The latest book by 92-year-old author and Manchester resident Katharine Stanley-Brown Abbott—her third—is A Zoo Full of Rhymes. The small and tidy book is packed with 38 light and lyrical rhymes with animals, birds, sea creatures and insects ranging from a bluefish and bongo to auk and platypus.
They are what Abbott imagines one might encounter at a zoo, even if one might not find them on formal display. And they certainly entertain. The verses, appropriate for young and old, feature wordplay and introduce readers to the real and imagined woes, wishes, habitats and activities of her creatures. There’s a gnu, a ewe, pheasants, pacas, flies and fleas. Abbott even takes on skunks, beavers, caribou, the toucan, the white hen, yaks and wild boars. All are gorgeously illustrated by Vermont artist Kristin Richland.
Abbott is clear: the book’s storytelling isn’t poetry, but rather a playful, informal rhymes that teach and entertain. Readers learn the “quetzal” is an exotic bird from Costa Rica. But they might also ponder how butterflies got their name since, as Abbott writes, butterflies are never made of butter, and butter never flies so, she writes, why not call them “flutter-bys?”
“I’ve always enjoyed playing with words,” said Abbott.
Indeed. And she plays with words and animal names that many may never fall from our lips, like the “agouti,” the “nene,” the “cassowary.,” or “dugong.” Wow. Thankfully, there’s a short but informative “Fun Facts” section in the back that shares more information about each one.
Abbott’s ten-year-old granddaughter Eleanor served as inspiration for many early rhymes and the project remained a family affair, with the author’s daughter Alexandra, a graphic designer, helping to coordinate with Richland as the artist unfurled the book’s illustrations.
“I hope readers have as much fun meeting the creatures in A Zoo Full of Rhymes as I did writing about them.”
A Zoo Full of Rhymes is published by SDP Publishing and retails for $12.95 in paperback. It’s available for purchase at The Book Shop in Beverly Farms. It’s also available in a Kindle version for $4.99, although it seems the book would surely be a letdown as an electronic version. Besides, it seems right that a small charming book like this one should be purchased at a small charming independent local book shop. Don’t you think?