Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Carnival of the Animals

Title: The Carnival of the Animals
Author: Camille Saint-Saëns; new verses by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrator: Mary GrandPré
Copyright Date: 2012
Genre: Poetry
Theme: poetry, animals, music
Grades: K and up
Awards: Nominee Bank Street Child Study Children's Book Award, Winner New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing (source)


This is a collection of poems about animals, inspired by the classical piece of music, The Carnival of the Animals. Between the introductory and closing poems, readers will meet a roaring lion, a proud rooster, dreaming kangaroos, a graceful swan, and even a shout out to fossils. 

Who else will be starring in this crazy carnival? Read this book to find out.

Pre-reading Activity

One of the great things about the copy of this book that I got from my local library is that it comes with a CD of the actual musical piece along with recordings of the poet reading his poems set to the music that inspired them. When it comes to appreciating poetry, enjoying the words and rhythm in an aesthetic way first is always a good thing. Younger children could listen to the CD and move around in ways inspired by how the music makes them feel (slow and plodding like the elephant, gracefully like the swan, etc). Older students could make lists of thoughts and images they get in their head. (A similar activity is described here
During Reading Activity

While reading through the book, teachers should take time to point out the conventions used by the poet. Discussion about why the author uses certain words to create certain images would also be useful in helping students understand the poetry writing process so they may grow in their own skills. 

Post-reading Activity

After reading through the book, students should be encouraged to write their own poems. Although the book covers a variety of animals, there are still a number of animals students can write about (maybe focusing on their favorite animal). While older students will be fine on their own, younger students may benefit from working in groups. Have them brainstorm different traits and behaviors that animal has and different words they can use to describe them. Then use this information to write a poem, where the focus is on images not necessarily rhyme. 

Author and Illustrator and Composer

Along with this book, Jack Prelutsky has over fifty books and ten anthologies of poetry written for children. His work has won many awards, and he was recognized for his work in 2006 when the Poetry Foundation named him the first Children's Poetry Laureate. He lives in Washington. (Source: book jacket and here)

Along with illustrating the Carnival of the Animals, Mary GrandPré has illustrated other children's books such as Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat and the complete Harry Potter series. She currently lives in Florida. 

Camille Saint-Saëns composed the musical piece the Carnival of the Animals in 1886, along with over three hundred other pieces of music over the course of his long composing career. Although he only allowed the piece to be played twice during his lifetime, it stands as one of his most famous and is enjoyed by children and adults today. He passed away in 1921.   


I really enjoyed this book, especially after listening to the music and recordings of the poet reading his poems. I think that students of all ages can come to this book and take away something special. Whether its an appreciation for classical music, poetry analysis skills, or poetry writing techniques. I highly recommend this book.  

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

If you are interested in some really grade teaching ideas and materials made by Random House about this book, click here.  

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