3 out of 4 stars
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The Hellbender salamander is a slimy species that is at risk of becoming endangered. Mark Spitzer attempts to shed light on this creature as well as bring awareness to its precarious spot in nature in his book of poems and creative writing, Glurk! A Hellbender Odyssey, from Anaphora Literary Press. The author describes the style of his book as a “rouge form of science fiction crossed with poetry and creative non-fiction.” That description perfectly sums up what Spitzer has done with his take on a non-fiction topic.
In this book, Spitzer goes through almost everything you need to know about the Hellbender, including their everyday behaviors, bodily functions, and the conservation efforts of humans to help them. The Poem XI is all about the Hellbender’s reproduction behavior but the tone and verbiage makes the poem funny, entertaining, and enlightening. In the second part of the book, we follow along the life of B14, from his birth through his adolescence to his death. The poems in this section go over many of the obstacles a Hellbender would face in his life. The book ends with writing about the authors trip to learn more about the salamanders with a research team.
Mark Spitzer talks about this topic in an unusual style. For those who read non-fiction books on animals and nature, this style is an interesting take on the genre. Most non-fiction books can be seen as dry with very little entertainment. Spitzer’s use of poetry and creativity not only makes the book funny and amusing but it is also educational. The different format is a breath of fresh air that might make learning about Hellbenders easier for those that might have a hard time with longer, more straight forward text.
I would give this book a 3 out of 4. The attempt at bringing different language to a non-fiction book works very well. The book was very easy to read and it was more of a story than a lesson at some points. This fresh idea worked extremely well in this case. The only thing that could be a little off-putting about the book is the extensive use of the word “glurk” in many different forms. The wording could throw you off the topic at hand or make it seem silly. All in all, the book was entertaining and refreshing when it was not a little off the mark with strange wording.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to learn about Hellbenders. As someone who switches between fiction and non-fiction books, it was refreshing to see the two mesh in this book. It is a quick read but it is full of information about the creatures and it also brings awareness to conservation efforts to save them. Glurk! A Hellbender Odyssey could be picked up by anyone, it appeals to non-fiction readers but the style makes it easily understandable to non-regular readers of the genre.
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