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1. Science/Social Studies Poetry Pairings - Geography

I have been teaching a course on integrating science and social studies for several years now. While I often get puzzled looks from folks when I try to explain the rationale behind this, the elementary teachers I work with recognize that this makes perfect sense. There is tremendous overlap between the science and social studies curriculum, particularly with respect to the topic of geography. 

Today's book pairing will help readers look at the world through the eyes of both scientists and geographers.

Poetry Book
A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Alison Jay, is a collection of poems about explorers, places on the map (Sandwich Islands, Italy, Angel Falls, Mount Everest etc.), the globe itself (latitude v. longitude, equator and the poles), earth science topics (aurora borealis, San Andreas fault, stalactites v. stalagmites), and many other things. It opens with a poem entitled Places and Names: A Traveler's Guide, in which a number of cities and sites with interesting names are named. The poem concludes in this way.
Thousands of spaces are places to be--
Discover the World of GE-OG-RA-PHY!

Travel by boat or by car or by plane
To visit East Africa, Singapore, Spain.
Go by yourself or invite a good friend,
But traveling by poem is what I recommend.
This is a wonderful book for introducing a mix of geography topics, as well as science topics like biomes, ecology and natural resources. Here's an example of a science-oriented geography poem.
How a Cave Will Behave 
Take a look at these cone-like formations,
And remember, wherever they're found,
A stalactite drips down from the ceiling.
A stalagmite grows up from the ground.
Poems ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.

There are also a few poems that encourage readers to think about their impact on the earth. The last poem entitled Walk Lightly asks that we make the Earth our companion.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a book that examines extremes in the natural world, such as the highest mountain (based on elevation), longest river, place with the most extreme tides, the driest place on earth, and more. Here's how it begins.
If you could visit any spot on earth, where would you go? What if you wanted to see some of the most amazing natural wonders in the world? 
There are deserts that haven't seen rain in hundreds of years, and jungles where it pours almost every day. There are places so cold that even in the summer it's below freezing and spots where it's often hot enough to cook an egg on the ground. There are mountains many miles high and ocean trenches that are even deeper. You can find rivers thousands of miles long and waterfalls thousands of feet high.
Jenkins grabs readers from the first page and makes them want to know about them. On every double-page spread that follows is a statement of fact, an inset map showing location, a bit of informational text, and some other graphic to help readers visualize and better understand the information. Here's an example.
The world's highest waterfall is Angel Falls, in Venezuela. It is 3,212 feet high.
This text is accompanied by a small map and globe with a red dot highlighting the falls. The facing page contains this statement.
Angel Falls is more than seventeen times higher than Niagara Falls (180 feet), in New York State. Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe, Africa, carries ore water than any other waterfall. It is 355 feet high.
Text ©Steve Jenkins. All rights reserved.

That's a lot of information packed into a few sentences. What ties all these ideas together is the final graphic that shows a height comparison of Angel Falls, Victoria Falls, Niagara Falls, and the Empire State Building. Placing these side-by-side shows just how high Angel Falls really is.

Okay, time for a little quiz. Do you know...?
  • the name of the world’s most active volcano?
  • the height of the tides in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada?
  • the depth of the deepest spot in the ocean?
  • the location of the hottest spot in the world?
  • the location of the oldest and deepest lake in the world?
The answers to these questions and more can be found in Jenkins' handsomely illustrated book. There is no back matter in this volume, but the final page does include a world map that pinpoints the 12 locations described. 

Perfect Together
Both Lewis' poems and Jenkins' pages on extremes lend themselves to mapping activities. I highly recommend a permanent board (or a trifold if you lack space) with a world map in which students can place push pins or "markers" to identify locations studied. This works not only for these books, but also for places identified in current events and others books students read.

I also recommend laminating the map or placing a layer of plastic over it so that students can label and color areas of the map. For example, Jenkins writes about the hottest spot on the planet. Lewis has a poem entitled 136ºF in the Shade that describes the hottest day ever recorded in history. Lewis also offers up a rhyming couplet describing the size of the Sahara Desert and a poem on the Mohave Desert. While reading these poems, students can research other deserts of the world and color all of them on the laminated map. From here they'll be able to draw some conclusions about the characteristics of deserts and the geographic features they share.

Both of these books offer up a wealth of information that can and will keep students occupied over the course of the year. Just imagine what you can do if you devote one day a week to these kinds of geography/science activities.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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2. Science Poetry Pairings - The Human Body

I enjoyed teaching about the human body when I was teaching middle school science. It's not always the easiest subject to share with kids, but it sure is interesting. Wherever possible I tried to make ideas concrete. For example, when I taught about blood I brought in three 2-liter bottles, two filled to the brim and one half-filled with red colored water. Then I handed them to a student to carry around. This represents about how much blood the average adult has in his/her body (~5 liters)!

Unfortunately, the human body is not part of the science curriculum in Virginia. It is taught as part of the health and physical education curriculum. While my teacher friends in Virginia might not appreciate today's pairing, there are plenty of teachers in other states who teach about body systems.

Today's book trio covers a wide range of ideas regarding the human body.

Poetry Book
The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts, written by Allan Wolf and illustrated by Greg Clarke, is a book of 35 poems that celebrates our gross, disgusting, fascinating, and amazing body parts and functions. It begins with a poem entitled "Our Amazing Body Language" and is followed by anatomically devoted sections with one or more poems. Sections (with number of poems in parentheses) include:
  • That's You All Over (1)
  • On the Face of It (7)
  • Parts that Bend (4)
  • A Bone (or Two) to Pick with You (2)
  • Belly Buttons and Bottoms (2)
  • The Circulation Department (3)
  • A Breath of Fresh Air (1)
  • Muscle Matters (2)
  • The Control Center (3)
  • The Ins and Outs of Eating (5)
  • Body Chemistry (1)
  • The Production Department (3)
If you're a fan of Wallace Stevens, you'll be thrilled with the poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Your Knees and Elbows." No, seriously. Here's an excerpt.
IV
The knee wears a cap
all year long,
even in church.

V
If elbows did not bend
you could not scratch
your nose.

VI
If knees did not bend
there would be no
marriage proposals.

VII
Elbows and hair bows
do not look alike

VII
When two knees meet
they say, "I love you.
I want you. I kneed you."
The poems are funny and sometimes silly, but still ultimately impart some real knowledge about the part under consideration. Here's an excerpt from one of the bone poems.
Bone Chart 
Your bones hold you up like the frame of a house.
Be you boy. Be you girl. Be you lion or mouse. 
Your skull is a bone that encloses your brain.
It holds up your hat, and it keeps out the rain. 
Just under your skull is the trusty jawbone.
It helps you to chew and to talk on the phone. 
Your neck bones and back bones are called vertebrae.
They help keep your spinal cord out of harm's way.
...
Poems © Allan Wolf. All rights reserved.

The illustrations are whimsical (many of the organs depicted have faces and arms and legs) and not necessarily anatomically correct, but they do convey the messages shared in the poems. For example, the illustration that accompanies the poem "Your Muscles Keep You Moving" depicts a sleeping girl with inset pictures of her heart and stomach sweating while running on treadmills.

There is no back matter here, but it isn't really needed. Once Wolf has piqued his readers' interest, they'll be sure to look for more information on their own, especially after they've read a poem entitled "Spit" or "Consider the Anus."

Nonfiction Picture Book
50 Body Questions: A Book That Spills Its Guts, written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and illustrated by Ross Kinnaird, is a question and answer book that tackles all kinds of topics related to the human body. Organized into 7 chapters, the book opens with an informative introduction ("Welcome to the Body Shop") and closes with a thoughtful conclusion ("High-Tech Humans").  In between the chapters are organized around related organs and systems.

Here's an excerpt from the introduction.
Blink. Your body just created thousands of cells. Snap. Thousands more! 
Every single day, you make billions of new cells and get rid of just as many old ones. You couldn't possible flutter your eyelashes or snap your fingers as fast as those cells are produced. 
Inside each microscopic building block is the exact same genetic information—a specific code that makes you unique. There are seven billion people in the world, but no one else has your code. Your cells create a body that's different from any other. Different . . . and yet similar.
Every chapter begins with and ends with additional information about the topic. Chapters include: That Takes Guts, Blood Ties, Form and Function, Armed Invaders, Sense and Feeling, Gray Matters, and How Shocking!. Some of the questions readers will find answers to include:
  • Are there aliens inside you?
  • Is blood thicker than water?
  • Is your brain on a sugar high?
  • How is your spine like a racetrack?
Text © Tanya Lloyd Kyi. All rights reserved.

The illustrations are entertaining and the text is throughly engrossing (no pun intended). Readers of all ages will learn something new and find much to appreciate here. Back matter includes a helpful glossary, further reading, selected sources, and an extensive index.

Perfect Together
I can't imagine a more perfect match for Wolf's poems than the thoroughly asked and answered questions in Lloyd Kyi's book. Start with a poem and see what questions it leads you to explore!

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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3. Science Poetry Pairings - Animal Homes

I love books about animals homes. I’m always amazed at the vast array of shapes, sizes, and locations they come in. Perhaps more impressive though, is how some of these homes are built and how animals manage to survive in some of the harsh environments they find themselves.

Today's book trio is about animal homes in all their varied forms.

Poetry Book
Nest, Nook, & Cranny, written by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Jamie Hogan, is a collection of 22 poems that explore animals and the homes they make. Arranged by habitat (desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland, and woodland), the poems take an amazing range of forms, including villanelle, triolet, cinquain, sonnet, and more. Readers will find the poems informative and lyrical, the best combination of science and poetry. The book opens with these words in a section entitled "Before You Begin."
habitat - the natural home of an animal or plant 
The poems in this collection are loosely arranged by habitat, but you will find that coyotes, bats, and birds (to name a few) don't give a hoot about labels. Thanks to accommodations or adaptations or both, some creatures can live anyplace. Keep that in mind when the boundaries blur.
My favorite poem from the book reminds me of a creature I stumbled upon more than once as a child while traipsing through the woods and fields around my house.
A doe will pick a thicket
As a place to place her fawn,
Its speckled hide well hidden
In the dappled forest lawn.
A bed safe in the shadows—
Mossy cushion, leafy crest—
A doe will pick a thicket
As a place to make a nest.
Poem ©Susan Blackaby. All rights reserved.

The poems are beautifully accompanied by black-and-white drawings of creatures in their natural habitats. Back matter is extensive and includes a section describing the habitats used to organize the poems, as well as a section of author notes about each poem, the inspiration for them, and information about the forms.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Lauren Stringer, is a quiet gem of a book. Written in rhyme and accompanied by vibrant acrylic illustrations, this book introduces many of the unique and interesting places that animals make their homes. It begins this way.
Many places make a home--
A heap of twigs.
A honeycomb.
A castle with a tower or two
An aerie with a bird's-eye view.
Can you name the animals introduced in the first few pages? As the text begins, readers find a family of beavers in their lodge, a swarm of bees protecting their honeycomb and its precious contents from a bear, two children playing in a play castle, and an eagle guarding the eaglets in its nest. The illustrations that accompany each line of the poem are bright and warm, depicting each animal in its home and often the habitat that home is found in.

In addition to the homes mentioned above, readers will learn that webs, sand dunes, cocoons, caves, warrens and many other places serve as homes for living things. One of my favorite parts of the text and illustrations shows "a hole beneath the floor." Can you guess what kind of animal might be living in your home? In this case it is a small mouse, munching on the remains of an apple core.

The book ends this way.
A home's a house, a den, a nest.
A place to play,
A place to rest.
A place to share,
A place to hug.
A home is someplace safe and snug.
Text ©Linda Ashman. All rights reserved.

This is an engaging text that will leave readers wanting to know more about the animals and their homes. 

And So They Build, written and illustrated by Bert Kitchen, introduces readers to 12 animal builders, from birds (4 species) to spiders, frogs, fish and more. Each double-page spread includes a full page illustration on the right, and two levels of text on the left. Rendered in watercolor and gouache, the images are highly detailed views of the animal(s) in action in their natural landscape. Only the illustration of cubiterme termite mounds lacks actual images of the builders. (Perhaps they are there but are too small to be seen). The text comes in two forms. First there is large print text that states in simple terms why the animals build and serves as an explanation for the illustration. Below, in smaller print, is a paragraph of information that explains in detail more about the builder and the structure. Here is an excerpt.
A tailorbird will be safer
if she hides her nest
and so she builds . . .
The tailorbird lives in southern China, India, and Southeast Asia, and the female usually nests in a garden or on cultivated land. She chooses one or two large, living leaves on a tree and draws their edges together, using her beak and feet. She makes small holes down the sides with sharp point of her beak. Then she twists spiders’ webs, bark, and plant fibers into threads and pushes them through the holes to hold the leaves together.
Text ©Bert Ktichen. All rights reserved.

The explanation goes on to describe how the stitches are fastened. The illustration shows the bird at work, literally sewing the leaves together. How this feat is accomplished by beak alone is simply amazing.

Anyone interested in animal homes will find much here to love. The illustrations alone are enough to recommend it, but the text provides enough information to arouse the curiosity of young naturalists and interest them in learning more.

Perfect Together
All three of these books beautifully describe a wide range of animal homes and shelters. They can be used across the elementary grades as a terrific source for thinking about where animals live, how they adapt to their environment, and just how ingenious they are.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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4. Science Poetry Pairings - African Animals

I believe I have more books on animals and nature than any other topic in my teaching library. As a science teacher, that probably doesn't surprise you. However, my love for animals started long before I began teaching. When I was young I tried to ensure I never missed an episode of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. That show started a life-long fascination for animals of all types. However, it was a drive through Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida in 1970 (I was nearly 5) that cemented a life-long fascination for African animals.

Today's book pairing showcases the amazing animals of the African continent.

Poetry Book
African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways, written by Avis Harley with photographs by Deborah Noyes, is a collection of 18 acrostic poems, each accompanied by a gorgeous photograph of the animal described. Poems cover the crocodile, rhino, kudu, lion, hornbill, elephant, stork, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, ostrich, African wildcat, lioness, bonobo, impala, hippo, bat-eared fox, and leopard. 

Here's how the book opens.
ACROSTIC (uh-Kros-tik)

Welcome, all poets--both new
Or well versed. Non-rhymers or
Rhymers! Come,
Dive in headfirst!

Inviting all writers--
Now you're just the right age.

Explore the acrostic that rides
Down the page.
Get a word you
Enjoy and would like to define.
Write it down vertically
And fill in each line.
Your name is a very good way to begin.
Surprise yourself. Find that poem within!
The poems in this book are deftly created, with words spelled out vertically range from single words (herald, lying, poppet, outstanding) to phrases (wild stripes, cloud friends, fatherly advice, beauty in the beast). You'll find much more than simple acrostics here, with Harley including double acrostics, a quintuple acrostic (yes, that's FIVE words), and concrete acrostic. The patterns that exist within them never get in the way of the poem itself, and finding them is a bit of a surprise. 

Here's one of my favorite poems. 
A Croc Acrostic

Crackerjack-attacker
Reptile-in-my-dream
Old-mythmaker
Carnivore-supreme
Open-opportunist
Dragon-eye-agleam
Inner-grinner
Lizard-wizard
Enemy-extreme!
Poems © Avis Harley. All rights reserved.

Back matter includes More About Acrostics where Harley describes and provides examples of the types found in the book, Nature Notes on each animal, and A Note From the Photographer describing her experiences capturing photos of the scenes and animals in the book. 

Nonfiction Picture Book
African Critters, written by Robert Haas, is a first person account of his experiences photographing animals while on safari in different parts of Africa. After an introduction entitled Welcome to Africa, Haas writes about observing leopards, elephants, wild dogs, lions, scavengers (hyenas), the big grays (hippos and rhinos), itty bitty critters (Oxpecker bird, purple dragonfly, dung beetles), and cheetahs. Each chapter tells a true story about the location (Mala Mala, Okavango, Sabi Sand, and other places) and the animals observed there. The first person observation of the habitats and behavior of the animals is extraordinary. Also included are several small informational boxes in each chapter that provide additional information about the animals.

Here's an excerpt from the chapter The Scavengers of the Savanna (pp. 53-61).
     In the animal world, it is wrong to pin the label of "good guys" on certain critters and "bad guys" on other critters. Each type of animal must survive in its own way.
     For most meat-eaters, or carnivores, finding food is difficult and dangerous. It means capturing other critters who are usually able to escape and often willing to fight for their lives.
     Certain critters, known as "scavengers," will feed on the meat and bones left behind by other hunters. The best-known scavenger in all of Africa is the hyena. 
     After many safaris I had learned to respect the hyena as an animal with unique skills and a special role in the African wilderness. At first, I thought the hyena was simply a scavenger who would eat scraps from a fresh lion kill. But the hyena is also a fierce hunter who brings down prey after a chase that lasts for miles. And hyenas play an important role in their ecosystem. With a huge set of powerful jaws, they crush and eat even the largest bones left behind by lions and leopards. That way, they recycle food that others can't digest.
And here's an example of one of the informational boxes from this chapter.
Learning About Hyenas 
The largest type of hyena in Africa is known as the spotted hyena. Spotted hyena cubs are all black. The coat of an adult is thick and coarse with dark spots, and its muzzle is black. Female spotted hyena are larger than males, and the clan is usually led by a female. Even though clan members often hunt as a team, once their prey is brought down, each hyena fights for its share of the carcass.
Text © Robert Haas. All rights reserved.

Every chapter is packed with information about the animals and how they survive in the often harsh African wilderness. Back matter includes additional information on animals highlighted or mentioned in the chapters, an author's note on the photography and creation of altered and combined photos in the book, a glossary, extensive index, short list of references, and a nice list of books on animals by other National Geographic photographers.

Perfect Together
Harley's poems and Haas' observational stories offer an incredible introduction to the world of African animals. Begin with Harley's poems Moody Guy (rhino) and Sipping the Sunset (hippo). What kind of clues about them can you find in the acrostic words? Then read Haas' chapter on The Big Grays. Ask students what similarities and differences they found between the two descriptions of the animals, what surprised them, and the most interesting thing they learned. Continue on in this fashion, matching poems to the chapters in AFRICAN CRITTERS. When you're finished, consider making a class book on African animals.

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

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5. Monday Poetry Stretch - Tritina

I've been working on a series of longer form poems recently, namely the villanelle and sestina. Whenever I get stuck on the sestina, I go back and work on the tritina. 

Helen Frost has a number of helpful worksheets on poetic form on her web site. She suggests starting with the tritina since the sestina is a more difficult form. This is an idea I have taken to heart.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the form.
10-line poem made of three, 3-line stanzas and a 1-line envoi

There is no rhyme scheme but rather an end word scheme. It is:
A
B
C

C
A
B

B
C
A

A, B, and C (all in the last line/envoi)
So, the challenge for the week is to write a tritina. Won't you join us? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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6. Science Poetry Pairings - Rain

I may have grown up where snow was the weather that was most talked about, but my favorite form of precipitation has always been the rain. In our old house in the city I used to love to sit outside on the porch swing when it rained and rock to the beat of the drops, and sometimes the thunder. William and I still like to play in the rain in the summer and jump in puddles in our bare feet. My favorite rain is quiet rain, early in the morning.

Today's book trio celebrates rain in all its wonder. 

Poetry Book
One Big Rain: Poems for a Rainy Days, compiled by Rita Gray and illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke, is a collection of 20 poems about rain through the seasons. Beginning with autumn, each section opens with a haiku about the season. Four additional poems follow. Gray includes eight haiku, two poems translated from other languages (Norwegian and Spanish), works by well-known poets like Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, and Eve Merriam, as well as works by poets whose names may not be familiar to readers. The illustrations in muted browns, grays, blacks and greens beautifully capture the mood and subject of the poems.

The book opens with an introduction that describes rain through the seasons. The introduction closes with these thoughts.
A gentle rain can shower, sprinkle, drizzle, or mist. Powerful rains beat down in storms and downpours, fall in streams and sheets, or race, rush, and gush in torrents. Rain can play a pinging beat as it falls will-nilly from the sky: pitter-patter, plip-plop, drip-drop, plink-plink. And puddles are perfect to splish-splosh. Poets have captured the language and rhythm of the rain, creating images that stay with us throughout the year.
          As you read about the rain, in various poetic forms,
          Ripple in it, float in it, boat in it.
          Go on, get wet.
Text © Rita Gray. All rights reserved.

Following the introduction is a note about haiku translations. Adapted from a work by poet and translator William J. Higginson, the emphasis is not on counting syllables, but on finding the best rhythm for the haiku in the new language.

Here's the poem that opens the season of spring.
Haiku—Rogetsu  
tree-frogs
calling . . . in the young leaves
a passing shower
And here's another poem from spring.
Little Snail—Hilda Conkling 
I saw a little snail
Come down the garden walk.
He wagged his head this way . . . that way . . .
Like a clown in a circus.
He looked from side to side
As though he were from a different country.
I have always said he carries his house on his back . . .
To-day in the rain
I saw that it was his umbrella!
Here's a sample spread from the book. You can download this from the Charlesbridge site as a double-sided poster.

The small trim size may make this one go unnoticed, but don't pass it up. It's a lovely little book of poems.

Nonfiction Picture Books
This Is The Rain, written by Lola Schaefer and illustrated by Jane Wattenberg, is a picture book about the water cycle that uses the familiar cumulative pattern of "The House That Jack Built." Bold, vibrant photo-collages accompany the text. It begins this way.
This is the ocean,
blue and vast,
that holds the rainwater from the past.
Can you guess where this goes? Next comes the sun to warm the oceans, which eventually forms vapor that fills the clouds, which produce the rain that falls. Here's the text from the page on rain.
This is the rain,
falling all day,
the forms in clouds,
low and gray,
full of vapor, moist and light
made when sunshine,
hot and bright,
warms the ocean, blue and vast,
that holds the rainwater from the past.
Text © Lola Schaefer. All rights reserved.

After passing through all stages of the water cycle, Schaefer circles back to the rain falling "somewhere every day." The book ends with a short note about the water cycle on planet earth.

When Rain Falls, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Constance Bergum, is a picture book that explains what happens to animals in different habitats when it rains. Each habitat section begins with the words "When rain falls ..." and goes on to describe how different animals respond. Stewart provides readers with glimpses of 22 different animals in a forest, field, wetland, and desert. The soft, watercolor illustrations are realistic and provide subtle details regarding each habitat.

Here's an excerpt from the section on a field.
When rain falls on a field . . . 
...plump little caterpillars crawl under leaves and cling to stems. Adult butterflies dangle from brightly colored heads. 
A raindrop knocks a ladybug off a slippery stem. The insect bounces into the air and then tumbles to the ground.  
A spider watches and waits as the rain beats down on its carefully built web.
Text © Melissa Stewart. All rights reserved.

The text is clear, concise, engaging, and easy to understand. Readers will learn much about how animals adapt to inclement weather.

Perfect Together
All three of these books explore rain in different forms. Whether studying weather or the water cycle (really, they should be taught together, but often aren't!) students can learn about what causes the rain and how people and animals react to the weather. In my classroom I'd start with Schaefer's book and look closely at the water cycle. Then I'd focus specifically on rain by reading a few poems and following up with Stewart's look at how animals respond to the rain.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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7. Science Poetry Pairings - Forests

"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep," wrote the poet Robert Frost. I spent a lot of time in the woods as a kid, and still do today. When I lead science and outdoor education workshops I take teachers into the woods to look, listen, and learn. There is so much to discover by being still and observing closely.

Today's book pairing will invite and encourage readers to go into the woods and explore. 

Poetry Book
Forest Has a Song, written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Robbin Gourley, is a collection of 26 poems about the flora, fauna, and seasons of the forest. One time through will have readers puling on their boots and ready to take a slow, watchful walk through the woods. It opens with this poem.
Invitation
Today
I heard
a pinecone fall.
I smell
a spicy breeze.
I see
Forest
wildly waving
rows of
friendly trees.
I'm here. Come visit. Please?
One of my favorite forest activities to do with teachers is to take them to a site with decomposing logs and have them look over, under, and inside for signs of life. Amy has a poem just for that!
Home 
A rotten log is
home to bug
home to beetle
home to slug
home to chipmunk
home to bee
a lively living
hidden home
inside
a fallen tree.
Poems ©Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. All rights reserved.

One of my favorite poems in the book, Forest News, speaks of the stories that animal tracks tell when left in mud or snow. There are poems here about lichen and moss, as well as the owl, deer and woodpecker. For young and old alike, this is a lovely introduction to the forest.

Nonfiction Picture Books
Forest Explorer: A Life-Size Field Guide, written and photographed by Nic Bishop, is an oversized book that includes seven double-page photographic spreads of a North American deciduous forest in different seasons and different locations (forest floor, canopy, etc.). Designed as a guide to help students identify and learn about the creatures that live in the forest, more than 130 animals appear in these seven scenes.

Each habitat scene is shown life-size and is comprised of more than sixty different photographs that Bishop combined to create a single realistic illustration. (On the final page of the book he describes the meticulous work required to create the final products.) Animals in the scenes are shown engaged in the activities of daily life—hiding, feeding, hunting, waiting—and in different life stages.

Topics for the illustrations include:
  • Walking in Spring
  • The Leafy Understory
  • In the Treetops
  • Explore the Edge
  • After Dark
  • The Fall
  • Winter Survivors
Once readers have had a chance to study the illustrations, they turn the page to find detailed notes and a field guide to the animals and environment in the scene. Animals are named and identified in the narrative text by colored font. The text is engaging, understandable, and offers up interesting facts about the animals.

Bishop opens with a section on how to use the book. He also includes a section near the end entitled "Be a Forest Explorer," where he includes hints and projects for readers to explore a real forest on their own. He discusses finding a place to observe, keeping a journal, seasonal observation suggestions, forest safety, and more. Here's an excerpt.
March-April-May. Listen on warm damp evenings for wood frogs, spring peepers, and toads. Watch for the first spring wildflowers, then look for bumblebees and early butterflies feeding on them. Look for the first leaves to open. What trees do they belong to? See if you can find baby caterpillars and other insects that have just hatched. You may spot turkeys in forest clearings or hear woodpeckers drumming on tree trunks. Birds such as orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, and wood thrushes may migrate to your forest from farther south at this time to start nesting.
Text ©Nic Bishop. All rights reserved.

The book ends with a picture index that will encourage readers to go back and look yet again at the illustrations.

Perfect Together
FOREST HAS A SONG and FOREST EXPLORER will complement one another nicely, whether a few poems are read before a related scene is shown and studied, or an illustration is shared first, followed by some related poems and then the informational text. Both of these books present strong observations of the life of the forest, albeit in different language.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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8. Poetry Friday - Take 2!

If you could see my office right now, you'd probably be shocked at how messy it is. I have piles of books EVERYWHERE. All the books I've been pulling for my National Poetry Month posts, the books on economics from class last week, and all my inter-library loan books are scattered about the floor! I guess it makes sense that out of this chaos came these book spine poems from my collection of poetry books.

Poem 1

Summer beat
Messing around the monkey bars
Handsprings
Summersaults
Oh, grow up!

(I so wish I had a book titled Never!)


 Poem 2

Toasting marshmallows
Keeping the night watch
Flicker flash
Fireflies at midnight
Sky magic

If you haven't been by already, be sure to 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.

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9. 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.

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10. 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.

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11. 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 includes 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. 

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12. 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.

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13. 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.

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14. 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 be recommending this video.


After watching, check out this LiveScience article entitled 

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15. 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.




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16. 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 visit in 1970 to Cape Canaveral.

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17. 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.

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18. 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 preceds 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.

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19. Science Poetry Pairings - Dinosaurs

What is it about dinosaurs that so captures the attention of children and adults alike? Is it their size and the fact that so many grew to be so very large? Is it the mystery of their extinction? I suppose for me the interest comes from the fact that every time a new skeleton, nest, or coprolite is unearthed our ideas change and are challenged as we learn something new.  

Today's pairing celebrates of our longstanding fascination with dinosaurs.

Poetry Book
Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian, is a collection of 20 poems chock full of information about dinosaurs. Each double page spread contains an illustration and a poem. The illustrations were done with gouache, collage, colored pencils, stencils, dinosaur dust, and rubber stamps on primed brown paper bags and are full of interesting little tidbits. For example, the pages for the poem Iguanodon has a female dinosaur (Iguano-Donna) who is wearing bracelets and a pearl necklace. Before, during, and after reading the accompanying poems they beg to be looked over carefully. The poems themselves are laced with puns, word play, and made-up words. A pronunciation guide for each dinosaur name and the name’s meaning are included below each title. Here's an example.
Pterosaurs
TERR-oh-sawrs (winged lizards)

The pterrifying pterosaurs
Flew ptours the ptime of dinosaurs.
With widespread wings and pteeth pto ptear,
The pterrorized the pteeming air.
They were not ptame.
They were ptenacious--
From the Ptriassic
Pto the Cretaceous.

Poem ©Douglas Florian. All rights reserved.
You can check out some of the artwork and read additional poems from the book at Florian Cafe.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World, written and illustrated by Lita Judge explores how dinosaurs hatched from eggs grew and survived to become some of the largest creatures that ever walked the earth. The watercolor illustrations do a fine job of depicting these beasts, giving readers a clear sense of what they may have looked like, what their coloration may have been, and how their nests may have been constructed.

Judge uses evidence discovered by paleontologists and uses that information to hypothesize how dinosaurs may have behaved. She also describes dinosaurs by making comparisons to living animals. Here's an excerpt that shows just how deftly she combines these two approaches.
Some plant-eating dinosaurs kept their nests safe by grouping into large colonies. Over a thousand fossilized nests of HYPACROSAURUS, a duck-billed dinosaur, were found in one area!

Penguins, pelicans, and many seabirds gather at huge nesting sites today. The nests are clustered with just enough space to fit babies and adults. The parents work together, alerting each other if a predator comes near.
There are many comparisons to modern-day birds here, and given the view that some species of dinosaurs may have evolved to become today's birds, these are reasonable comparisons to draw.

Judge doesn't shy away from difficult vocabulary in the text, using words like altricial and precocial. However, readers are supported in understanding these words through simple, explanatory sentences, as well as the inclusion of a glossary. Here's an example.
Most bird species today are altricial. Their babies are helpless when they hatch, with wobbly, undeveloped legs and weak necks. The hatchlings must stay in the nest until they grow stronger and older. It is likely that Maiasaura were altricial—like robins today.
Eight species of dinosaur are explored in the book. Early on readers are introduced to Argentinosaurus, a dinosaur that likely weighed as much as 17 elephants. Imagine for a moment just how large this dinosaur must have been. Now juxtapose this with the knowledge that the largest dinosaur eggs ever found were only 18 inches long. As Judge tells readers, "These mothers probably couldn't protect their tiny babies without trampling them underfoot." Judge continues:
A herd of Argentinosaurus was an earth-shaking, bone crushing stampede of feet. Their tiny babies probably hid under forest cover. Hungry, meat-eating dinosaurs stalked them for a bite-sized meal. Huge crocodiles ate them. Even little mammals ate them. The babies were hungry all the time and had to find their next meal without becoming one! Only a few survived.
Dinosaurs may have been giants, but surviving to adulthood was no easy task. The text leaves readers much to ponder while also providing a wealth of factual information. There are some brief notes in the back matter about each of the dinosaur species, including pronunciation (always important with dinosaur names), approximate size, location of fossils, and period of appearance.

Perfect Together
While Florian's pomes may be whimsical, they do open up insights into dinosaurs and can raise questions for readers. A good question to ask is, "Do you think that's true?" Together you can look for those answers, some of which may come from Judge's book.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
  • Learn all about Sue at The Field Museum. (You DO know who Sue is, right?)
  • The Dinosauria at the University of California Museum of Paleontology has a wealth of information about dinosaurs and the fossil record.
  • The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has a dinosaur site with a great deal of information and interactive resources.
  • BBC Nature Prehistoric Life is the companion to a number of BBC shows. You'll find a wealth of information here.
  • The Natural History Museum (UK) has a great dinosaur site for kids.
  • The Scholastic teachers site has an interactive whiteboard ready guide to dinosaurs that is packed with materials for students and teachers. 

One Additional Book
If you want to combine your exploration of dinosaurs with ideas about the nature of science, considering adding this wonderful book.

Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs!, written by Kathleen Kudlinski and illustrated by S.D. Schindler, not only describes our changing ideas about dinosaurs, but also makes it clear to readers that as more evidence is unearthed, our ideas are likely to change again. Readers will enjoy looking at the illustrations that compare "old" ideas about the way dinosaurs looked to the views held today, and will marvel at the images of dinosaurs with feathers. This is a great introduction to dinosaurs and a wonderful treatment of the work scientists do as they work to expand our understanding of the world.

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20. Science Poetry Pairings - Birds

Some of my favorite sights while walking to work are the birds. There are always a large number of geese and ducks, but it's the heron (if I see him) and the cormorants that really capture my attention. Birds have inspired my nature journals, my poems, and reading for many years.

Today's pairing (okay, it's a sextet really) is inspired by our feathered friends.

Poetry Books
Jane Yolen and her son Jason Stemple have collaborated on a number of poetry books with birds as the subject. To get a feel for the depth and vibrancy of the images in these books, be sure to check out some of Jason's bird photos. Here's an overview of these books.
Wild Wings: Poems for Young People - The first collaboration between Jane and her son focused on birds, this collection of 14 poems was inspired by the stunning photos.

Fine Feathered Friends: Poems for Young People - The second book on birds in the Yolen-Stemple collaboration includes even more gorgeous photographs and inspired poems in a variety of forms.

An Egret's Day - This third collection focuses exclusively on the egret. That neck! Those feet! Photos get up close and personal and allow readers to see this magnificent bird from every angle. Poems full of metaphor and keen observation tell us much about these birds. Also included is factual information. 
Bird's of a Feather -  The most recent book in the bird collaboration, contains 14 poems in a variety of forms, each accompanied by a brief bit of informational text.
One of the features I particularly like about BIRDS OF A FEATHER is the Foreword by ornithologist Dr. Donald Kroodsma. It begins this way.
As an ornithologist and obsessed with the details in the daily lives of birds, I know these eagles and chickadees and kingfishers and the other fine birds in this book. But after absorbing the poems and photographs here, I'll never see these birds again in the same way.
. . .
Scientists collect numbers and study the details, but these poems and photographs give us another angle, reminding us that birds are far more than an accumulation of facts.
Here's a poem and the accompanying informational text.

A Solitary Wood Duck

In the green scene,
in the emerald setting,
where pondweed chokes
the green, green waters,
one thing is not green.
A solitary wood duck—
          face glowing,
          flag face showing
          its colors,
          like an admiral's warship—
sails unconcernedly through all that green.
          We surrender,
          we surrender,
          we surrender to your beauty.

The wood duck (Aix sponsa) can be found in wooded swamps and in streams, ponds, and lakes. One of the few North American ducks that nest in tree holes, the wood duck also uses man-made nesting boxes. The day after wood ducklings hatch, they jump to the ground and often waddle many yards away to find a body of water, because they already know how to swim.

Poem and Text ©Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.

Nonfiction Picture Books
Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why, written and illustrated by Lita Judge, focuses on methods of communication, both verbal and nonverbal, for 28 different birds around the world. Gorgeous watercolor illustrations are carefully placed on the page with text blocks situated in a way that draws attention to both. The text is carefully researched and infinitely readable, presenting surprises and what will surely be new information to readers. Exceptionally well-organized, the communication messages are broken into sections that are carefully sequenced. 

It begins this way. 

Chirp, warble, quack,
coo, rattle, screech!

In backyards, meadows, and forests, the air is filled with bird talk.
But what are they saying?

Answers include "Pick me!," "I'm the strongest," "Greetings," "I'm not here," and more. For each message communicated, Judge then follows each meaning with specific examples from a number of different species. Here's an excerpt.

Come on, fly!
A mother's call encourages her young.

A young Peregrine Falcon is nervous to take his first flight from high on a cliff nest. Mother sits in a nearby tree calling sharply with food. Eventually he flaps toward her. She continues the training until he can grab prey in mid-air.

A Blue Jay listens for the call of his hungry youngster. The fledgling has left the nest, but isn't ready to fly. Her parent answers with tender feeding calls as he brings her next meal.

Kuk, kuk, kuk. A Mother Wood Duck summons her chicks just after they've hatched. They can't fly, but they can swim and find food once they leave their tree nest.
Jump!

Text ©Lita Judge. All rights reserved.

Back matter includes a listing of the birds in the book (with additional information about the birds, their habitats and range), a glossary, short list of references, web site, and an informative Author’s note on Judge's inspirations for the book.

What Bluebirds Do, written and photographed by Pamela Kirby, is the story of a pair of nesting Bluebirds and their young. In the Author's Note that precedes the text, Kirby describes how the story came to be.
As I sat in the blind that spring and watched those marvelous Bluebirds raise their families, I wanted to share their wonderful story with young readers. The story happened as it is written. The behaviors and events are actual. The Bluebirds lived the story. I took the images and lots of notes.
The book opens with a gorgeous full-page photo of a pair of Bluebirds and the accompanying text on the facing page.
This is a story of a pair of Eastern Bluebirds that built a nest in my backyard.

They laid eggs, hatched the eggs, and raised their chicks.
Text ©Pamela Kirby. All rights reserved.

On the next double-page spread readers are introduced to the male and female birds (mom and dad). Closeup photos of each highlight the physical differences between the two. The following spread provides information about other birds that are blue and explains how the Indigo Bunting and Blue Jay are different from the Bluebird. From this point readers learn about the Bluebirds' courtship, their nest building, egg laying, hatching and growth of the chicks, first flight, and growth of the fledglings into little Bluebirds.

The text is written in simple, yet precise language. There is a glossary to help with difficult and/or unfamiliar terms, such as brood, fledgling, instinct, and roost. The text and photographs work extremely well-together, with photos providing clear, vibrant illustrations of the action. For example, on the page describing what baby Bluebirds ate ("mostly insects, worms, and berries") there is a photo of the female holding several mealworms and a caterpillar in her mouth, preparing to enter then nest.

Following the text is extensive back matter. Two pages are devoted to describing the three species of Bluebirds that live in North America: the Eastern Bluebird (chronicled in the book), the Mountain Bluebird, and the Western Bluebird. Two more pages are devoted to Bluebirds Through the Year, which detail a bit more of Bluebird behavior. Next are two pages devoted to Bringing Back the Bluebirds (did you know they were once in danger of disappearing?) and Bluebirds in Your Yard, which briefly describes where to find information about attracting Bluebirds to your yard. Finally, the author provides of a list of books and web sites where readers can learn more. She also lists some places to order mealworms for Bluebirds.

Kirby has done an outstanding job telling the Bluebirds' story while teaching readers a lot along the way. The final page contains the heading Bluebirds Rock! and a full-page image of a bluebird, up close and personal. Readers young and old alike will close this book echoing the sentiment.

Perfect Together
The poems in Yolen's books are a good starting point for exploring additional factual information about birds. For example, the poem on the wood duck makes reference to nesting in trees, as does the excerpt in Judge's book. Students might use the poems to generate questions they would like to investigate regarding bird behavior. While Judge's book will whet their appetites with additional tidbits of information, Kirby's book will give them specific examples of how a particular species courts and raises a nest of young. I'd use all three together, as the illustrations in Judge's book make a nice counterpoint to the photographs in the other titles.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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21. Monday Poetry Stretch - Homophoem

Back in 2012 I received a message from J. Patrick Lewis in which he shared a new poetic form. We have him to thank for our stretch this week.


homophoem is a two- to ten-line poem that contains at least one homophone, preferably as the surprise end-word.  

If you haven't studied grammar in a while, homophones are words that share the same pronunciation, irrespective of their spelling, but differ in meaning.  

Here are some examples of the form, all written by Pat.

Imaginature

   No one understood
genetics until Mendel
     went to take a pea

*  *
Zen Football

      The quarterback folds
his hands under the center—
“18, 6, X, haik-! “  

*  *
Not Aloud

A horrid fifth-grader named Nate
Was a bully to every classmate.
     When she sent him to school,
     His mother—no fool—
Made certain Nate’s jacket was strait.

*  *
Foul Ball

When the high school band took their places
In the stands for the Rams vs. Aces,
     A kid hit a home run,
     But confused by the sun,
He kept running around all the basses.

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

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22. Science Poetry Pairings - Nocturnal Animals

As a child I hated going to bed in summer because my bedtime was early (8:00 pm) and it wasn't even dark yet! I'd lie in bed for what felt like hours waiting for darkness to come, listening to the sounds around me. The woods behind our house were home to fox, woodchucks, all manner of birds, snakes, and more. With my window wide open and facing the woods, I'd sometimes peer out into the dark and wonder what it was like to be active at night.

Today's book pairing gives readers a glimpse into the habits of nocturnal animals.

Poetry Book
Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Rick Allen, is a collection of 12 poems that highlight nocturnal animals and events in the forest. The hand-colored relief prints are composed of muted colors and heavy dark lines, beautifully capturing the forest after dark, drawing readings into the woods at night. Each double-page spread contains an illustration, a poem, and informational text about the subject of the poem and the life of the forest.

Here are the first two stanzas from the introductory poem.

Welcome to the Night

To all of you who crawl and creep,
who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep,
who wake at dusk and throw off sleep:
Welcome to the night.

to you who make the forest sing,
who dip and dodge on silent wing,
who flutter, hover, clasp, and cling:
Welcome to the night!

On the facing page the informational text begins this way.

As night falls, the nocturnal world wakes. Mice begin to stir, moths flutter into the star-light, and deer step out from hidden places to roam and forage. Having rested all day in a hollow tree, the raccoon lumbers down at dusk to search for food.

Poem and Text ©Joyce Sidman. All rights reserved.

Both the poems and illustrations are lovely, giving readers a real sense of the nighttime forest. The informational text is clearly written, engaging, and interesting. A glossary is included that defines some of the science terms using in the text. Readers will be engaged from start to finish, beginning with the double-page spread of the forest as night falls, a wealth of poems and information in the middle, and a double-page spread of the forest at sunrise at the end. 


Nonfiction Picture Book
Forest Bright, Forest Night, written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Jamichael Henterly, is a short rhyming text that explores the daytime forest from the front, and then when the book is turned around and flipped upside down, explores the nighttime forest from the back. Sandwiched between these two sections is a page of informational text that explains what animals do by day (or night) and what an animal counterpart is doing at the same time. The illustrations will certainly capture the attention of readers, as Henterly has cleverly hidden animals throughout the pages.

The daytime section begins this way:
Sun light, forest bright,
After sleeping through the night,

Leap and flash . . . deer splash
Climb and stumble . . . bear cubs tumble

In the illustration for the deer page, readers will find the number one cleverly "etched" into the tree with an owl fast asleep in the branches. In the illustration for the bear page is the number 2 and two porcupines can be found sleeping inside holes in the tree. The counting aspect to the illustrations will give readers something extra to look for as they read the simple text.

This section ends with these words:
Sun sinks,
Moon winks,
Hello, forest night.

The informational text that accompanies day describes the animals found in the illustrations.

By day...
While a deer leaps through the forest, an owl sleeps in a tree.
While bears climb and tumble, porcupines sleep in a tree or burrow.

The nighttime section begins this way:

Moon bright, forest night,
After sleeping through the light,

Hoot and perch . . . owl eyes search
Parade and plod . . . porcupines trod

The counting format holds true in this half of the book as well, with the the number one cleverly "etched" into a stone on the owl page with a deer fast asleep on the forest floor. In the illustration for the porcupine page, two porcupines walk over a den in which a pair of bear cubs slumber.

This section ends with these words:
Moon goes down,
Sun grows round,
Hello, forest day.

The informational text that accompanies night also describes the animals found in the illustrations.

At night...
While an owl is awake and hooting, a deer sleeps in a thicket.
While porcupines plod around the forest, bears sleep in a den.

There is a wonderful symmetry to this book and a good deal of information about nocturnal and diurnal animals. Readers will learn that in the forest, no matter the time of day, some animal is awake while another is asleep.

Perfect Together
The simple text of FOREST BRIGHT, FOREST NIGHT makes it a good book to start with. Many of the animals in the illustrations are described more fully in Sidman's poems and Allen's illustrations. In reading through the FOREST NIGHT half, I would stop periodically to include Sidman's poems and informational text.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

Finally, for a bit of fun, consider adding this book to your reading list.

Good-Night Owl, written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins, opens with an owl trying to sleep up in a tree. While trying to, owl is disturbed by the sounds that the animals around it begin to make. First, it's the bees that “buzz, buzz.” Then comes the squirrels that “crunch, crunch,” on nuts. A total of ten different creatures, from jays to cuckoo to doves, disturb owl during the day. At the end the when “the moon came up,” the “Owl screeched, screech screech, and woke everyone up.” 

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23. Science Poetry Pairings - Food Chains

A food chain shows the ways in which the organisms in an ecosystem interact with one another according to what they eat. When a series of food chains weave together in an ecosystem they are collectively known as a food web. 

Today's poetry book joins a pair of books that look at different aspects or components of food chains.

Poetry Book
What's for Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World, written by Katherine B. Hauth and illustrated by David Clark, is a collection of poems about food chain topics. While the title may not indicate that this is a book of poems about organisms and where they fit in a food chain, one need only look at the cover to see fly--frog--big, nasty predator. Before even reading the poems you could engage students in a discussion of the partial food chain in this illustration. What kind of ecosystem is this? What are the likely producers? What do flies eat? What kind of animal might eat a frog? The introductory poem, "What's for Dinner," explains why animals must find food. 

What's for Dinner?

The might seek meat,
or nectar sweet,
the white of eggs,
or yolk,
sleek fish, dead trees,
fresh blood, live bees,
or prickly artichoke.

But finding food
is not a joke.
Living things must eat
or croak.

What follows this introductory piece are humorous, graphic, scientific, inventive and just downright fun poems. Accompanied by equally graphic and humorous illustrations, the perfect pairing of word and art gives us a book that readers will love.

In the poem entitled "Waste Management," a rather haughty-looking vulture pulls at a strand of the innards of a carcass while standing on the exposed ribs. Here is the poem that accompanies it.
No dainty vegetarian,
the vulture rips up carrion.
It likes to feast before the worms,
which saves us all from stink and germs.
While most of the poems are about animals, the last entry, "Eating Words," uses poetry and word roots to define insectivore, carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore.

The back matter includes a section entitled More Words About the Poems, which explains a bit more of the science and further explains vocabulary terms such as symbiosis, parasitism, mutualism, commensalism, and more. More Words About  the Animals provides background information for each of the poems. Here's the text that expands on the poem "Waste Management."
Turkey vultures don't have strong beaks and feet. They can't tear into tough hide and muscle until it's been "tenderized" by decay. A turkey vulture's featherless head and neck may look strange, but skin is easier to clean than feathers after the bird plunges its head into a rotting carcass.
Poems and Text ©Katherine Hauth. All rights reserved.

The final page of the book provides some additional titles for learning more about the animals in the book.

Nonfiction Picture Books
Here are two books by April Pulley Sayre that pair nicely to help students learn about food chains and their components.

Trout Are Made of Trees, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Kate Endle, looks at simple food chains and the life cycle of trout. What happens when leaves fall from a tree and land in a stream?

Here's how the book begins.
Trout are made of trees.
In fall, trees let go of leaves,
which swirl and twirl
and slip into streams.
They ride in a rush
above rocks
and over rapids.
They snag and
settle soggily down.
From here they become food for bacteria and a home for algae. They are further broken down by little critters, like crane flies, caddisflies, shrimp and stoneflies. These critters are eaten by predators. Guess where those leaves are now? When the predators are eaten by trout, the trout are made of trees.

The book ends with this thought.
Trout are made of trees.
So are the bears
and the people
who catch the trout and eat them.
Text ©April Pulley Sayre. All rights reserved.

The back matter includes information on the trout life cycle, a section entitled Be a Stream Hero that offers steps to ensure our streams and local water sources stay clean, and a list of resources providing additional information. This is a beautifully illustrated book (mixed media collage) and a terrific introduction to food chains.

Vulture View, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, focuses on an important member of the food chain—decomposers. Both scavengers and decomposers play a very important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. In helping to break down dead organisms, they are responsible for returning basic nutrients to the soil so that they may reenter the chain. In this book, we get a glimpse of the scavenging role that vultures play, along with some poetry and interesting facts about these oft maligned birds.

In rhythmic, precise text, Sayre teaches us much about the amazing turkey vulture. Here's an excerpt on how they find their food.
Vultures smell the air.
They sniff, search, seek
for foods that . . .
(turn the page)
. . . REEK!

Those fragrant flowers?
No, no.

That spicy smoke?
No, no.

That stinky dead deer?
Yes, yes!
Text ©April Pulley Sayre. All rights reserved.

Readers learn that vultures soar on thermals, taking to the air as it warms, returning to roost in the trees as air cools. The book ends with a section entitled Get To Know Vultures, with the Subsections: (1) Soaring Up, Up, Up!; (2) The Vulture Family; (3) Nature's Cleanup Crew; (4) Family Life and Range; and (5) Heads Up, Young Scientists. It is packed with information and even includes a link to the Turkey Vulture Society's web site, as well as information on festivals that celebrate vultures/buzzards.

Perfect Together
There are no producers in Hauth's book of poems, only consumers and decomposers, so I'd start by reading TROUT ARE MADE OF TREES and from there examine the range of organisms in WHAT'S FOR DINNER? and what they eat. Kids often tend to forget about decomposers and their importance in the chain, so I'd wrap up with VULTURE VIEW. At the end I'd ask kids to create their own food chains based on their readings.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
  • In the BBC Bitesize Science - Food Chains Activity, kids try to discover the organism at the top of the food chain in a land and sea ecosystem. As the parts of the chain are filled in, information about the animals appears on the screen.
  • After reading a bit about the organisms that make up the food chain, kids play Chain Reaction - Build a Food Chain and try to build a chain that might be found in a forest or a northern ecosystem (think Arctic).
  • In The Food Chain Game students drag parts of the food chain into the correct position. Once the chain is complete (and correct), kids can watch it come to life and see the chain in action.
  • The PBS video Wild Kratts: Up the Ocean Food Chain! describes the organisms in a simple ocean food chain.

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24. 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.

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25. 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 Linda at Teacher Dance. Happy poetry Friday friends.

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