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1. 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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2. 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.

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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3. 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.

Web sparkle
on the lawn
like diamond
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
to the rough bark
of the hackberry

and farther up
where I can't
ghosts are
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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4. Science Poetry Pairings - Butterflies

Over the last few years I've given a number of butterfly books to my son's teachers and other elementary teachers I work with. I love Eric Carle just as much as the next person, but there are many other books out there about caterpillars and butterflies!

Today's book trio reflects a few of the titles I love to share with teachers.

Poetry Book
The Monarch's Progress: Poems With Wings, written and illustrated by Avis Harley, is a collection of 18 poems about Monarch butterflies. Using a variety of poetic forms, including alphabet poems, acrostics, cinquains, haiku, limericks, sonnets and more, readers will learn a whole lot of science while enjoying these poems.

In the introduction, Avis explains why she chose specific forms for certain poems. Here's an excerpt from an acrostic poem.
Wintering Over
by Avis Harley


One of my favorite poems from the book is this haiku.
Who can decorate
the walls of the world better
than a butterfly?
Poems ©Avis Harley. All rights reserved.

In the back matter is a section entitled Small Matters. In it readers will find additional information about the content of the poems and illustrations.

Nonfiction Picture Books
Monarch and Milkweed, written by Helen Frost and illustrated by Leonid Gore, follows the life cycle of the Monarch and the milkweed in parallel narratives that eventually draw closer together and combine before separating again at the end of the story.

The book begins by  focusing on the long journey the monarchs must make to arrive at the already thriving milkweed plants. As the plant begins to mature by blooming and then dropping those blooms to allow seeds to push through, the monarchs mate and fly, “From milkweed plant to milkweed plant, stopping on each to lay one shiny egg.” The description of the life cycles of both the milkweed plant and monarch butterfly continues from dying plant to floating and planted seeds and from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterflies respectively until the, “Milkweed’s first spring leaf unfurls,” and “Far to the south, in Mexico, Monarch rides the wind toward it.”

 Here's an excerpt of facing pages that shows the parallel narrative.
Milkweed's leaves, now full of holes,
turn yellow,
then brown.
Their edges curl, and they begin to fall. 
Monarch flies
from purple zinnia
to black-eyed Susan,
drinking nectar, getting ready.
As the days turn cool,
she turns south towards warmer air
to begin her longest journey.
Text ©Helen Frost. All rights reserved.

Frost and Gore do a marvelous job of clearly describing and illustrating the lives of these two distinct yet co-dependent organisms. Back matter includes includes an author's note with additional information about Monarchs and milkweed, as well as web sites for further information.

A Butterfly is Patient, written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long, offers a sumptuous introduction to the world of butterflies. With poetic descriptions ("A butterfly is patient") that are accompanied by more detailed text and exquisitely detailed watercolor illustrations, the author and illustrator offer a unique look at these amazing creatures.

The book opens with a double-page spread of labeled illustrations of caterpillars, and closes with a similar double-page spread of the same caterpillars in butterfly form. Readers will want to examine these pages before they even get to the text!

Here's an excerpt.
A butterfly is helpful. 
Butterflies, like bees, help pollinate plants so that they can reproduce, or make seeds. As a butterfly flits from flower to flower, sipping nectar, tiny grains of pollen cling to its body, then fall away onto other flowers. Seeds are only produced when pollen is transferred between flowers of the same species. This is called pollination.
Text © Dianna Hutts Aston. All rights reserved.

“A butterfly is spectacular,” and so is this book. Using both lyrical text and clear and concise descriptions of butterfly life cycles, behavior, body structure, and more, this is a book readers will want to study for extended periods of time.

Perfect Together
Butterflies are a staple in the elementary curriculum when studying life cycles. All three of the books address this topic in varying ways. I hope you'll think about replacing some of your current titles with these more poetic, beautifully illustrated, yet scientifically accurate titles.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

Since I'm so fond of biography, consider adding this title to the mix.
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Julie Paschkis, is based on the true story of how Merian secretly observed the life cycle of summer birds (a medieval name for butterflies) and documented it in her paintings. Focusing on her young life, this book shows readers how curiosity at a young age can lead to a lifelong pursuit.

Poets and artists must have a bit of scientist in them, as they must closely observe the world around them in order to share it from their unique perspective. Maria Merian was an artist and scientist who studied plants and animals in their natural habitat and then captured them in her art. Not only did she document the flora and fauna in her native Germany, but in 1699 she also traveled to South America where she studied and sketched plants and animals unlike any others she had seen.

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5. Chasing Cheetahs by Sy Montgomery

Chasing Cheetahs: the race to save Africa's fastest cats Scientists in the Field Series Text by Sy Montgomery; Photographs by Nic Bishop Houghton Mifflin. 2014 ISBN: 9780547815497 Grades 5 thru 12 I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library The decision as to who reviews what goes fairly smoothly between Cathy and I until there is a new Scientists in the Field book, then,

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6. 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
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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. Squid Jigging

Christine Marie Larsen illustration: Squid Jigging at NightSquid Jigging Illustration : Gouache on bristol

Squid Fishing in Washington State

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12. 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.

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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13. 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.
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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14. Science Poetry Pairings - Going Green

How do you celebrate Earth Day in your home or classroom? (I know it's not Earth Day yet, but I'm posting this selection of books well in advance in case you are inspired to use them!) I believe that Earth Day should be every day, so going green at home or in the classroom should be a value that is instilled early and often.

For many kids and families, going green is a new way of thinking about the world, our place in it, and the choices we make. Today's trio of books offers simple suggestions for acting in a way that is Earth friendly.

Poetry Book
The Green Mother Goose: Saving the World One Rhyme at a Time, written by Jan Peck and David Davis and illustrated by Carin Berger, presents 30 well-known nursery rhymes and children's songs, rewritten as parodies with an eco-friendly twist. Collectively these poems promote both healthy living and conservation activities. The rhymes deliver positive messages in an inventive and catchy way, though some readers may find a few of the poems didactic. The illustrations support the notion of going green in that they are composed of recycled materials, scraps of paper, and other ephemera. The book opens with this poem.

Green Mother Goose

Together we’ll do it—
We’ll help save the Earth,
Our emerald home,
The place of our birth.
Come now, rhyme with me,
Let’s turn our hearts loose,
And fly ‘round the world
With Green Mother Goose.

The rhymes cover a range of topics, including solar energy, reusable shopping bags, carpooling, organic gardening, replacing incandescent lightbulbs, and much more. Here's one more example.

Three Wise Mice

Three wise mice,
Three wise mice,
See how they save!
See how they save!
They search for clothes at the thrift store shops,
Recycle the treasures at yard sale stops,
Catch water from rain and use all the drop.
Three wise mice!

Poems ©Jan Peck and David Davis. All rights reserved.

Poetry and Informational Book
What Can You Do With An Old Red Shoe?, written and illustrated by Anna Alter, is a green activity book that focuses on reusing household items in creative ways. This title is a wonderful combination of poetry and crafting for kids. Here's how the book begins.
This book is all about the ways in which you can reuse and recycle. Each project introduces an art activity that reuses materials you can find in your home. Some of the activities require the help of an adult.

Reusing is a fun way to reinvent worn items. It's also a great way to help conserve our natural resources (like the trees used to make paper) and create less trash to store in landfills. By finding new ways to use old things instead of throwing them away, we can help to keep the environment clean and healthy. If we share in the responsibility of taking care of our world, we can all enjoy it together!
There are a total of 12 activities for recycling old materials, 8 of which require some form of adult assistance. Materials given new life include a flip-flop, bits of old crayon, a worn blanket, empty tin cans, and more. Each double-page spread begins with a poem. Here's the one from the page that asks "What can you do with bits of old crayon?"
Trina is an artist
who doesn't like to stop.
She's colored the walls in her art room,
the bottom to the top.

The walls are one big canvas
and never look complete.
She's worn out all her crayons—
a great artistic feat.
After this readers will find a list of materials that are needed for the project. In this case Trina gathers:
  • Lots of used crayons
  • An old metal bowl or pot (used only for crafts)
  • An ice cube tray
Next there are illustrated, step-by-step instructions for carrying out the project. The directions are clear, concise and simply written. For this project adult help is needed to heat the oven and to pour the hot, melted crayons into the ice cube trays.

At the end of the book readers will find tips for kids and grown-ups on reuse and recycling. Overall, this book is a terrific choice for simple, creative art projects at home and in this classroom. The materials needed are easily accessible and the steps are not complicated and do not require extraordinary amounts of time to complete. Kids will enjoy giving new life to worn materials and may even dream up their own crafty ideas for old stuff as a result of working through the projects in this book.

Text ©Anna Alter. All rights reserved.

Nonfiction Picture Book
10 Things I Can Do to Help My World: Fun and Easy Eco-Tips, written and illustrated by Melanie Walsh, is not only about being eco-friendly, but serves as an excellent model. There is not one bit of wasted paper or space in this book. There is no front matter to the book, and the copyright information is included on the back cover. As soon as the book is opened the reader is launched into the text.

As soon as you pick up this book you will be struck both by the light bulb cutout on the cover and the recycling symbol and statement indicating that the book is made from 100% recycled material. When the cover is opened the reader finds a page in black except for where it is bathed in light from the bulb and four insects are basking in its glow. The text reads “I remember . . . ” When the page is turned readers find a double-page spread bathed in black with only white text and eyeballs staring out at them. The text on the left page reads “to turn off the light when I leave the room.” On the right page the bulb is outlined in a bit of concrete text that reads “Turning off lights and using more efficient lightbulbs saves valuable energy.” There is quite a bit of this concrete text throughout the book. It comes running out of the faucet and can be found around the edges of trash cans and trees. It’s not poetry, but it is a wonderful bit of design. (To get a feel for what these pages look like, view an inside spread at the Candlewick site.)

The tips in the book include:
  • turning off lights
  • turning off the faucet while brushing teeth
  • throwing away trash
  • feeding birds in winter
  • using both sides of a piece of paper
  • unplugging the television when not in use
  • making toys from objects that are often thrown out
  • walking to school
  • planting seeds
  • sorting materials for recycling

The acrylic illustrations are refreshing and often appear on pages where edges have been cut or shaped for an interesting effect. The final set of pages includes the text “I help . . . ” on the left hand side, accompanied by illustrations of sets of objects such as bottles, cans and food scraps. The right hand page pictures a variety of receptacles with cutout openings. The beauty of this double-page spread becomes apparent when you turn the page, for what appears are labeled receptacles with the appropriate items insides. Readers will find cans, glass, compost, plastic and paper bins filled to the brim along with the text that completes the sentence begun earlier “sort the recycling.”

The final endpaper is a black page covered with stars and a semicircular fold that reads “All because . . . ” When readers fold the flap down they find the earth and the words “I love my world.”

Perfect Together
All three of these books are wonderful resources for elementary classrooms studying recycling and caring for our world. The poems are sure to encourage students to want to know more, while the books by Alter and Walsh will give them concrete ideas for action.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
  • Anna Alter has created a terrific web site to support her book. You can read about how the book was created, download coloring and activity sheets (under free stuff), and find some fabulous teacher resources and activity ideas for using this book in the classroom.
  • MeetTheGreens.org is a kids' guide to looking after the planet. Kids can watch The GREENS' cartoon adventures and discover related green games, news, downloads, a blog, action tips, links, and much more.
  • TimeForKids has an Earth Day mini-site with a wealth of information and resources on protecting the environment.
  • Use this journal page to get kids writing about green living.

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15. Science Poetry Pairings - Volcanoes

In teaching earth science topics I often found kids to be confused about constructive and destructive forces. Destructive forces wear away the surface of the Earth, while constructive forces help to build it up. It's very hard for kids to understand that an event like a volcanic eruption can be a constructive force, creating new islands (Galapagos, Hawaii, Iceland) and land masses.

Today's book trio looks at the positive impact of volcanic activity.

Poetry Books
An Island Grows, written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Cathie Felstead, is book-length poem that describes how a volcanic island is formed It begins this way.

Deep, deep
beneath the sea . . .
Stone breaks.
Water quakes.
Magma glows.
Volcano blows.
Lava flows
and flows
and flows.

Poem ©Lola Schaefer. All rights reserved.

The rhyming text continues to describe how the lava builds up unit it breaks through the water's surface. Eventually seeds, plants, and animals, come to the newly formed island. Later, sailors and traders came, settlers stayed, and soon there exists a "Busy island in the sea, where only water used to be." The book concludes by coming full circle and discussing how the cycle starts from the beginning, where “Another island grows.” The last page of the book describes a bit more of the science of island formation.
Volcano! Wakes Up, written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a collection of poems that describe a day in the life of an imaginary Hawaiian volcano. Ferns, lava flow crickets, a small black road, and the volcano itself all speak in these poems. Here's how it opens.


I'm the baby.
I'm much smaller than my
big sister volcanoes. I'm a little sleepy
now, but when I wake up, watch out! I throw
nasty tantrums. It always works--I get the most attention!

Here's what the ferns have to say when they realize the volcano is awake.


Fire-maker's awake!
She's about to 
this caldera
a lake of fire and
lava. Ah, the
must be over.
Put away all the
But wait . . . it's
hot yet. It's 
not even warm
yet. What a 
delay on this
beautiful day. Hey,
everybody, let's 

Poems ©Lisa Westberg Paters. All rights reserved.

The back matter of the book describes Hawaiian volcanoes, ferns, lava flow crickets, the road and trail signs that direct visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and the best time to watch hot lava enter the ocean.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Volcano Rising, written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Susan Swan, looks at volcanoes as constructive forces of nature, building up the surface of the Earth. Beautifully illustrated in mixed media with lots of examples and labels, this book uses two levels of text to engage readers. The first level of text provides readers with basic volcano information. This is accompanied by detailed informational text that provides more comprehensive information on volcanoes. Both levels of text are well-written and make the concepts accessible for readers across a range of ages. Together the text and illustrations offer a dramatic introduction to volcanic activity.

Here's a brief excerpt.

Pow! Gases blast lava out in an
explosive eruption.

HISSSSS! Gases and lava slowly seep out
in a creative eruption.

Gas determines whether an eruption creates or destroys.
Rising gas pushes lava out of a volcano. In destructive
eruptions, gases get trapped inside thick magma or are
blocked by plugs in the vents. Pressure builds until lava, ash,
and gases explode all at once, like soda from a shaken can.

Text © Elizabeth Rusch. All rights reserved.

Rusch introduces readers to 8 different volcanoes around the world and explores their impact when found in what some might consider unusual places, like under a glacier or on the seafloor. Back matter includes a glossary of 30 volcano vocabulary words and an extensive bibliography.

Perfect Together
Here in Virginia volcanoes are studied in 5th grade. While the poetry books may seem too simple for this age, I wouldn't hesitate to use any of these titles with older students. You might consider reading the mask poems in VOLCANO WAKES UP! and using the glossary and informational text in Rusch's book to help students better understand the vocabulary. Regardless of how you use them, all three provide terrific introductions to volcanoes as constructive forces. 

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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16. Budding Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Christine Marie Larsen Illustration Budding Saccharomyces cerevisiae

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17. Science Poetry Pairings - Nature of Science

Every time I begin new class with preservice teachers or work in elementary classrooms I ask my students (young and old) to define the word science. I always get interesting responses. Most kids define science as a subject they study or facts to memorize. Some of the adults I teach answer in the same manner. This tells me a lot about how they've been taught. Even though many highly educated folks define science as a body of knowledge, it is so much more than this. Science is a way of knowing the world around us. It is a human endeavor, characterized by shared beliefs and attitudes about how the work of scientists is done and how scientific knowledge is developed.

While science may not be easy to define, today's book pairing tries to help readers better understand science as a complex human endeavor.

Poetry Book
What Is Science?, written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa, is a book length poem that asks and answers the question, "What is science?".

It begins with these words.

What is science?
So many things.
The study of stars
and Saturn's rings.
The study of rocks,
geodes and stones,
dinosaur fossils,
and old chipped bones.

And ends in this way.

So into the earth
and into the sky,
we question the how,
the where, when, and why.
We question,
we wonder,
we hunt and explore
the secrets of caves,
the dark ocean floor.
The oldest of rivers,
the tombs of kings.
What IS science?
So many things!

The short, rhyming verse and vibrant illustrations in this book combine nicely in this kid-friendly introduction to the world of science.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Q Is for Quark: A Science Alphabet Book, written by David Schwartz and illustrated by Kim Doner, is a thoroughly researched collection of science facts and tidbits that cover a range of topics in an accessible and interesting manner. Beginning with A is for Atom and ending with Z is for Zzzzzzzzzzz, the text and illustrations introduce readers to the wonder that is science. Schwartz has carefully selected each of the 26 topics to cover life (clone, DNA, rot) earth (black hole, fault, universe), and physical science (element, light, pH) topics. These are largely multi-page entries that explore the topics in more depth than is found in a traditional textbook, and with more engaging language.

Schwartz is at the top of his game here, writing with wit and precision. Here's an example from the entry C is for Clone (p.10).
Warning: Do not read this. . . yet! Read D is for DNA first. Yes, we know that C comes before D, but you have to understand DNA before you can understand what a clone is. Hey, we didn't invent the alphabet.
From here Schwatrz goes on to introduce Dolly. In the next paragraph he defines clone.
A clone is a living thing that has exactly the same genes as it's parent. Genetically speaking, Dolly is an identical copy of her mother. That's not true for you. Like everyone else in the world, you get half your genes from your mother and half from your father.
Each entry also contains a list of other words the letter stands for. In the case of C, the additional words are cell, chemical bond, chemical reaction, cold-blooded, compound, condense, and covalent bond. These additional words are defined in the glossary of the book. Including these additional words is a good way to pique the interest of readers and may encourage them to explore other topics.

The illustrations are quirky, highly entertaining, and nicely complement the text. Altogether, this is a terrific volume that is student-friendly and jam-packed with information.

Perfect Together
Many entries in the Schwartz book talk about the work that scientists do. For example, in the section on K is for Kitchen, readers are encouraged to solve some problems. A number of questions about solubility are posed and experiments are suggested. Once they complete them, readers are congratulated for doing "real science." After reading WHAT IS SCIENCE?, share some of these excerpts that highlight science as a process.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
  • Read the NSTA position statement on Nature of Science.
  • The Understanding Science site from the University of California Museum of Paleontology offers "a straightforward presentation of science, as an intensely human endeavor—a multifaceted process that both students and scientists can use to better understand the natural world. Instead of oversimplifying science into a five-step recipe, the site emphasizes the dynamic and iterative nature of the process, as well as the roles of creativity and community in scientific progress."
  • The Science Learning Hub at the University of Waikato (New Zealand) has an extensive set of resources on teaching the Nature of Science.
  • The Butterfly Project involves students in an observational study of Painted Lady Butterflies while helping them learn about the nature of science.

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18. Science Poetry Pairings - Frogs and Toads

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

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

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

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

The Pond's Chorus

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

Here is one of my favorite poems from the book.

Zap, Zap

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

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

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

Poems and Text©Joanne Ryder. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

Text ©Nic Bishop. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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19. LEGO Building: 5 Kid-Approved LEGO Books

All the excitement surrounding The LEGO Movie sparked a renewed interest in the venerable building toys at my house. The following books that include all kinds of tips, ideas and techniques to re-purpose existing LEGO pieces for all sorts of fantastic creations.

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20. Dinosaur

Christine Marie Larsen Illustration of a Green Dinosaur

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It's pretty impressive to see how many different ways nonfiction authors can present the very same subject matter or the very same people in their books. To get the gist, today I thought it might be fun to compare some examples of books on the same topic--mostly (but not entirely) by our own INK authors and illustrators. I'll be brief, I promise.  

So how about starting with our foremost founding father, George Washington himself. Each of these 3 authors has come up with entirely different hooks to pique your interest, so a young audience could get a pretty well-rounded view of our guy by checking out these true tales.

First up is The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution by Jim Murphy.  His hook is to focus on Washington's growth as a leader, obviously leading up to the famous crossing of the Delaware on Christmas in 1776. He's used some very interesting artwork from the period to enhance the tale.

Next comes an entirely different take on George from Marfe Ferguson Delano. Her book, Master George's People, tells the story of George's slaves at Mount Vernon, and she has collaborated with a photographer who shot pictures of reenactors on the scene. 

And this one is  (ahem) my version. George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides shows how there are two sides to every story.  I got to meet George Washington and King George III and paint their pictures myself.
OK, on to the second set.  In one way or another, the next 3 books are all based upon Charles Darwin and his Theory of Evolution. Let's start with Steve Jenkins' handsome book Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution.  With a nod to Darwin, Steve has created a series of stunning collages along with fairly minimal text in order to focus on the history of all the plants and animals on the planet. 
And here's yet another nod to Deb Heiligman for her celebrated true tale of romance between two folks with opposite views of the world. Despite Emma's firm belief in the Bible's version of life on earth, she and Charles enjoy a warm and loving marriage.
Mine again. What Darwin Saw: The Journey that Changed the World, tells about Darwin's great adventures as a young guy while traveling around the world. We're on board In this colorful graphic novel as he picks up the clues that lead to his Theory of Evolution and then does the experiments that prove it.
And here's series number 3.  Apparently these authors and illustrators were hard at work at the very same time on three very different picture books about the very same person; her name is Wangari Maathai, and she won the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing Kenya's trees back to life after most of them had disappeared. 

The artwork in all three books is outstanding, and each version is truly unique. The writing styles vary enormously too. I strongly recommend that you look at them side by side to prove that there's more than one way to skin a cat.  

Planting the Trees of Kenya was written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola.

Wangari's Trees of Peace was written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. 
And Mama Miti was written by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Kadir Nelson.  
I'd bet anything that these folks didn't know they were creating books about the same person until all 3 versions were finally published....writing and illustrating books is a solo occupation if there ever was one. 

OK, that's it--though we could easily go on and on.  Here's hoping that if any kids examine a whole series of books on the same topic written and illustrated in such different ways, they can come up with some unique new versions of their own....and have some fun at the same time. 

0 Comments on VERY SAME TOPICS, VERY DIFFERENT BOOKS Rosalyn Schanzer as of 3/25/2014 1:49:00 AM
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22. Me & Mr. Bell: A Novel, by Philip Roy | Book Review

This book will appeal to middle grade readers who like stories about inventions, airplanes, famous people, overcoming difficulties, and life in earlier times.

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23. Benjamin Franklin: Review Haiku

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Founding
Father, but Franklin was really
a scientist.

Benjamin Franklin (Giants of Science series) by Kathleen Krull. Viking, 2013, 121 pages.

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GALAPAGOS GEORGE is the story of the famous Lonesome George, a giant tortoise who was the last of his species, lived to be one hundred years old, and became known as the rarest creature in the world. This incredible evolution story by renowned naturalist and Newbery Medal winner Jean Craighead George gives readers a glimpse of the amazing creatures inhabiting the ever-fascinating Galápagos Islands, complete with back matter that features key terms, a timeline, and further resources for research.

Galapagos George

Here are some Common Core objectives that GALAPAGOS GEORGE can help meet:

Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe. Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a book to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot. Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.

And you can use the following questions to help start a specific discussion about this book or a general discussion about informational texts and/or literature:

  1. How does a reader determine the genre of a particular book? What characteristics apply to GALAPAGOS GEORGE? RI.2.5, RL.2.3
  2. What elements of a book help the reader determine the main idea? What details support the main idea? RI.2.2, RL.2.2
  3. How do the illustrations contribute to the text (characters, setting, and plot)? RI.2.7, RL.2.7

GALAPAGOS GEORGE will be available next week!


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25. Science Poetry Pairings - Darwin and the Galapagos

If I could travel back in time and accompany someone on a journey, I would want to spend time on the HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin. Well, maybe not all those years sailing, but certainly the time in the Galapagos. I've always been fascinated by the geological history of the islands and with the flora and fauna found there. 

Today's book pairing is inspired by my love for all things Galapagos.

Poetry Book
An Old Shell: Poems of the Galapagos, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Tom Pohrt, is a collection of 34 poems in which Johnston pays tribute to the wonder that is the Galapagos. I'll begin at the end of the book and share an excerpt from the author's note.
After reading about them for a lifetime, in 1995 I visited the Galapagos. When you stand in this place, wild and vast and stark, looking out over the endless and shining skin of the sea, you hear the flutter and roar of Creation, feel the stir of your own beginnings upon the delicate chain of life. Here, you are at the core of the mystery and poetry of Nature.

These islands symbolize the peril that the entire earth faces. We can take it apart, sea turtle by sea turtle, shell by shell, but we cannot put it back together.

Meanwhile, as we struggle with our humanity, the sun bakes their old backs, the wind caresses the salt grass, the waves wash the Galapagos.
The book opens with a two-page map of the islands. The poem topics include the sea, the islands, animals, plants, and more. Here is one of my favorites.
Small White Flowers

At night the lava cactus blooms
In small white flowers. Its faint perfume
Floats upon the quiet dark
Along the lava still and stark
Where lone owl, old cold shadow, glides
While rice rat hugs the dark and hides.
When dawn comes up and darkness goes
Silently the petals close.
No one sees them in the gloom,
Small white flowers to please the moon.

Poem ©Tony Johnston. All rights reserved.
Most of the poems in this collection are written in free verse, though a few are written in haiku.

Nonfiction Picture Book
What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World, written and illustrated by Rosalyn Schanzer, is a colorful, oversized graphic novel that follows Darwin on his 5-year+ voyage aboard the HMS (Her Majesty's Ship) Beagle. Meliculously researched, the text features abridged quotes taken from Darwin's diaries, letters, books, and scientific papers. These quotes are written in a different font and cover the pages and thought bubbles of the book. There is SO MUCH information here, packed into the text and illustrations. There are a few pages of follow-up on his later life, with a final double-page spread with large map showing the Beagle’s route  and a final bit of text entitled Evolution on the March that highlights the impact of his life and work on us today. Also included are an index, extensive bibliography, and author's note.

Here are two Darwin quotes from the text.
p. 30.
"This archipelago seems to be a little world within itself; the greater number of its inhabitants, both vegetable and animal, being found nowhere else."

p. 31.
"I never dreamed that islands, about 50 or 60 miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of the same rocks, placed under a similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted."

You can learn more about how Schanzer created this book at the Ink Think Tank post The Evolution of a Book.

Perfect Together
I would use these books together to study observation and the processes of scientists. You can compare what Darwin saw and wrote about from a scientific point of view, to how Johnston wrote from poet's point of view. Both poets and scientists are known for looking closely and capturing the details, so there is much to be learned from both these perspectives.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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