Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Bugs

First let me say that I hate the title of this post—bugs. The scientist in me really dislikes the use of the word bugs as a broad classification for arthropods and other "creepy crawly" creatures. Here's a rundown on the classification system and where these organisms are found.
Domain - Eukarya / Kingdom - Animal / Phylum - Arthropod

Arthropods are composed of five classes of organisms--arachnids, insects, crustaceans, centipedes, and millipedes. Now, hemiptera is an order of insects known as "true bugs." Included in this order are stink bugs, cicadas, aphids, water striders and more. I know this is really picky, but arthropods are pretty amazing, and I hate to see them all lumped together.

That said, bugs is the colloquial term for these critters, so I'll defer on this usage just for today's pairing of books on BUGS!

Poetry Book
The poem above is a perfect segue into the book Bugs: Poems About Creeping Things. The first thing you'll notice upon picking it up is the small trim size--perfect for the subject matter. The poems beg to be shared aloud, with a number of the selections (seven of them!) written for two voices. They are clever and witty and seem to share some inside jokes with young readers. Many of the situations are preposterous, making them all the more fun to consider. Here are two short poems.
spiderwebs

Web sparkle
on the lawn
like diamond
necklaces
at dawn.

Shiny droplets--
small oases--
beckon spiders
to their places.

Silently they
look and lurk.

Time now for
spider work.

*****
cicada ghosts

Haunted skins
cling
emptily
to the rough bark
of the hackberry
tree,

and farther up
where I can't
see,
ghosts are
buzzing
eerily:
zz-zz-zz-zz
zeeeeee!
Poems ©David Harrison. All rights reserved.

Altogether you will find 40 short, rhyming poems in this volume that will delight children and adults alike.

Hey There, Stink Bug!, written by Leslie Bulion and illustrated by Leslie Evans, is a collection containing 19 poems, a helpful glossary of scientific terms, poetry notes that describe the form of the poems, and suggestions for additional resources. Here's a poem on the much maligned dung beetle.
Dung Beetle
by Leslie Bulion

Hard-working scarab
sculpts a tasty ball for grub
Beetle rock and roll
saves the world from dancing
knee-deep in elephant doo.
Poem ©Leslie Bulion. All rights reserved.

The terrific thing about the poems in this collection is that they are accompanied by factual information. Here's an excerpt about the dung beetle.
Dung beetles belong to a family of wide-bodied beetles called scarab beetles. Scarabs are often very colorful.

Dung beetles eat chunks of animal manure, called dung. Some dung beetles pat the dung into balls. They kick-roll the balls away and may even take them underground. Dung beetles are quite a clean-up crew!
And here's what you'll find in the poetry notes about this poem.
The tanka is a Japanese poem form even older than the haiku. It has five lines and no more than thirty-on syllables. Its ideas are usually from nature. Some of the words in a tanka can have more than one meaning in the poem. When you read a tanka, it can seem like two haiku poems—the middle line is part of each haiku.
Poem and Text ©Leslie Bulion. All rights reserved.

Evans' watercolor-washed linoleum prints offer vibrant views of the insects, nicely complementing Bulion's poems and text.


Nonfiction Picture Book
Bugs Up Close, written by by Diane Swanson and photographed by Paul Davidson, is an oversized book with close-up photos of a wide range of insects in all their glory. After introducing and defining insects, Swanson turns to their features and behavior and highlights bodies, exoskeletons, spiracles, legs, wings, mouthparts, eyes, antennae, hair, signals, eggs, metamorphosis, colors, shapes, weapons, size, and success.

Here's how the book opens.
You are sitting under a tree when something tickles your toes. You brush it off, and the tiny critter crawls away through the grass. Then you notice a green bug hopping by and see yellow wings fluttering above your head.
Creeping, jumping, flying—little creatures seem to be everywhere. But not all of them are insects. The insects are the ones that have three main body sections. Most insects also have antennae, wings, and six legs (three on each side).
Text ©Diane Swanson. All rights reserved.

Swanson has filled this book with fascinating bits about insects in a most accessible manner. Readers will find pronunciation for terms such as proboscis, spiracles and metamorphosis provided in parentheses. The text is concisely written and easy to comprehend. A table of contents, brief glossary, and index are also included. Paired with the incredible photographs supplied by Davidson, this book provides a thorough introduction to the world of insects.


Perfect Together
Pairing Harrison's more light-hearted look at bugs with Bulion's more serious is a good way to begin. From there I would consider the body parts and special features described in the poems and pair them with related text from BUGS UP CLOSE. Across these three titles there isn't much you can't learn or imaging about bugs!

For additional resources, consider these sites.
  • The Roach World site from Discovery Kids lets kids explore life through the eyes of a cockroach.
  • The Understanding Evolution web site has a comprehensive section on arthropods entitled The Arthropod Story.
  • At the University of Illinois you'll find a large collection of insect illustrations.
  • If you want to use live animals in your class, check out these resources on using stick insects in the classroom.
  • Kids can play a game called Monster Bugs at Scholastic's Magic School Bus site. Given a drawer full of bug parts, kids put them together to create bugs found in nature or new bugs of their own.
  • Orkin has some bug and insect games for kids.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Butterflies

Over the last few years I've given a number of butterfly books to my son's teachers and other elementary teachers I work with. I love Eric Carle just as much as the next person, but there are many other books out there about caterpillars and butterflies!

Today's book trio reflects a few of the titles I love to share with teachers.

Poetry Book
The Monarch's Progress: Poems With Wings, written and illustrated by Avis Harley, is a collection of 18 poems about Monarch butterflies. Using a variety of poetic forms, including alphabet poems, acrostics, cinquains, haiku, limericks, sonnets and more, readers will learn a whole lot of science while enjoying these poems.

In the introduction, Avis explains why she chose specific forms for certain poems. Here's an excerpt from an acrostic poem.
Wintering Over
by Avis Harley

Amazing
Blazing
Clusters
Decorate
Entire
Forest
Groves.

Hanging
In
Jeweled
Kingdoms
...
One of my favorite poems from the book is this haiku.
Who can decorate
the walls of the world better
than a butterfly?
Poems ©Avis Harley. All rights reserved.

In the back matter is a section entitled Small Matters. In it readers will find additional information about the content of the poems and illustrations.

Nonfiction Picture Books
Monarch and Milkweed, written by Helen Frost and illustrated by Leonid Gore, follows the life cycle of the Monarch and the milkweed in parallel narratives that eventually draw closer together and combine before separating again at the end of the story.

The book begins by  focusing on the long journey the monarchs must make to arrive at the already thriving milkweed plants. As the plant begins to mature by blooming and then dropping those blooms to allow seeds to push through, the monarchs mate and fly, “From milkweed plant to milkweed plant, stopping on each to lay one shiny egg.” The description of the life cycles of both the milkweed plant and monarch butterfly continues from dying plant to floating and planted seeds and from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterflies respectively until the, “Milkweed’s first spring leaf unfurls,” and “Far to the south, in Mexico, Monarch rides the wind toward it.”

 Here's an excerpt of facing pages that shows the parallel narrative.
Milkweed's leaves, now full of holes,
turn yellow,
then brown.
Their edges curl, and they begin to fall. 
Monarch flies
from purple zinnia
to black-eyed Susan,
drinking nectar, getting ready.
As the days turn cool,
she turns south towards warmer air
to begin her longest journey.
Text ©Helen Frost. All rights reserved.

Frost and Gore do a marvelous job of clearly describing and illustrating the lives of these two distinct yet co-dependent organisms. Back matter includes includes an author's note with additional information about Monarchs and milkweed, as well as web sites for further information.

A Butterfly is Patient, written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long, offers a sumptuous introduction to the world of butterflies. With poetic descriptions ("A butterfly is patient") that are accompanied by more detailed text and exquisitely detailed watercolor illustrations, the author and illustrator offer a unique look at these amazing creatures.

The book opens with a double-page spread of labeled illustrations of caterpillars, and closes with a similar double-page spread of the same caterpillars in butterfly form. Readers will want to examine these pages before they even get to the text!

Here's an excerpt.
A butterfly is helpful. 
Butterflies, like bees, help pollinate plants so that they can reproduce, or make seeds. As a butterfly flits from flower to flower, sipping nectar, tiny grains of pollen cling to its body, then fall away onto other flowers. Seeds are only produced when pollen is transferred between flowers of the same species. This is called pollination.
Text © Dianna Hutts Aston. All rights reserved.

“A butterfly is spectacular,” and so is this book. Using both lyrical text and clear and concise descriptions of butterfly life cycles, behavior, body structure, and more, this is a book readers will want to study for extended periods of time.

Perfect Together
Butterflies are a staple in the elementary curriculum when studying life cycles. All three of the books address this topic in varying ways. I hope you'll think about replacing some of your current titles with these more poetic, beautifully illustrated, yet scientifically accurate titles.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

Since I'm so fond of biography, consider adding this title to the mix.
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Julie Paschkis, is based on the true story of how Merian secretly observed the life cycle of summer birds (a medieval name for butterflies) and documented it in her paintings. Focusing on her young life, this book shows readers how curiosity at a young age can lead to a lifelong pursuit.

Poets and artists must have a bit of scientist in them, as they must closely observe the world around them in order to share it from their unique perspective. Maria Merian was an artist and scientist who studied plants and animals in their natural habitat and then captured them in her art. Not only did she document the flora and fauna in her native Germany, but in 1699 she also traveled to South America where she studied and sketched plants and animals unlike any others she had seen.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Extinction

I'm always a bit amazed and saddened when I visit a museum and see a stuffed dodo bird. I imagine that some day in the distant future, young and old alike may only be able to see the rhino, elephant, panda, and other such animals in zoos or museums, their species having long since died out in the wild.

Saving our planet means keeping the air, water, and land habitable for both humans and animals alike. As the human population continues to grow, life becomes more difficult for many species of animals.

Today's book pairing looks both at animals that can no longer be found on Earth, and those that are in danger of disappearing.

Poetry Book

Swan Song: Poems of Extinctionwritten by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Christopher Wormell, is a collection of 20 poems that pay tribute to species that have disappeared since crossing paths with humankind. The book opens with these disturbing words.
More than ninety-nine percent of all species that have ever lived are now extinct.
. . .
On Earth, six animal species die every hour, many of the most recent due to climate change, habitat destruction, or human greed, carelessness or indifference.
A timeline runs across the bottom of the pages, with the poems ordered by when a species became extinct. You'll also find its scientific name and where it once lived. The first poem is to the aurochs, a species from which modern cattle descended that died out c. 1627. The last poem is to Miss Waldron's red Colobus monkey, a species that died out in 2000. In between you'll find familiar and unfamiliar animals, like the dodo and the blue buck.
The Arizona Jaguar

Description: Loner; nightfall eyes;
Coat of spots on spots (disguise);
Once the New World's largest cat;
Mountain, grassland habitat;
Fed on any kind of meat;
Stumbled down a one-way street;
Color of a jealous sun.
Status: Nowhere. Future: None.

Poem ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.
The book concludes with a series of endnotes describing each animal in further detail.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Can We Save the Tiger?, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White, is an oversize volume with gorgeously detailed pencil sketches and a text that neither talks down to readers nor glosses over the difficult problems we humans have created. While Jenkins begins by discussing animals that are now extinct and why that is so, he goes on to discuss endangered species and once-threatened animals whose numbers are now on the rise.

Here's how the book opens.
The world's quite a big place,
you know. But it's not that big,
when you consider how much
there is to squeeze into it.
After all, it's home not just to billions of people, but
to the most amazing number of other kinds of living
things, too. And we're all jostling for space.
We humans have changed the world a lot over the
years, to make room for ourselves and to produce the
things we need.  We've turned forests into farmland,
dammed rivers, and built towns and cities to live in.
Some of the other animals and plants that we share
the Earth with have coped with the changes very
well.  But some haven't.
In fact, some have coped so badly that they're not here
anymore.
They're extinct.
Discussing endangered species is a complex issue, impacting not only the animals themselves, but the humans that live in close proximity to them. Saving animals, while noble, is not always a black and white issue. Jenkins tackles this head on in a conversational and understandable way. Here's how he addresses the issues facing humans and tigers.
Tigers are big and they are beautiful and they're fierce. And all this makes life difficult for them these days.
Because they're big, they need a lot of space. But the countries where they live, like India and Indonesia, have huge numbers of people in them too, all trying to make a living and needing to be fed.
And because they're beautiful, people have always hunted them for their skins. They also kill them for their bones and meat to use as medicines.
And because tigers are fierce, they don't mix very well with humans... 
So if you were a poor farmer trying to make a living with a couple of cows and a few goats, you might not be too happy if you found there was a hungry tiger living nearby.  And if you knew that someone might pay you more for a tiger skin and some bones than you earn in three whole months working in the fields, then you might find it very tempting to set a trap or two, even if you knew it was against the law.
Perhaps it's not too surprising that there aren't that many tigers left.
Text ©Martin Jenkins. All rights reserved.

Animals profiled include dodo, stellar sea cow, marsupial wolf, great auk, broad-faced potoroo, tiger, Asian elephant, sloth bear, African hunting dog, partula snail, quokka, mariana fruit dove, ground iguana, white-rumped vulture, sawfish, European crayfish, golden arrow poison frog, American bison, white rhinocerous, Antarctic fur seal, vicuna, kakapo, Rodrigues flying fox, whooping crane, Bermuda petrel, and polar bear. On the final page readers will find an illustration of Sander's slipper orchid, a plant that is protected because it is endangered. Back matter includes suggestions for further Web research and an index. 

Perfect Together
While Lewis' book focuses on extinct species, Jenkins' covers the range from extinct, to endangered, to making a comeback. Begin be reading some of the poems in SWAN SONG and discuss with students the reasons that these animals have become extinct. Follow this with Jenkins' book and see if some of these same reasons have contributed to the placement of animals on the endangered species list. These are difficult and sobering topics, so do ask students to think concretely about what they can do to help or make a difference.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
  • The Mammoth Extinction Game is an interdisciplinary science, math, and social studies lesson where students examine how the wooly mammoth became extinct about 11,000 years ago. First, they play a hands- on game with dice and graphing to understand how the mammoth population declined. Then, as a class, they use a system dynamics model to see what would happen to the population under varying conditions. 
  • The Scholastic Study Jams video on Population Growth describes how species become endangered and extinct.
  • Discovery Science has an article on Top 10 Extinct Species in which they describe 10 animal species no longer living.
  • The Oxford University Museum of Natural History site Learning Zone: Extinct and Endangered contains information on some of the extinct species pictured or on display at the museum.
  • National Geographic has a number of resources on the topic of De-Extinction: Bringing Extinct Species Back to Life.
  • The TEDx Event on DeExtinction, hosted by the National Geographic Society, presented a variety of speakers discussing the prospects of reviving extinct species and re-introducing them to the wild.  
Finally, I'll end today by recommending this video.


After watching, check out this LiveScience article entitled 

Monday Poetry Stretch - Lai

The Lai is a French syllabic verse form consisting of one or more stanza of nine lines with two rhymes, though the rhyme can vary from stanza to stanza. Here are features of the form.
  • 9 lines.
  • Rhyme scheme is a-a-b-a-a-b-a-a-b.
  • Lines ending with rhyme a are five syllables in length.
  • Lines ending with rhyme b are two syllables in length.
You can read more about this form and its variants at Poetry Form - The Lai. You can read an example at The Poet's Garret.

So, the challenge for the week is to write a lai. Won't you join us? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - The Moon

My father taught middle school science for many years. I have a picture of him from the 60s with the boys in his rocket club. His love for science extended to the space program. I can remember sitting around our small black and white television watching rocket launches and the first moon landing. When he spent a summer in Florida attending graduate school classes, we went to Cape Canaveral to view the rockets up close.

Many years later I am still fascinated by space travel, the planets, and our satellite. Today's book trio celebrates and explores our nearest neighbor in space, the moon.

Poetry Book
A Full Moon is Rising, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Julia Cairns, is a collection of 17 poems about the moon. Set in different parts of the world, the poems highlight beliefs and customs related to the full moon. Here's an excerpt.

Moon Festival
Hong Kong, China

Look up!
Rabbit, dragon, butterfly, carp:
lanterns parading by.
Look around!
All of us together,
sampling these sweet cakes—
red bean and lotus paste—
each with a surprise inside:
a salty egg, round and golden
as glorious as the eighth moon.

Poem © Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.

The back matter of this book includes information about the content of the poems. Readers will learn about tides, Sukkot, the first moon landing, the moon festival, and more.

Faces of the Moon, written by Bob Crelin and illustrated by Leslie Evans, is a series of rhyming verses on the changing phases of the moon. A large cut out on the cover frames the full moon. A few pages in readers will find the phases of the moon marked by tabs, with corresponding cut-outs that wax and wane just as the moon does.

Back matter includes a paragraph of additional information on the moon and its phases. The facing page is entitled “Moon Memo-Rhymes” and includes a series of couplets designed to help readers remember moon facts and phases.

Here's how the book opens.
Do you wonder, when you see the Moon,
at dusk, or dawn, or midday noon,
just why her face is curved, or round,
or why she sometimes can't be found? 
Each month the Moon transforms her face,
which grows and shrinks at steady pace.
Her changing looks reveal her place
in orbit 'round our globe.
After a few pages of information, the description of the phases begins with the new moon.
The Moon's first phase, we call it NEW—
when Moon's between the Sun and you.
Her sunlit side is turned away,
and we can't see her, night or day. 
New Moon rises and sets with the Sun.
The text and illustrations move through the remaining phases, ending where they began, with the new moon.
Then Moon returns where she'd begun,
to hide between our Earth and Sun,
and though this orbit now is done,
next month she starts anew.
Text © Bob Crelin. All rights reserved.

This pleasing combination of science and rhyme tells the story of the Moon’s phases in a way that readers will understand and appreciate.

Nonfiction Picture Book
The Moon, written by Seymour Simon, introduces our nearest neighbor in space while focusing on the moon's structure and space exploration. Featuring white text on a black background, the text and NASA images of the moon clearly stand out. Simon begins by introducing the moon, its location, and composition. Then he includes a thorough examination of moon exploration and highlights all that scientists have learned about the moon as a result of the Apollo space flights. 

It begins this way.
The moon is Earth's closest neighbor in space. It is about one quarter of a million miles away. In space that is very close. 
The moon ls around Earth. It is Earth's only natural satellite. A satellite is an object that travels around another object. The moon takes about twenty-seven days and eight hours to go around the Earth once.
And here is an excerpt that shows just how fascinating the moon is and how packed with information this book is!
The astronauts discovered that the moon is a silent, strange place. The moon has no air. Air carries sound. With no air, the moon is completely silent. Even when the astronauts broke rocks or used the rockets on their spaceship, sound could not be heard.
Text © Seymour. All rights reserved.

A fine example of narrative nonfiction, the text is informative and infinitely readable.

Perfect Together
The moon appears in myths from many cultures around the world and is often celebrated. This reflects its prominence in the night sky and the impact is has on our lives. There is much to learn about the moon, from how and why it appears as it does, to the exact nature of this satellite. All these things can be learned from the three titles described above. The combination of illustrations and NASA photographs, accompanied by inspiring and clearly understandable texts, will enhance any unit of study on the moon. I'd start with Simon's book (in short segments), follow with Crelin's, and add poems when you get to the full moon.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
And just in case you're interested, here's a photo from our 1970 visit to Cape Canaveral.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Animal Dads

As a child I was enamored of the oceans and sea creatures. I was particularly fascinated by seahorses and the role males played in carrying eggs and giving birth. This interest led me to research other animal species in which males played a more traditional role in rearing young. Unfortunately, the only real resource for information when I was growing up was the encyclopedia! Young readers today are much luckier than I was,  you can find books on a myriad of subjects today.

Today's book pairing focuses on the important role a number of dads play in the animal kingdom.

Poetry Book
Just Us Two: Poems About Animal Dads, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Susan Swan, is a collection of 11 poems on fathers in the animal world. In the About the Author section we learn a bit about the driving force behind these poems. It reads:
Joyce Sidman became interested in animal dads while reading to her children about the fascinating ways animals shelter, feed, and teach their young. As she watched her husband and sons at their home in Minnesota, she noticed many similarities between animal families and human ones! More study led her to the conclusion that many fathers in the wild are not the ferocious creatures we think they are. Like human fathers, they are protective, nurturing, and critical to the survival of their offspring.
The poems in the collection highlight the Emperor penguin, giant water bug, ostrich, Australian budgerigar parakeet, California deer mouse, two-toned poison arrow frog, Nile Crocodile, Arctic wolf, peregrine falcon, klipspringer antelope, and South American titi monkey.

Here's one of the poems from the collection.
Mouse Haiku
Blind and tissue-skinned,
tiny mice enter the world
in a nest of grass.
Hide-and-seek masters,
they will soon whisk, surefooted,
through the chill spring night.
Until then, Father
warms this fragile thimbleful
of fluttering hearts.
Poem © Joyce Sidman. All rights reserved.

The book concludes with back matter that provides additional information on each of the animals described in the poems.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Animal Dads, written by Sneed B. Collard III and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, explores that roles that fathers play in the animal kingdom. The book opens with the sentence "Dads do many things." Yes, they do! They build homes, bathe young, give birth, carry eggs, hunt, babysit, and so so much more.

Written in two levels of text, readers will find short simple sentences narrated by the offspring on one level, and a paragraph of informational text on another level. Together these components provide readers with a wealth of information. Jenkins' cut-paper collage illustrations offer beautiful portraits of the animal described.

Here's an excerpt.
They build us homes to live in. 
A stickleback dad builds a nest out of pieces of plants. The female stickleback lays her eggs in this nest. The male fertilizes them. Afterward, the male drives the female away—but his job isn't over yet. Dad continues to guard the nest from enemies, and he protects the babies after they hatch.
Text © Sneed Collard III. All rights reserved.

Included here are introductions to the seahorse, prairie vole, Emperor penguin, poison arrow frog, lion, tamarin, cichlid, and more.

Perfect Together
The animals presented in both of these books are diverse and offer answers to the question "What do animal dads do?" After reading the Sidman's poems and the entries in Collard's book, readers can answer, "Many of the same things human dads do!" Some of the animal dads in Sidman's poems are also highlighted in ANIMAL DADS, so consider pairing individual poems with the related text by Collard.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Animal Senses

Teaching the five senses is an important part of the elementary science curriculum. While we generally focus on how humans use their senses to explore and understand the world around them, we don't often think about how animals use their senses to thrive and survive in the wild.

Today's book trio is all about how animals experience the world around them.

Poetry Book
Animal Sense, written by Diane Ackerman and illustrated by Peter Sís, explores the ways that animals navigate the world using their senses. This book is also divided into five sections, each representing one of the senses. The poems are funny and clever and occasionally include made-up words. This book begins:
Hello!

A stapler with its tiny fangs
cannot outwit
orangutangs.

Rocks are very good at sitting
but never walk
or take up knitting.

Living things all feel the sense
their way through
every happenstance. . . .
Organized into sections for touch, hearing, vision, smell, and taste, 3 different animals are highlighted in each. Here's my favorite poem from the section on hearing.
Baby birds aren't born knowing their song.
They babble at first and just hum along, 
learning to sing when they're downy and young
by listening hard, then rehearsing for fun. 
Whistle a made-up tune, and before long
the baby birds will pipe out your new song. 
It's pretty, no, when a whippoorwill throws
the boomerang of its voice across summer meadows? 
Still, you could teach it a lullaby or simple ding-dong,
and it wouldn't question you or get the notes wrong. 
A bird does not sing because is has an answer.
It sings because it has a song.
Poem © Diane Ackerman. All rights reserved.

Voices from the Wild: An Animal Sensagoria, written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Ron Parker, was awarded the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award in 1997. In this collection of imaginative and expressive poems, animals relate the ways in which a particular sense helps them hunt, avoid predators, and care for their young. The book is divided into five sections, one for each of the senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste). Each section features five poems, each one accompanied by a lifelike painting of the animal.

Here are the first two stanzas of the poem that precedes these sections.
Have you ever stopped to think
About each of nature's children?
Have you ever stopped to wonder
Who got what, and how and why?
Who was given the best of each sense? 
Is the vision of the eagle
Any better than the cougar's?
Can the owl hear that much more
Thank its prey, the nervous hare?
If all other things were equal,
Who could smell from greatest distance?
And if one would like to know,
Who to ask to find the answer?
What to ask and who would answer?
At the end of each sense section is a short poem asking where humans are in all this discussion. Here's the poem that follows the section on sight.
What of humans? What's the reason
That we've not be featured here?
What has happened to our eyesight
That our focus is so narrow,
That we see but what's before us,
And then only in the light?
What about us as you see it?
What has happened to our sight?

Finally, here's an excerpt from the touch poem about the raccoon.
When I put my foot in water,
That's the way I test its worth.
Is it rotten? Is it wholesome?
This is how I learn the truth.
I don't smell it, I don't taste it,
I just use my hands to feel it.
Poems © David Bouchard. All rights reserved.

At the end of the sections on senses is a final poem about humans and their exclusion from each of the categories. The back matter includes a page for each of the senses with factual information about each of the animals pictured and desribed in the poems.


Nonfiction Picture Book
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? , written by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a Caldecott honor book that examines the function of ears, eyes, noses and other body parts. Each double-page spread pictures a body part of several different animals, such as noses, accompanied by the question, "What do you do with a _____ like this?" The next double-page spread shows each animal and includes an explanation of how the part functions.


Perfect Together
After reading several poems on how different animals make use of the same sense, share the appropriate set of pages from the Jenkins/Page book. First look at the "teaser" pictures and try to determine which animals are being pictured. Then turn the page and read about how the animals use that body part. After this, select one animal and ask students to brainstorm some words and/or phrases that might be useful in a poem describing how the animals uses this sense. Write their ideas on sentence strips. Once you have a number of suggestions, rearrange them and put together a class poem. After you have collaboratively written a poem or two, encourage children to write their own poems that focus on animal senses.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

Poetry Friday - Forgiving Buckner

I know that spring is truly on it's way, not because of the buds that seem to be opening daily, but because Major League Baseball has returned! Can baseball be the true harbinger of spring? On some days I think so. In honor of the return of baseball I've been reading some wonderful poems of the game. Here's one of them.

Forgiving Buckner
by John Hodgen

The world is always rolling between our legs.
It comes for us, dribbler, slow roller,
humming its goat song, easy as pie.

We spit in our gloves, bend our stiff knees,
keep it in front of us, our fathers' advice,
but we miss it every time, its physic, its science,
and it bleeds on through, blue streak, heart sore,
to the four-leaf clovers deep in right field.

Read the poem in its entirety.


Do check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Michelle Barnes at Today's Little Ditty. Happy poetry Friday friends.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - The Ocean

As a child I wanted to be the female version of Jacques Cousteau. I even enrolled in the Coast Guard Academy (didn't stay), studied marine biology in college (though I switched my major to biochemistry), and worked as a boat-hand on a yacht (longest summer of my life). I did anything and everything to spend time on the water.

The ocean is a remarkable place, with vast portions of it still undiscovered. Today's book trio is inspired by this amazing natural resource.

Poetry Book
Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems, written by Kate Coombs and illustrated by Meilo So, is a collection of 23 poems highlighting the seaside and wonders of the ocean world. Winner of the 2013 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, this collection is wide-ranging in both mood and topics covered. The poems are carefully crafted and capture the sweeping rhythm of the ocean.

From the shore to deep water, Coombs highlights the sights and sounds of the ocean and the creatures that live there. Here are my two favorite poems.

Sand's Story

We used to be rocks,
we used to be stones.
We stood proud as castles,
altars, and thrones.

Once we were massive,
looming in rings,
holding up temples
and posing as kings.

Now we grind and we grumble,
humbled and grave,
at the touch of our breaker
and maker, the wave.


One page in the book opens lengthwise with a huge blue whale poised with its tale out of the water, covering a large portion of the double-page spread and looming over a shipwreck at the bottom of the page. Here's the poem found there.

Shipwreck

Here lie the bones
of twenty trees,
lost far from home
under gallons of seas.

Poems ©Kate Coombs. All rights reserved.

Meilo So’s gorgeous watercolors nicely complement and bring Coombs' poems to life.

Nonfiction Picture Books
Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, treats readers to the wonder of the world's oceans. Here's how it begins.
Viewed from space, the earth looks like a watery blue ball. Oceans cover more than two-thirds of the globe's surface, and well over half the planet lies beneath water more than a mile (1 1/2 kilometers) deep. We have explored only a small fraction of the oceans. In fact, more humans have walked on the moon than have visited the deepest spot in the sea.
Jenkins' tour of the oceans begins at the surface and ends in the Marianas Trench. Each double page spread contains a paragraph (or two) of information about that particular depth, illustration of the inhabitants, and a depth meter. The depth meter appears on the right edge of each spread and extends from the top of the page (the surface) to the bottom (deepest spot in the ocean). The depth is marked with what looks like a red push-pin and is labeled with the distance below sea level (in both feet and meters) and the temperature (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius).

How much do we really know about the earth's oceans and the creatures that live there? The answer is, not much. In clear, concise text, Jenkins takes us on an unbelievable, fact-filled journey. The illustrations of the creatures, from the beautiful and familiar to strange and exotic (weird!), are gloriously rendered. (See images herehere and at this terrific review at Seven Imp.) At the end of the book are five full pages of background information on the animals in the book. Each section includes a diagram that shows the size of each creature compare to an adult human's body or hand. The final page includes a brief bibliography and another depth meter that shows how deep humans and sea vessels can descend.

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola, is a biography that introduces readers to Earle's early life, her passion for the ocean, and her work in ocean exploration and advocacy. The gorgeous illustrations showcase the wonders of the sea. Nivola's  use of quotes from Earle nicely convey the spirit of this underwater explorer.

As an oceanographer, Earle has led more than 60 expeditions worldwide and spent more than 7000 hours underwater in connection with her research. She is one of the few divers to explore the deepest spot in the ocean. In 1990 she was appointed as Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first woman to hold such a position. Today Dr. Earle is Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society.

Perfect Together
While many "subject area" poetry books today include informational text or back matter, Coombs title is free of these additions and focuses solely on words and poetry. This is not a bad thing. Her poems invite readers into the ocean world and make them want to learn more. Following up with Jenkins' book will certainly further open up the ocean realm and encourage even more questions. I like to include Earle's biography here so that students can see anyone with a dream can achieve it, and that working as an ocean scientist is a real possibility.

For additional resources, consider these sites.