Friday, April 18, 2014

Science/English Poetry Pairings - Animal Collectives

I fell in love with words at a young age. Coupled with my love for science, I became enamored of the words to describe groups of animals and spent hours researching and memorizing the names.  When I turned turned twelve and my mother took me shopping for my birthday, I used money I'd saved to buy The Stranger by Billy Joel (vinyl!) and the book An Exaltation of Larks or The Venereal Game by James Lipton (yes, THAT James Lipton). I carried that book around for years, always entertained and intrigued by the contents.
While this topic may be more about etymology than science, young people are still interested in learning about the names given to animal groups. Today's book pairing can easily enhance and extend any study of the animal kingdom. 

Poetry Book
A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry, written by Marjorie Maddox and illustrated by Philip Huber, is a collection of 14 poems that consider animal groups and how, perhaps, they came by those names. Why, for example, is a group of rattlesnakes called a rhumba? Here's Marjorie's poetic answer.
A Rhumba of Rattlesnakes

A rhumba of rattlesnakes knows how to shake
their long, slinky bodies and twist till daybreak.
They wobble their heads, give their hips a quick quake.
They jitterbug tails till their skeletons ache.

The rattle maracas and rat-tat on drums,
blow in tin trumpets, uncurl their tongues
to hiss a sweet song that invites you to come
a little bit closer. But you know to run

way over here and avoid the mistake
of dancing the rhumba with ten rattlesnakes.
While many of the poems in the collection rhyme, readers will also find free verse and poem for two voices. Here's my favorite of the lot. It is accompanied by an illustration of a rather alarmed scarecrow.
A Murder of Crows
Oh no, there they go, a murder of crows
throwing corncobs at the tattered scarecrow.
Though they never quite hit her, they flap to and fro,
cawing and jawing out names as they go.
They eat what's not theirs, then rush back for more,
ignoring her warnings, her pleas for reform.
No polite songsters here, well mannered with charm,
just fast flying hoodlums unfit for a farm.
Poems © Marjorie Maddox. All rights reserved.

The book features Philip’s lovely scratchboard illustrations with colored ink, depicting various animal packs. Back matter includes a note from the author explaining collective nouns and offering a list of books providing further information on the subject.

Nonfiction Picture Book
A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns, by Woop Studios, is a handsomely designed alphabet book that begins with "An Aurora of Polar Bears" and ends with the title collective, "A Zeal of Zebras." The folks at Woop Studios with responsibility for this project have impressive credentials. Two of the founders, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, spent a decade working as graphic designers on the Harry Potter franchise. In describing themselves they write, "United by a love of graphic design, words and images they founded Woop to bring a unique and exciting angle to the fascinating world of collective nouns." Unique, exciting, fascinating—their words pretty much sum up this book. The text is engaging and Woop's graphic designs are vibrant and fun, resembling in many ways vintage travel posters.

Each letter of the alphabet receives a double-page spread with a bit of informational text about the animal on the left side, with a gorgeous, full page graphically designed illustration on the right. Here's the text that accompanies one of my favorite entries.
A Galaxy of Starfish
Starfish, also known as sea
stars, are usually seen in
large numbers only when they
are washed up on beaches
after a storm. 
However, some starfish may
gather together when they
are ready to reproduce, using
environmental or chemical
signals to coordinate with
one another.
Text © Woop Studios. All rights reserved.

On their web site you can find many examples of the artwork, including more pieces than occur in the book. Stunning illustrations paired with interesting tidbits of information make this an unusual and outstanding entry in the alphabet book genre.

Perfect Together
During your next unit on animal study, consider extending it to include animal groups. Using Maddox's poems and Woop Studios illustrations and snippets of information as models, encourage students to create their own books or a class book on animal collectives. For example, while studying reptiles they can design pages for collectives of snakes, turtles, lizards, crocodiles, and more. Students can then create their own illustrations and write about the characteristics that are common to reptiles and unique to each order.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

Poetry Friday - By Messenger

I've shared poems by Amy Lowell before. This poem was first published in 1919 in a volume entitled Pictures of the Floating World. It is one of my favorite poems of all time.
By Messenger
by Amy Lowell 
One night
When there was a clear moon,
I sat down
To write a poem
About maple-trees.
But the dazzle of moonlight
In the ink
Blinded me,
And I could only write
What I remembered.
Therefore, on the wrapping of my poem
I have inscribed your name.
This poem and the book it was published in are in the public domain and have been digitized and made available by Google. You can read the entire volume simply by downloading a copy.


Do check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge. Happy poetry Friday friends.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Seasons

Every year from Kindergarten through second grade, my son came home with a picture he'd drawn of an apple tree seen through all four seasons. While I love the book that these were modeled on, I often found myself wishing that this activity was done at the end of the year as a culmination of months of studying the same schoolyard tree through the seasons. This isn't hard to do and teaches kids much about the skill of observation and keeping a nature journal. It's also a much better way to document the changing of the seasons. It may take longer to teach this way, but the benefits of long-term study are undeniable and vastly more interesting.

Today's book pairing offers an unusual, non-traditional and very clever look at our four seasons.

Poetry Book
Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems From the Other Side of Nature, written by Heidi Mordhorst and illustrated by Jenny Reynish, is a collection of 23 poems that begins with fall and cycles through the year's seasons, inviting readers to think about the signs of these seasons and new and extraordinary ways. Readers will be struck by the terribly clever metaphors as they find new ways to see and think about the world around them. Here's one of the poems that I particularly love.
Botanical Jazz

Quiet down, flower—
not so loud!

All this stretching your neck
and spreading your arms
bellowing your brassy yellow sass—

you’re breaking our eyedrums
trumpeting all that color and sun
blowing that blazing yellow jazz. . . .

Belt it out, flower—
we’ll join in!
As someone who uses poetry to teach science, I especially appreciate Mordhorst's gift for observation and her use of metaphor to help us see the everyday in new ways. Here's a terrific example of this.
Fireplace

It's only because of
the low December sun bearing
down along the street
that I notice
half a dozen fires without flame
smoldering among the roots of

a monumental oak where
leaves and fat acorns have pooled.
Their whispering columns of smoke
climb the trunk,
turning it into a risky thing:
a chimney made of wood.

I follow the white morning beams,
mingle my clouded breath with
the twisting wisps of smoke, and
warm my hands
over the burning of those
acorn coals, of that timber chimney.
Poems © Heidi Mordhorst. All rights reserved.

While these are ostensibly nature poems, they so keenly reflect the markers of each season that together they make this a perfect book for sharing during a study of the seasons.


Nonfiction Picture Book
Our Seasons, written by Grace Lin and Ranida McKneally and illustrated by Grace Lin, is a beautiful combination of science and poetry that explores questions children often have about these seasons. Beginning with fall, each season is explored in three double-page spreads that include a haiku, related question, and the answer to that question.

Before the exploration of seasons begins, the book opens with this haiku and question-answer selection.
When the earth is cold
We long for the butterflies,
Yet in warmth we want snow.
Why do we have seasons? 
Did you know that the earth is titled as it revolves around the sun? If you drew an imaginary line through the earth's poles, this line (the axis) would be tilted at an angle, not straight up and down. The tilt of the axis never changes, so part of the year you are facing the sun more directly and part of the year you are not. Which season you experience depends on where you live and on the time of year.
Questions explored through the seasons include:
  • What makes the wind?
  • Why do leaves change color?
  • Why do I see my breath?
  • What is snow?
  • Why is there frost on the window?
  • Why do my cheeks turn red in the cold?
  • What makes a thunderstorm?
  • Why do bees like flowers?
  • Why do I sneeze?
  • Why is the air sticky?
  • Why do fireflies glow?
  • Why do I tan?
Text © Grace Lin and Ranida McKneally. All rights reserved.

The answers to each of these questions are written in a clear, understandable, and engaging manner. The book wraps up with the answer to the question, "Does everyone have four seasons?" Back matter includes a glossary of terms.

Perfect Together
While not a typical look at the seasons, Mordhorst's poetry will encourage students to look for signs of the seasons and imagine them in different ways. Pair this with Lin and McKneally's book to provide answers to often asked questions about the seasons and common events that occur in each.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
Finally, if you decide you want to try a year-long tree study, consider using this amazing book.

Sky Tree: Seeing Science Through Art, written by Thomas Locker and Candace Christiansen and illustrated by Thomas Locker, is a detailed look at one tree through a single year. The gorgeous oil paintings and lyrical text invite readers to look closely at the world around them. The author's note that opens the book reads:
I have spent most of my life learning to paint trees agains the ever changing sky. After all these years I still cannot look at a tree without being filled with a sense of wonder. 
Since I began collaborating with Candace Christiansen, who is a science teacher, I have become increasingly aware of the scientific approach to the natural world. I was amazed to discover that the more scientific facts I learned, the deeper my sense of wonder became. This realization led to the creation of Sky Tree
Sky Tree invites adults and children to experience the life of a tree and its relationship to the sky in several different ways. Through storytelling, art appreciation, and scientific exploration, Sky Tree attempts to reach both the heart and mind.
Back matter includes a section in which questions asked in the text are answered, linking science and art. 

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 the classes of 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 trio 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.
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.