Duke biologist/poet is up to 'animal mischief'

ection, many people helped me." He decided to include short notes on the science behind the poems.

"I wanted the poems to be fun for the reader, but I also wanted the kids to learn something," he said.

Once Jackson found a publisher in Boyds Mills Press http://www.boydsmillspress.com and its poetry editor, Wendy Murray, the publisher enlisted artist Laura Jacobsen to illustrate the book. Author and artist then collaborated to capture visually the humor in Jackson's words.

For example, the book's cover features, not only penguins building snowmen and having snowball fights, but paradoxically also a raccoon and armadillos, with a parrot making a snow angel and a salamander indecorously flattened by a snowball.

Said Jacobsen, "The animals had to be fairly accurate, not overly personified or cartoony, to fit with the underlying educational nature of the poems; and at the same time there needed to be a touch of whimsy, some quirkiness, to fit with Rob's wonderfully quirky writing.

"The ideas for the personalities of the animals and all the details probably can be traced all the way back to my parents who not only encouraged but cultivated an atmosphere of creativity and general weirdness when it came to animals," said Jacobsen. That atmosphere included giving names, voices and even political persuasions to the menagerie of stuffed animals and wild visitors to their Midwestern yard, she said.

For Jackson, besides satisfying a professor's continual itch to teach, the book also exercised a part of Jackson's creative mind apart from his scientific ingenuity, he said.

"I love science. I love research," he said. "But there are other parts of my mind that aren't completely satisfied by that. I've always cared a lot about writing and art, and this is a way of expanding on those interests a bit." Not that the poetry is an intellectual holiday, he said.

"Good poetry look

Contact: Dennis Meredith
Duke University

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