Jack Prelutsky, poems

Peter Sis, illustrator

HarperCollins, 2002

40 pp.

Age: 5 +

Interests: poetry, animals, birds, word play, nonsense, maps, travel

Next: Edward Lear’s The Quangle Wangle’s Hat and others

Also by this poet/illustrator team: The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, Monday’s Troll, The Gargoyle on the Roof

Also by this poet: The New Kid on the Block and many others

Each poem describes a jumbled up creature/plant on Scranimal Island – the Rhinocerose, Spinachickens, the Porcupineapple, Hippopotamushrooms, Bananaconda, etc. Two small children explore the island, observing each fantastical creature from afar before magically tumbling back home again. (The author helpfully provides pronunciation guides at the bottom of each page, for many of the names are tongue-twistery.)

The concept and poems are great fun, and the fascinating illustrations lend the book an air of scientific seriousness. Reminiscent of Elizabethan-era etchings of sea monsters and far-away lands, these illustrations present the creatures as nonsensical, yet dignified and sometimes melancholy. They are shown in rather lonely, barren settings, and their strange physiognomies often cause them great difficulty, ie. the Petrelephant whose wings are too small for it to fly, or the Cardinalbacore, forever struggling between water and air.

(NB. My sensitive six-year-old found the Radishark slightly creepy but mostly objected to the Broccolion page: though not depicted graphically, the carnivorous greens hunt down and eat a lone Antelopetunia. She now insists that we read that poem with an alternate ending in which the prey escapes.)

Children younger than five will appreciate the strange critters, but the language of the poems and the wordplay of the names are best appreciated by children five and over. The double-barrelled names should delight those just learning to read. And after reading the book they may be keen to invent and draw their own scranimals.

The map also deserves a little attention, as you can see the location of each animal on the island, and on nearly every page you can try to find the next animal off in the distance.

A fun oddball of a book, with an amusing concept and weirdly gripping illustrations.

(This title available at

the Potatoad





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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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