cover image Voices from the Wild

Voices from the Wild

David Bouchard, Chronicle Books, Dave Bouchard. Chronicle Books, $17.95 (72pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1462-1

In this grand chorus of one-upmanship, 25 wild animals vaunt their unique senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. Addressing an anonymous painter, each beast has one poem in which to persuade the artist to present its case to an unspecified ""Them."" The vulture, for example, pleads, ""You can show Them through your painting,/ How I live on sight and wit."" The cougar trumps, ""Watch my tail sway, that's the secret./ Show it steer me like an arrow,/ Show it guide me through the air."" After each section (""Sight,"" ""Smell""), the framing narrator turns to the reader to point out humans' comparative limitations in a series of rhetorical questions: ""What of humans? What's the reason/ That we've not been featured here?"" The format, which is unusually elongated, permits Parker to supply oversized, primarily vertical portraits of each animal, rendered in a hyper-realistic style. But while Bouchard casts the painter as mediator between wildlife and humans, it is the poet's rhythmic, quietly urging voice that empowers the art. Although the book's length may try the attention span of young readers, it lends itself--despite some loss in momentum--to partial readings. An illustrated appendix provides more information about the animals. Ages 6-up. (Oct.)