September 12, 2009

Poetic Planetary Exploration: The Swamps of Sleethe

Today, I indulged the child in me by exploring other Worlds with child-like eyes through poetry. With bite-sized Exo-poems from Jack Prelutsky, The Swamps of Sleethe is a literary exploration of exoplanetary proportions. It is nicely complemented by the illustrations of Jimmy Pickering.
The moment I saw this book, I knew instantly that I had to show it to my kids, and review it. The blurb confirms that this is an enjoyable take on Exoplanets:
"Imagine that you're...travelling to unexplored planets far beyond our solar system...Travel to these far-flung worlds at your own risk!"
Of course, my 9-year-old loved it!
Indeed, wonder and terror is nicely woven by imagination within this book, plus an added fun to go with the play of words. The Swamps of Sleethe has an anagram game where the readers can decipher the word that describes the property of the planet in each poem. Take peek at these anagrams and see what you can come up with: Driffig, Fesstor, Gub, Skreber, Ogdofod, Sarbro, Theentor, Thade, Ning-fa-dee. They're actually cute names for exoplanets!

My favorite poem from the compilation is The Beholder in the Silence which I interpret to be about a Planemo--a sunless planet wandering the cosmos. Here's an excerpt:

Beholder in the Silence
On a planet gray and airless,
at the universe's rim,
Where the night is everlasting,
And the stars are ever dim...

The Beholder in the Silence,
With its one unblinking eye,
Stares into the boundless cosmos
Far beyond its sunless sky.

I also like the fact that the local inhabitants of the planets in the poems are given due attention. For example:

The Demon Birds of Lonithor
They soar above their planet
On perennial patrol-
To feast on otherworlders
Is their all-consuming goal.

And yes, believe it or not, the most poetic description of Extremophiles can be found on this book! The excerpt below suits well to inspire our young future astrobiologists!

The Swamps of Sleethe
On sweltering Sleethe, in swamps aseethe,
Malignant beings thrive,
Abhorrent things that need not breathe,
And yet are quite alive.

We are witnessing the arrival of the plurality of worlds, heralded by accelerating discoveries of weird planets way beyond our imagination. This book nicely introduces to young readers what is truly happening in our midst: bizarre new exoplanets are continually being found by planet-hunters that can only be described via imaginative prose and poetry, as how they can be magnificently rendered in The Swamps of Sleethe.

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