Orangutanka written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Renee Kurilla (2015)
Baby Orangutan wakes up in her zoo home. Her mama and papa are still sleeping. Her big sister swings on the vines and smiles upside down. Finally the forest rangers come with colorful mounds of fruit for the orangutan family. The people look on as they eat. During the heat of the day, they stay in the tree tops… all except sister who comes down to play waving her arms and legs in the air. Everyone naps and the rains come. Sister looks for a big leafy umbrella. She crouches low as the people gather around to watch her. Finally grandma orangutan climbs down to rescue her… but first they dance in the rain. Safe in the trees, sister looks down to see the people dancing like orangutans.
This book is written in a Japanese poetry form called tanka. Tanka is similar to haiku, but it can have similes, metaphors, opinions, emotions, and occasionally rhyme. There is very little punctuation in a tanka. Traditionally the tanka is written with 5,7,5,7,7 syllables per line, but modern tanka only requires a short, long, short, long, long line length. Try writing your own on any topic you like!
Make your own orangutan… I think I’ll name mine Tanka!
If you’re learning more about Japan, you might want to include some Japanese inspired art.