Monday, March 26, 2007

Books That Fill the Senses

I am one of those people lucky enough to live within walking distance of work. Mind you, this is not a "walk 20 blocks in Manhattan" kind of jaunt, but rather one that takes me through a hole in a privacy fence near the fraternity lodges and through the parking lot, across the street (where people drive well above the posted 25 mph speed limit), around the baseball field, over the Lake (the most beautiful part of the morning or afternoon), into the woods, past the Greek Theatre and up the hill to North Court. This beautiful building was completed in 1914 and is one of the oldest on campus. As you can see from the picture, it is surrounded by green space that is lovely to look out on any time of year, though the array of colors in fall are particularly nice.

My walks to and from work are the only "quiet" times of my day. There is no iPod, no NPR, no other voices to distract me from my thoughts. I am always moved by what I observe, like the ping of a ball off an aluminum bat, the leaves crunching under my feet, the sweet smell of lilacs in spring, or my favorite blue heron looking for a meal. These walks are a veritable feast for the senses, though I don't eat while taking them, and my extreme allergy to poison ivy (and there's lots of it here!) keeps me from touching anything. So as I arrived this morning, greeted by a beautiful spray of cherry blossoms, I decided this would be a good time to write about books that make us think about using all of our senses to really "see" this world of ours. Mind you, I think the best way to teach kids to be careful observers is to go and actually practice the skill, but leading off or following up with a book is always a good thing to do.
  • Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young - This Caldecott honor book is a variation on the story of the blind men and the elephant. It ends with the moral, "Knowing in part may make a fine tale, but wisdom comes from seeing the whole." I use this to help kids understand that careful observation comes from using all the senses.
  • You Can't Taste a Pickle With Your Ear by Harriet Ziefert - This terrific book has an introduction to the senses, chapters for each one, and a conclusion. Each sense chapter ends with questions for kids to think about like: What sounds does your body make? How do you sound when you're happy? What sounds from the outside world are coming through you window right now?
  • The Magic School Bus Explores the Senses - Mrs Frizzle is at it again. This time she and her class board the bus and then enter the eye of a policeman, the ear of a child, the nose of a dog, and more.
  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Martin Briggs - This Caldecott Medal winner tells the story of Wilson Bentley's obsession and love for photographing snowflakes. Because of his diligence and careful observation, he produced more than 5000 images of snowflakes, not finding any two alike. You can see digital images of the collection at The Bentley Snow Crystal Collection.
  • The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor - In this story, an old man teaches a young boy how to truly listen to the world around him.
  • Good-Night, Owl! by Pat Hutchins - How will Owl ever get to sleep, with the bees buzzing, the crows creaking, the starlings chittering, the jays screaming, and the other inhabitants of the tree making a cacophony of sounds? I love this for way the sound words roll off the tongue and for what it teaches children about nocturnal animals.
  • The Listening Walk by Paul Showers - In this book, a father and daughter take their dog for a walk and listen to the sounds around them.
  • Too Much Noise by Ann McGovern - In this story, an old man named Peter lives in an old house where it was much too noisy. "The bed creaked. The floor squeaked. Outside, the wind blew the leaves through the trees. The leaves fell on the roof. Swish. Swish. The tea kettle whistled. Hiss. Hiss."
  • Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan - In poetic form, a young girl describes her experiences at the beach using her five senses.
  • More Than Meets the Eye: Seeing Art With All Five Senses by Bob Raczka - Have you ever tasted a painting? This is a question the author asks as he encourages readers to experience art imaginatively with their mouths, ears, noses, and fingertips. Artwork is selected and arranged by the senses.
  • Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin and John Archambault - With onomatopoeia and poetic language, the authors describe the sound of rain in its many forms.
  • Voices From the Wild: An Animal Sensagoria by D. Bouchard - This volume contains 25 poems, 5 for each of the senses, with each one about a different animal. Each poem describes how animals use their senses to survive in the wild. A lifelike painting of each animal accompanies each poem. Finally, the book concludes with short paragraphs about each of the animals.
  • Animal Sense by Diane Ackerman - This wonderful volume contains 15 poems, 3 for each of the 5 senses, with each one about a different animal.
  • Touch the Poem by Arnold Ardoff - This book of poems is a wonderful salute to the senses, with its poems of seeing, feeling, tasting, hearing and smelling.
    • Look!: A Book About Sight
    • Shhhh…: A Book About Hearing
    • Sniff, Sniff: A Book About Smell
    • Soft and Smooth, Rough and Bumpy: A Book About Touch
    • Yum!: A Book About Taste
  • My Five Senses by Aliki - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out series provides a basic introduction to the senses that is appropriate for kindergarten.
  • Sounds All Around by Wendy Pfeffer - Another book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out series, this one provides a simple explanation of sound and hearing.
In addition to these titles, don't forget the I Spy series, Where's Waldo? and the Look-Alikes books as welcome titles for encouraging close observation.

I'll leave you with this wonderful poem by Shel Silverstein. You can find it in A Light in the Attic.

A Mouth was talking to a Nose and an Eye.
A passing listening Ear
Said, Pardon me, but you spoke so loud,
I couldn't help by overhear."
But the Mouth just closed and the Nose turned up
And the Eye just looked away,
And the Ear with nothing more to hear
Went sadly on its way.
Enjoy the list, and do please tell me what I've missed!


  1. Wow! What a great list, Tricia. A lot to think about here.

  2. the cherry blossoms rock!! I put some pics on my blog, btw... hope your week is going well.