Book Review: Monumental Verses

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Ages 4-8

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National Geographic went out on a limb a bit with this concept, but overall it works. The idea is to introduce the reader to the monuments of the world (Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, etc.) through poems. The author, J. Patrick Lewis, certainly knows what he's doing, having written many other books for young readers. And he certainly knows his material: The poems are filled with historical details.

Overall, the concept works. It is certainly a fascinating idea—presenting historical information in the form of poetry rather than prose (even if some of the poems are blank verse). To add to the fun, some of the poems are spaced on the page to match the accompany photograph. For instance, the poem describing the Great Wall of China zig-zags back and forth, paralleling the path of the Wall.

The subjects herein have been well chosen to spread out geographically. Only Australia is missing from the list of habitable continents. (And the Sydney Opera House could surely have been added.) Four American monuments are included, and France is represented with three. Other countries are singly represented.

The usual suspects are included: Great Pyramid, Eiffel Tower, Mount Rushmore, Machu Picchu. Other interesting monuments include the Golden Gate Bridge, the Cliffs of Petra, and Easter Island.

Each poem is worth reading at least twice, to appreciate not only the meter and word choices but also the historical value contained therein. (And just in case, the author has included even more historical details after the Epilogue.)

In all, this different take on presenting familiar information succeeds and is worth a look or two or three.

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