Across the San Andreas fault/ … 600 miles long and 20 deep-/ Now that is something of a leap./ I think I’ll stay in bed and sleep” (Lewis, p. 11).

Just as fun and unique as the poems, Alison Jay’s illustrations truly compliment the text. The book is a mixture of single-page and a double-page spread format. The majority of her paintings are in a bird’s-eye-view of, for examples, a map, the earth, a grouping of islands; however there are straight-on frontal views as well, like of the Angel Falls or of Mount Everest in On Top of the World. To enhance the already colorful pseudo-naïve artwork, Jay finished her paintings with a coat of clear crackle. This element creates a beautiful dry cracked appearance to all of the illustrations. It even makes Jay’s artwork appear as if it was painted on wood. The illustrations give off the feeling of age and wear, this especially is wonderful on the illustration of a sea map in the Christopher Columbus poem.

With Lewis’ playful use of words and with Jay’s beautiful illustrations World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme is not only a great picture book, but also a collection of cleverly written poetry and unique art that can educate and expand the imagination of all readers about the fascinating and amazing places from around the world.

In catchy, clever verse, the prolific Lewis (Earth and You: A Closer View, not reviewed, etc.) plays with place names, marvels at the journeys of several explorers, goes "Island Hopping," gads about the cities of Europe, even provides mnemonics to distinguish stalagmites from stalactites, and latitude from longitude-"Lines of latitude / Have a f l a t i t u d e. / Longitudinal lines / Rise like porcupines." The crackle finish on Jay's smoothly brushed artwork seems a bit mannered, but she adds plenty of imaginative visual twists to the poems; while the Red, Yellow, and Black Seas, for instance, flow out of oil-paint tubes, the Dead Sea comes from a salt shaker, and the Poles, described as "continental / Plates of white ice cream," are each capped by a jauntily-angled cookie. Lewis closes on an earnest note, urging readers to "Walk Lightly" upon the Earth. Young globetrotters and armchair travelers alike will happily climb aboard for the ride: "Go by yourself or invite a good friend / But traveling by poem is what I recommend." (Poetry. 8-11) (January 1, 2002)

In Lewis's (A Burst of Firsts) witty and fact-filled collection of poems, the narrator of the opening poem urges readers to "Discover the world of GE-OG-RA-PHY!" and recommends "traveling by poem." The poet examines not only the explorers (Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, etc.) themselves, but enough odd places and names to intrigue and tickle young readers. He offers a series of riddles about famous cities and facts about the globe ("Did you know [that] 27 Eiffel Towers and Mount Everest are equally tall?") as well as helpful mnemonic devices (e.g., in "How a Cave Will Behave": "A stalactite drips down from the ceiling./ A stalagmite grows up from the ground"). Lewis's verbal somersaults, both whimsical and plentiful, pepper the volume. As two men sit on a hilltop watching the aurora borealis, the speaker sees "clouds go by/ in colored thunderwear"; another tells of an "Archie fellow that I know/ [who] lived on an archi-pel-ago." But he and Jay (Picture This) also convey a sobering message in "Two Animals Talking": a boy says to a beetle, " `Behold all we have conquered, and/ The continents we've crossed!'/ `But since you always win,' said Beetle,/ `What have others lost?' " as the artwork shows a dark billowing cloud from a smokestack and a man chopping down a tree. The artist's many bird's-eye views brim with easy-to-recognize landmarks. She overlays each illustration with a crackle-glass web of lines. A full-scale treat for the armchair traveler. Ages 5-up. (January 7, 2002)

*Ask if anyone visited any amazing places either in the United States or abroad.
* Learn more about geography and travel with books like My America: A Poetry of the United States by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Ill. by Stephen Alcorn), Geography from A to Z: A Picture Glossary by Jack Knowlton (Ill. b Harriet Barton) and Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney (Ill. by Annette Cable).


  1. Have you looked at any of the novels by Karen Hesse? Her books are interesting both from the historical viewpoint, and the fact she has written several in blank verse. She won a Newbery for Out of the Dust, but I liked Witness better.

  2. Hello! Karen Hesse is a fantastic writer. I love historical fiction, and she is now among my list of favorites. Her work is perfect. I was actually introduced to her this past fall. I read and reviewed Witness, which was absolutely enthralling! There is a link below that will take you to my review. I hope you like it. Out of the Dust is on my holiday reading list. Thanks for your comment!

    Poetry: Witness

  3. You have to express more your opinion to attract more readers, because just a video or plain text without any personal approach is not that valuable. But it is just form my point of view

  4. I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

  5. Hi Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2! Thank you for visiting and reading my reviews at WP-CC!

    Anonymous 1, I actually do try to use my personal opinion. Fortunately the reviews that I've written so far I found to be be great for one or more reasons and never found anything that needed me to write that a certain book was bad. However, I do mention in some reviews about things that do catch my attention, such as the book The Flag Maker by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Even though Bartoletti did research as much as she could, this book may not necessarily all be true as the history is still unknown.

    Anonymous 2, thanks to you as well for commenting. It is always great to get a response from readers on how I'm doing.

    Thank you both, again, for visiting the WP-CC and thank you for your comments! Come back again!


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