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


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.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. It's great. I just read Monarchs and Milkweed last week. Terrific book.