Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Frogs and Toads

When was the last time you held a frog or toad in your hands? I do it every spring when my son and I catch tadpoles, watch them swim in a big bowl for a bit, then release them. We never bring them home, as state law requires you keep them as pets once you remove them from the wild. I've also been known to chase down a toad or two when I'm with the neighborhood kids. It's good for them to get up close and personal with these creatures, and many of them won't touch, so I do!

Today's book pairing is inspired by my fascination with these amazing amphibians.

Poetry Book
Toad by the Road: A Year in the Life of These Amazing Amphibians, written by Joanne Ryder and illustrated by Maggie Kneen, is a collection of 26 poems about the life cycle of the toad. Grouped by season—Spring-Summer, Summer, Late Summer-Fall, and Winter-Spring—each section contains from five to seven poems. On nearly every page readers will find a poem, illustration and brief bit of informational text. Most poems are told in the voice of a toad or group of tadpoles or toads.

The book opens with a counting poem. Here's an excerpt.

The Pond's Chorus

One toad,
One song.
Two toads
Sing along.
Three toads,
Better yet.
Four toads,
A quartet.

Here is one of my favorite poems from the book.

Zap, Zap

My tongue is a tool—
Far better than most—
For catching my breakfast,
Though I shouldn't boast.
It's long and it's swift
And it's covered with goo.
I flick it at cricket
And stick him like glue.

This poem is accompanied by the following bit of informational text.
A toad waits and watches an insect or worm creep near. Then it flicks out its sticky tongue to catch it prey. The toad swallows its meal whole and then wipes its mouth clean.

There is beautiful poetry here and a wealth of information to boot.

Poems and Text©Joanne Ryder. All rights reserved.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Frogs, written and photographed by Nic Bishop, provides readers with a thorough introduction to members of the order Anura. Found on every continent, frogs and toads (which are just a type of frog) come in every imaginable size and color. Bishop does an outstanding job presenting this variety in the photographs and text.

It is clear that Bishop has his readers carefully in mind. Scientifically, he doesn't talk down to them, but rather helps to make the mystery that is life and science more understandable. The conversational tone hooks readers and keeps them interested, making the book inherently understandable.

Every page is filled with scientific information, amazing and sometimes quirky facts, and those gorgeous photos. In terms of layout, somewhere on each page is a main (or important idea) written in large font, a paragraph of information, and a short section in small font with an additional fact or two. Here's an example.

Some people are confused about the difference
between a frog and a toad, but you do not have to
be. A toad is just a kind of frog. It usually has drier
skin than other frogs and can live farther from water.
It also has shorter legs, so it hops rather than jumps.
Toads can live a long time. 
A pet toad in England was famous for living for thirty-
six years. A bullfrog, by comparison, may live for
about twenty years in captivity.

Toads are often found in forests or even in backyards. 
Some people think they look ugly, but toads can produce 
the most beautiful trilling calls during springtime.

Text ©Nic Bishop. All rights reserved.

The text as a whole is thoughtfully laid out and proceeds in an orderly and reasonable fashion through a variety of topics, from where frogs live, to what they look like, how their bodies are constructed and adapted, their eating habits, means of escaping predators (camouflage and those incredible legs and jumping skills), the sounds they make, reproduction, and much more.

Perfect Together
Consider introducing amphibians with one or two of the poems in Ryder's book. After reading the informational text that accompanies each poem, dig further into the content by pairing the poem with the appropriate section from Bishop's book. For example, Ryder's poem Escape (p. 11) and the related informational text focus on eyes. In FROGS (p.15) you'll find even more information about frog eyes. Did you know that frogs use their eyeballs to swallow? You'll also find terrific photos throughout the book to examine frog and toad eyes more closely.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
Finally, for a bit of whimsy, consider adding this book to your reading list.

Tuesday, written and illustrated by David Wiesner is a Caldecott medal winner. In this wordless picture book (almost!), frogs riding lily pads like magic carpets sail over the countryside and into an unsuspecting town for an evening of fun.


  1. Thanks for telling me about these books. I am going to check them out. I love the idea of a book of poems about toads.

  2. I love it that you threw TUESDAY into the mix!!

    1. I LOVE this book and think everyone needs to read it. I figured this was a good way to make a plug for it.

  3. Like Mary Lee, Tuesday is wonderful. I don't know the 2nd one, but we do have the poetry one in our library. We always have some student or other study frogs. Thanks again, Tricia!