Stay-at-home dads and the rhythm of childcare

Are all wild animals ferocious, uninterested, or careless fathers? No way! At least some of them are tender, nurturing, and protective. "Just Us Two," a poetry book praising the sensitive care some animal fathers give to their offspring, offers almost a dozen examples.

Award-winning poet Joyce Sidman features crocodiles, wolves, penguins, monkeys, frogs, and more in this attractive and engaging picture book. The poems focus on animal behavior as supported by scientific research.

Sidman says she made her own observations and wrote to scientists all over the world to obtain the information for this book.

In an afterward, Sidman includes a very readable paragraph of facts and a color photo of each species that is highlighted in verse.

Don't be misled, though. This isn't a dry science text. It's filled with all the joy and power of poetry. Some verses rely on a call-and-response pattern. Here an arctic wolf pup gets instruction in "Rules of the Pack":

Yip means happy. Yip means happy.

Howl means come. Howl means come.

Respect your elders. Respect my elders.

No biting my tail. No biting your - chomp!

Fun alliteration flits through these pages as in this verse from "Budgie Babies":

Budgie babies bellow boldly,

brawl and babble, screech and squeal,

push and pummel brothers, sisters,

for a tasty budgie meal.

While most of these poems are amusing, all capture the tenderness evident in the father-child relationship. "Mouse Haiku" is a very gentle piece that evokes the calm of Zen meditation and the delicate nature of a newborn: "Until then, Father/ warms this fragile thimbleful/ of fluttering hearts."

Every page of this well-designed book is enlivened by the imaginative cut-paper artwork of Susan Swan. For these collages, she first chooses blank papers; then ( la Eric Carle), she paints and cuts them to create each scene.

This multifaceted volume contains absorbing poetry, intricate art, and interesting animal facts. It's perfect for home or classroom use - anywhere young poets, artists, or naturalists reside.

Karen Carden reviews children's books for the Monitor.

JUST US TWO: POEMS ABOUT ANIMAL DADS By Joyce Sidman Illustrated by Susan Swan Millbrook Press Unpaged, $22.90 Ages 6-9

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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