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Orangutanka: A Story in Poems
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Orangutanka: A Story in Poems

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  273 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
All the orangutans are ready for a nap in the sleepy depths of the afternoon . . . all except one. This little orangutan wants to dance! A hip-hop, cha-cha-cha dance full of somersaults and cartwheels. But who will dance with her? Written in bold poems in the tanka style, an ancient Japanese form of poetry that is often used as a travel diary, this exuberant orangutan cele ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published March 24th 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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This is a great collection of tanka (a Japanese poetry form) that has an orangutan theme.
Great play on words and fun with poetry as well as information about orangutans. I like the way Engle engages young children with a challenge to do a orangudance at the end.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Love this new book from Margarita Engle.
Erika Cano
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This poem book is written in Japanese form consisting of five lines with traditional syllable count of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. The orangutan facts and activity for the kids at the end of the book is genius! This book is about a family of orangutans who live at the zoo. The author does an awesome job of conveying emotion, taste, sound, and visual imagery as the orangutans play, eat, and sleep in the trees. The author uses descriptive words to describe what is taking place and the illustrator brings it to ...more
Kim Mullins
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ed-689
Poems about Orangutans. A family of orangutans who live in a zoo (though it doesn't feel like they do). The daughter gets down from the high trees at night and dances when no one watches... or she thinks. Just a cute story through verse.
Elizabeth Hensley
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful introduction to Japanese tanka poetry. Beautiful illustrations.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, storytime
Good book to teach tanka poetry
Joy Keil
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: clara
2yo liked it. I didn't like the rhythm of the text...didn't flow well. Pictures were fun.
Kaitlyn Craig
Mar 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I loved the illustrations and poetry throughout! It was interactive and engaging through the entire book. It could also be used in science to describe what orangutans are and do.
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, picture-books
Written in a series of tanka poems*, this book creatively tells the story of an orangutan family living in a zoo as seen by the zoo’s visitors. Though the poems are short and simple, the author does a beautiful job conveying emotion, smells, taste, feeling and sound as the orangutan family plays in the trees, eats fruit and then takes a nap. Sister orangutan alone is not sleepy. Engle’s words and Kurilla’s illustrations work creatively together to show sister’s mischievous movements as she swing ...more
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Written in a contemporary style of the Japanese tanka form, this simple yet satisfying story of an orangutan family comes alive with vivid language and playful illustrations by Renée Kurilla. Children will enjoy seeing how similar these lovable apes are to humans. Teachers and parents will appreciate the opportunity to introduce "Orangutan Facts" described at the back of the book, not the least of which is their critically endangered status. The back matter also includes recommended resources to ...more
Kid Lit Reviews
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In the early morning, the baby orangutan cuddles with its mama in the trees. Mama is still tired but the baby and her sister not so much. Big sister takes off, leaping, swinging, flipping, and smiling as she swoops from branch to branch. The range foresters put out a banquet of fruit for their orangutan charges and the trees shake with the movement of orangutan to fruit.

In the afternoon, the heat rises and the big sister orangutan sneaks off once more. On the forest floor, the orangutan dances.
Clare Rossetter
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Book about orangutans that uses poetry in combination with facts. The poetry form used is a modern form of a Japanese poem called tanka. This form of poetry is a series of sentences using the syllable count of 5, 7, 7, 7, 7. Today poets do not count the syllables but they write their poems using the pattern of short, long, short, long, long. The verses in this poem are child friendly and will appeal to kids in a very positive way. One of my favorite pages describes big sister arranged around sim ...more
The illustrations in this book are gorgeous and adorable. The story is cute, but the book really shines in that it encourages kids to write their own tanka poems and do their own orangudance. Engle has included some really interesting information in the back of the book too.

This would be the perfect book for kids who love animals, particularly apes and monkeys. In the classroom it would be a great book for units on conservation, environment, habit and habit destruction, Southeast Asia, and poetr
Review at:

This book is right up my alley! As you all know, I love apes and orangutans might just be my favorite; however, they very rarely show up in text, so I was so happy to learn about this one. (Whoever told me to read this text, you definitely know me!) Additionally, I just love Engle’s work. I haven’t read anything by her that I haven’t enjoyed, and Orangutanka is definitely no exception. This text tells us a story of an orangutan family in tankas,
Juliana Lee
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's curious to see how life circles back around. As a child the only thing eclipsing resistance to bedtime would be the dreaded afternoon nap. Nowadays curling up in a cozy chair, underneath a comfy blanket, in the sun reading a book and not worrying about drifting off to sleep, seems like a perfectly good option.

In some cultures a mid-day snooze is completely acceptable whether due to climate or practiced traditions. We need only look to our primate relatives living in the rain forests of Born
Alyssa Madden
This book is all about how orangutans dance and move, it starts off with them in the forest moving from branch to branch and then some rangers set out food for them. Dad moves slow through the trees and baby sees a butterfly. Then the sister decides to go down to the forest floor when some humans arrive and it starts raining and she gets scared. Will the baby be okay?

I would have to children look at the dances in the book and think about how they dance, is it similar? I would also have them all
Jun 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I'd never heard of a tanka poem before seeing this book on the "new arrivals" shelf at the library.

Not a lot in the way of factual information but an enjoyable additional selection for a library picture book poetry collection. The illustrations are very well done and the poetic lines do have mentor text possibilities. One note at the end about deforestation and palm oil was coincidental as I read a headline about the French ecology minister denouncing Nutella for using it as an ingredient. Appar
Charming illustrations and pleasing poetry make a winning combination. Baby orangutan couldn't be much cuter; papa is so massive his weight bends the branches. Both illustrations and text are full of movement (orangudance) and sounds (cha-cha-cha). While the rest of the family naps, adventurous sister dances and plays, even in the rain and brave grandma joins her.

(Tanka is 5, 7, 5, 7 , 7, though modern tanka is short/long/short/long/long, which Engle employs here.)

Includes a few facts and place
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This fun picture book about an orangutan family is told entirely in Tanka poems, the format of which is explained in the beginning of the book. This small family group lives in a wildlife preserve. As big sister orangutan frolics under the watchful eyes of her mother, father, and grandmother, we see humans also happily observing her antics. The bright illustrations will draw readers in and the lively poems will keep them interested. It culminates in an invitation to participate in an orangutan d ...more
Katie Logonauts
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
The story follows a family of orangutans throughout their day in an animal sanctuary in Borneo. The story is a bit more cute than fact-filled, especially as the baby orangutan dances with/near a group of children near the end of the story. But the poetry itself is lovely and emotive, and kids will enjoy the lively, colorful illustrations as well.

Read the full review here:
Apr 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Tanka poems linked together describe a day in the life of a family of orangutans.

I like the inclusion of the note about the poetry that appears before the start of the story. The back matter contains facts about orangutans and both books and websites for further exploration of the topic.

Pencil and ink illustrations colored digitally.

Nice read aloud with PreK-2, especially during National Poetry Month, but certainly year-round as well.
Jan 21, 2015 rated it liked it
I read another book like this awhile back called Hi, Koo, but wasn't really impressed with it, as I felt it was a random collection of haiku. I really appreciated that Engle used tanka (a Japanese literary form of poetry that I'm not entirely familiar with), and still came out with a cohesive, interesting story. Plus, I learned some things about orangutans.
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Original format of not only using tanka verse but connecting them into a longer narrative might encourage youngsters to try this form out with other topics.
Digitally-colored illustrations show orangutans with human-like faces, and mostly follow the text.
Lots of fun words and phrases, such as "orangudance" and "dreaming orangutan dreams". I look forward to trying this as a read aloud!
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school, reas
This is a cute book for kids to learn not only about Orangutans but also about a different form of poetry they may not have heard about before.
Cute story about the interaction of the orangutans with the humans that work and explore that refuge where they live.
Michele Knott
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2015
Tanka is a form of poetry I was unfamiliar with but I fell in love with it's quirky rhythms and it's lack of needing traditional conventions. I loved the author's invitation to young readers to take a subject and write about it using this format.
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
A lively poetic narrative about orangutans using a tanka inspired form of verse. Bright and bold illustrations and energetic wordplay will make this a fun read aloud. The orangutan facts in the back will make this a useful resource for science units about apes.
Mar 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: children, poetry
My grandson picked this book at the library. I think it was the colors. He didn't sit through the story without fidgeting. He did learn that orangutans like monkeys are primates. Even with me doing animated voices and dancing, his attention span was not long. I also learned some fun facts.
Apr 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Okay, they're tankas but not really. Is that what I'm supposed to takeaway from this? I couldn't care less about the poetic structure, this was a fun book about orangutans, which are freakin' awesome.
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Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet, novelist, and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. She lives with her husband in northern California.
More about Margarita Engle