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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: National Poetry Month, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 376
1. App of the Week: Lark


Title: Lark

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

Many youth services specialists will be familiar with Lark's parent site, Storybird, which enables dazzling yet simple drag-and-drop digital storytelling. Like Fridegpoems by Color Monkey, Lark, Storybird's Poetry app, is a digital incarnation of a refrigerator magnet poetry set, inspiring creativity within a finite vocabulary set as you move and reorder the words it generates over an image.


A lightning bolt icon launches a new project. You can browse art in a gallery, search by keyword or choose a random different background or word bank by swiping left. Many of the images, alternatingly fantastical and almost unbearably poignant, look as if they were cribbed from vintage picture books. You can also use a color picker to change the colors of the words on screen for optimal artistic impact. The overall effect is quite attractive and quickly achieved.


You can post your creations to the shared database, save it to your picture roll, and Lark has the usual social sharing components built in, too.  If you're not feeling inspired, you can browse poems, follow those you find compelling, and "heart" or comment on poems you like. You can also block and unblock users, though the controlled vocabulary makes it pretty problem-free for school use, but registration through verified email is required.

Lark is designed for iOS 7 and is compatible with iPhone 4s and later. It isn't available for Android devices or optimized for iPad. Featuring it on public devices would make for an easy drop-in program for National Poetry Month, or working with a group to generate a poem with time constraints could prove a fun contest.

Have a suggestion for an app we should highlight? Let us know. And don't miss the hundreds of other great apps in our Archive.

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2. The Art of Writing and Reading the Verse Novel

The verse novel is a condensed blend of poetry and story that flows from one word to the next. It shows the reader how to listen, how to see more sharply, how to emotionally connect. And somewhere in the journey we are changed.

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3. Post-Poetry Month Tidbits

What a Poetry Month we've celebrated! Now I hope to backtrack and read the many intriguing posts I've bookmarked for later enjoyment. In case you missed any of ours, here's a recap:

We each read one of our favorite poems aloud. (Of course, it was a difficult choice!) You can hear:

I had tons of fun writing Wednesday Writing Workouts about different poetry forms. I gave myself a weekly writing assignment and wrote a new poem (or several) to accompany each one:

For our Fifth Anniversary Blogiversary Book Bundle Giveaway, we gave bundles of 5 books each to 5 winners. We are thrilled with our readers and tickled to read all of your smart, funny, thoughtful comments. Thank you for inspiring us!

If you haven't yet, you can still enter for a chance to win a copy of Jill's Angry Birds Playground: Rain Forest.

And now it's May, which so far looks a lot like April . . .

. . . except in my neighbor's yard!

May is Get Caught Reading month!

Be sure to check out the We Need Diverse Books Campaign. Use the hashtag ‪#‎WeNeedDiverseBooks on Twitter and/or find it on Facebook.

Katya hosts today's Poetry Friday Roundup at Write. Sketch. Repeat. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken

0 Comments on Post-Poetry Month Tidbits as of 5/2/2014 10:59:00 AM
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4. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: May 2

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Please note that I am not sharing my many #WeNeedDiverseBooks retweets, because there are quite a few of them, and they are links to photos, rather than links to articles and blog posts. Instead, I refer you to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag, where you can find tons of interesting stuff. I do have many other diversity-themed links here. 

Book Lists

What’s Old is New: Recent YA Books with Allusions to Classic Lit | @sljournal Spotlight | http://ow.ly/wipb1

What Makes a Family?: Novels for Middle Grade Readers | JLG’s Booktalks to Go | @sljournal http://ow.ly/wijkW #kidlit

10 Books With Meaning, suggested by @Book_Nut http://ow.ly/wg5sG #kidlit #yalit

Very nice list: 10 Books for Teaching Kids About Responsibility from @PragmaticMom http://ow.ly/wgmUx #kidlit #parenting

Nice list of Rick Riordan Read Alikes from @alibrarymama http://ow.ly/wg3My #kidlit @CampHalfBlood

RT @PoesyGalore @JensBookPage @alibrarymama @camphalfblood Don't miss this list, too-they cover dif't titles & I learned lot frm both http://fatgirlreading.com/what-to-read-next-percy-jackson/ …


DiversebookslogoDiversity Social Media Campaign Goes Viral, reports @PublishersWkly http://ow.ly/woaA3 #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Have you heard about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign? 3 days starting May 1 | Details here: http://ow.ly/wg5gP via @CynLeitichSmith

3..2..1..Action, the steps to take to support the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, starting tomorrow! http://ow.ly/wlYzz

Tanita Davis "Diverse books remind us that our stories are varicolored, many shaped, multi-shaded http://ow.ly/wo9Lk @WeNeedDiverseBooks

Photo of Charlotte's son + focus on diversity in MG fantasy/science fiction from @charlotteslib #WeNeedDiverseBooks http://ow.ly/wojhV 

DiverseBooksPhoto.@thereadingzone | #WeNeedDiverseBooks in Class "The world is more diverse than panels... would lead us to believe" http://ow.ly/wo9jS 

(My #WeNeedDiverseBooksPhoto to the right, click to enlarge)

Thoughts @greenbeanblog on why #WeNeedDiverseBooks and what you can do as a librarian to support this http://ow.ly/wo8Wf

"All I want are books that reflect the world I live in" - Jennie @kidsilkhaze on #WeNeedDiverseBooks http://ow.ly/wlAlJ

Sprout's Bookshelf: #WeNeedDiverseBooks - For My Family and Yours http://ow.ly/wlzA1 @SproutsBkshelf

Melissa from @Book_Nut on why #WeNeedDiverseBooks and the #greatgreenchallenge at the bookstore where she works http://ow.ly/wo8up

Handsell-Off for Varian Johnson's upcoming novel: Here's what's going down, launched by @KateMessner via @haleshannon http://ow.ly/wg3UV

Update on The Great Greene Heist Challenge from Varian Johnson http://ow.ly/wlBIE #kidlit #diversity

Leila from @bkshelvesofdoom shares highlights from @sljournal : The Diversity Issue. http://ow.ly/wo8hz #WeNeedDiverseBooks

How Author G. Neri and Librarian Kimberly DeFusco Changed a Life | @sljournal via @medinger http://ow.ly/wgmNk #diversity

Should white people write about people of color? @malindalo via @FuseEight http://ow.ly/wg4T5 #diversity

#Diversity, Authenticity, and Literature | Pretti Chhibber @bookriot http://ow.ly/waRKA

eBooks and Screens

SFW-logo-with-2014-dateI like this idea | @lochwouters library to having "Less Screen Week" b/c true screen free is "practically impossible" http://ow.ly/wg6ef

What You Need to Know Before Letting Your Kids Read E-Books | @Time via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/wiYUs

Online skimming probably hasn’t affected serious reading after all | Valerie Strauss in @washingtonpost http://ow.ly/waTgI via @tashrow

Growing Bookworms

10 Steps to Raising a Lifelong Reader | @HarperChildrens via @tashrow (great references too) http://ow.ly/waSWq #GrowingBookworms

Raising readers: How to share a love of literature with your kids. Thoughts from Anna Quindlen @cnnhttp://ow.ly/wob2U

SRC Book swap event imagePress Release Fun: A Virtual Book Swap on #SummerReading@fuseeight + Lori Ess + @Scholastic http://ow.ly/wg6rf

What a fun idea! Story-inspired decor @365gcb | Using picture book jacket covers as art! http://ow.ly/wg4uY

Great stuff from @SproutsBkshelf | 7 Gifts of Read-Aloud, Or Why I'll Read (Almost) Any Book to My Kid http://ow.ly/waVDF #literacy

The 5 Rs of Boosting Your Toddler's Vocabulary | Anjali Joshi @HuffPost http://ow.ly/wbklx via @ReachOutAndRead

Teaching Kids How to Take Care of Books - @growingbbb http://ow.ly/w8451 #GrowingBookworms

National Poetry Month

NationalPoetryMonthBlackout Poetry and the New York Times | @medinger wraps up her #NationalPoetryMonth posts http://ow.ly/wlB29

Liz In Ink shares Haiku 30 for #NationalPoetryMonth http://ow.ly/wlzKf

GottaBook: Wrapping up 30 Poets/30 Days for #NationalPoetryMonth w/ Pat Mora and Walter Dean Myers http://ow.ly/wlBfG @gregpincus

Wrapping up #NationalPoetryMonth from @MaryLeeHahn Our Wonderful World 30: People http://ow.ly/wlB9u

#NationalPoetryMonth - Recap and Reflections from @missrumphius http://ow.ly/wo8GH

Wrapping up Science Poetry Pairings @missrumphius with All Things Science http://ow.ly/wlBlT #NationalPoetryMonth

Tanita Davis wraps up her poem a day series for #NationalPoetryMonth http://ow.ly/wlzld

Poetry Reading Challenge for Kids {Final Week} @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/w84aQ #NationalPoetryMonth

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Why I Am Mad at the New York Times Best Seller List by @StaceyLoscalzo on Frozen adaptation topping the list http://ow.ly/wlAOZ

On the joy of talking about books by #literacy specialist Lindsey Jones @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/waTPg

Programs and Research

Cheerios launches 11th year of putting kids' books in cereal boxes, now including chapter books http://ow.ly/waQqQ via @rosemondcates

El Paso Public Library, Parks and Recreation give 25,000 books given to area children - @bobmoorenews http://ow.ly/wijDg via @FirstBook

RIF_Primary_VerticalIf you send a Mother's Day ecard Macy's will donate $2 to @RIFWEB | Details: http://ow.ly/wg4lh

Schools and Libraries

Books to help teachers get ready for summer vacation (and recommend titles to kids) @frankisibberson @ChoiceLiteracy http://ow.ly/wfZb5

Getting rid of weekly prizes in #SummerReading program by @lochwouters #libraries http://ow.ly/wg4aG

Good advice for what to say when you don't know the answer from @mollyidle @NerdyBookClub on impact of great teachers http://ow.ly/wg5Qs

Girls Do Better Than Boys in School at All Ages and Subjects, Study Finds - @NBCNews http://ow.ly/wj72Q

7 Big Myths About #Libraries | Erinn Batykefer @HuffPostBooks via @somers_library http://ow.ly/wj5AK

Interesting post at the relaunched blog The Uncommon Corps: Thinking About Graphical #Literacy http://ow.ly/wg54m

"Standards of some form, and hopefully #CommonCore, should still be in place for schools" @ReadByExample http://ow.ly/w85vt

Supporting the #CommonCore State Standards: #Librarians at the Center by @MaryAnnScheuer http://ow.ly/waSJk

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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5. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: May 9

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Note that I published diversity and gender-related links in a separate post, because there were quite a few. 

Book Lists

2014 Mini Trend: #kidlit featuring Ninjas from @100scopenotes http://goo.gl/zsjgd6

A Tuesday Ten for Mother's Day: SFF #kidlit w/ mom as a main character from Views From the Tesseract http://goo.gl/h3BOsC

Great Kid Books: Common Core In Real Life: Baseball Edition by @MaryAnnScheuer http://ow.ly/wvKt7

#CommonCore IRL: Baseball books for middle grade fans (ages 8-10) @MaryAnnScheuer http://goo.gl/EhhARg

Let's Celebrate Mother's Day with Kids (and books) @BookChook http://ow.ly/wt4h8

An eclectic 4th Grade Summer Reading List from @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/wvKAj #kidlit

Every Dog Has Its Day: Dog Adoption Stories from the SSHEL blog http://ow.ly/wo9Q9 #booklist

Diversity + Gender

Those links published separately.

Events + Announcements

#Nonfiction in Picture Books: A Panel Discussion, report in @PublishersWkly http://ow.ly/wDQGw

Where The Wild Things Really Are, @PublishersWkly report on recent panel on Sex and Violence in Children's Literature http://ow.ly/wyJFj

Seems like a no-brainer: Eoin Colfer Named children's literature Laureate in Ireland http://ow.ly/wDQKd3rd #kidlit @PublishersWkly

The 2013 Agatha Awards have been announced. Kudos to @CGrabenstein for Mr. Lemoncello's Library http://ow.ly/wASon via @bkshelvesofdoom

The Edgar Award winners have been announced: http://ow.ly/wqoE6 via @bkshelvesofdoom #kidlit #mystery

Poetry Friday: Wrapping Up #NationalPoetryMonth by @JoneMac53 at Check It Out http://ow.ly/wqsdX

GottaBook: 30 Poets/2 Years/1 Day, @gregpincus wraps up this year's #NationalPoetryMonth posts http://ow.ly/wqrFs

Growing Bookworms

Raising Readers: Using a Whiteboard @SunlitPages - this post made me want a huge whiteboard http://ow.ly/wyM5n

Nice! Top Ten Lessons My 4th Graders and I Have Learned from Chapter Books this Year by Suzanne Buhner @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/wt553

On creating a "Take a Book – Leave a Book" program, so that kids could have books at home by @MrsSKK @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/wqrsK


Love to see the mention of #kidlit bloggers in acknowledgements of I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora @Semicolon http://ow.ly/wvKkn

48hbc_newBig news! @MotherReader has announced the Ninth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge | June 6-8 http://ow.ly/wyLdQ #kidlit #48hbc

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

I can relate: "Simply put, I needed to read in order to feel balanced" by @librarytif @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/wvJD8

"They’re not just books—they’re a part of who we are and how we got that way" #kidlit @pshares http://ow.ly/wyJPZ via @PWKidsBookshelf

Why the Smart Reading Device of the Future May Be … Paper | @wired via @tashrow http://ow.ly/wqpqj #ebooks


Thoughts on “How Parents are Ruining Youth Sports” from @StaceyLoscalzo | Well worth reading, if no great answers http://goo.gl/irdG7K

Can Lego Help Return Play to Children’s Lives and Education? | Peter Gray at Freedom to Learn blog http://goo.gl/uEV1TU

Screens & Screen Time: a Precarious Balance (Soapbox Series #10), a parent's struggle | @ReadingTub http://ow.ly/wvKd0

Schools and Libraries

School Librarian Unravels Mystery of Robert McCloskey Art Work Found in Westchester Elementary School | @sljournal http://ow.ly/woaTk

Libraries Working To Bridge The Cultural Divide | Starr LaTronica @HuffPostBooks http://ow.ly/woaN9 via @PWKidsBookshelf

New York Public Library Scraps Controversial Redesign Plans @WSJ http://ow.ly/wDtst @NYPL

Federal Test Shows U.S. 12th Graders Aren't Improving in Reading or Math, ethnic + gender gaps remain @WSJ http://ow.ly/wDtkH

How Can Principals Support Effective #Literacy Instruction? http://goo.gl/Jef0KK @readbyexample

News: @PhilipPullman leads authors condemning inadequate prison libraries | @GuardianBooks http://ow.ly/wyK7R via @PWKidsBookshelf

Elite Colleges Don't Buy Happiness for Graduates (but mentors help), reports @WSJ http://ow.ly/wyJvz

"Learning should be joyous. Teaching too. Joy and tests are not two words I see together." @medinger on testing http://ow.ly/wqqVL

SpeakWell, ReadWell: Explore the Core (#CommonCore State Standards) by @jwstickel http://ow.ly/wqp35

Summer Reading

SummerReading-LOGO#SummerReading After Dark | 10 tips from @Scholastic for making the most of bedtime reading this summer http://ow.ly/wDxaf

This sounds fabulous | The No Stress #SummerReading Picture Book Challenge from @greenbeanblog http://ow.ly/wyLud

Press release: Avoid the Summer Slump - Get Kids Excited about Reading with @bookopolis http://ow.ly/wB2ck #SummerReading

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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6. National Poetry Month Poster Unveiled

The Academy of American Poets has unveiled the official poster design for National Poetry Month, which takes place in April.
National Book Award finalist Roz Chast designed this year’s poster. The poster includes a line of poetry by the poet Mark Strand, who died last year. “Ink runs from the corner of my mouth,” reads the poster. “There is no happiness like mine. I have been eating poetry.” The poster will be handed out to more than 120,000 people in schools, libraries and bookstores during National Poetry Month. We’ve got the whole poster for you to view after the jump.

To get students excited about poetry this year, The Academy of American Poets has created the Dear Poet project. The project encourages students to write letters in response to poems written by award winning poets.

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7. Science Poetry Pairings - Water (Again!)

When I began writing these posts I was surprised at just how many poetry books I have on the subject of water. And since I have a number of nonfiction picture books as well, one post just wasn't sufficient to share my favorites with you. That means I'm back today with a second installment on dihydrogen monoxide (H2O).

Today's book pairing is about water, the amazing liquid of life.

Poetry Book
How to Cross a Pond: Poems About Water, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Meilo So, is one of three in a series of nature books. The trim size is small, but don't let that fool you. These little gems are filled with Meilo So's gorgeous India ink drawings on rice paper (all shades of blue in this work) and Singer's fabulous poems that in turn will make you laugh then nod and smile in agreement. Here is one of my favorites.
Fair-Weather Friend
I'm a fair-weather friend to the rain.
A week of it in April and I complain.
No talk of tulips or daisies
          will cancel my crazies.
I've no use for that showers-and-flowers refrain.

But soon, day after midsummer day,
When the sky never seems to turn gray,
I'm so tired of the haze
          and the sun's steady blaze,
I wish the rain would remember to come down
          and play!
Poem ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.

Singer has deftly captured the nature of water in this collection, with 19 poems that cover water in a range of forms and places.

Nonfiction Picture Book
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth, written by Rochelle Strauss and illustrated by Rosemary Woods, tells the story of our planet's most precious resource and provides an instructive and often-times inspiring look at water. Inspiring? Absolutely. Strauss reminds us that the amount of water on Earth hasn't ever changed. Since this water has been around for billions of year, it is entirely possible that the water you drink may have "quenched the thirst of a dinosaur" more than one hundred million years ago. The double page spreads provide both informational paragraphs and short, factual boxed insets, beginning with the distribution of water on earth, the water cycle, water's essential role in life on Earth and watery habitats. From here, the author looks at how people use, need and access water. The book concludes by looking at demands on the well, pollution, and saving our water.

Here's how the book begins:
Imagine for a moment that all the water on Earth came from just one well.
This isn't as strange as it sounds. All water on Earth is connected, so there really is just one source of water--one global well--from which we all draw water.
There is much in this book that kids will connect with. The author has done a superb job using simplified ratios to help make concepts understandable. For example, in describing how much freshwater is available to meet our needs, she writes:
Most of the water on Earth is saltwater--almost 97 percent. Only 3 percent is freshwater. If a tanker truck filled with water represented all the water on Earth, then the water used to fill a large bathtub would represent all of the planet's freshwater.
Text ©Rochelle Strauss. All rights reserved.

This is precisely the kind of comparison kids need to put descriptions of such vast quantities in perspective. The author goes on to discuss how over 99 percent of this freshwater is frozen in icecaps and glaciers or otherwise unavailable, and provides an even more startling measurement to represent the freshwater we can actually access for our use.

As the book draws to a close, it might be easy to get discouraged upon realizing the fragility of the resource we depend upon for our very lives. However, the approach of the author is not heavy-handed. A final section on becoming "Well Aware" provides readers with concrete suggestions for ways that they can make a difference. The book concludes with notes to the adults (parents, guardians and teachers) who will read this book with children.

Perfect Together
Both sets of books can be used to introduce students to our most precious resource. They will not only teach readers about the importance of water, but can help move them to action in an effort to conserve it.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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8. Science Poetry Pairings - Assorted Science in Poem and Verse

When I was teaching kids on a daily basis, I began my lessons with a cartoon, a poem, or short excerpt from a book. It was a great way to "hook" kids into the ideas that would be presented while getting them interested in learning more. Cartoons from The Far Side were a staple, as were Calvin and Hobbes (there's a lot of bad science in those puppies!). I had a huge classroom library, so books weren't a problem. When we studied insects I read excerpts from James and the Giant Peach and told students their job was to determine if certain statements were true. When we studied electricity I read an excerpt from Dear Mr. Henshaw where Leigh builds an alarm system (circuit!) into his lunch box. Poetry, however, was a bit harder to come by. Sure, there was a great deal of nature poetry by some classic poets, but poetry that touched kids seemed hard to find. 

If you've been following my posts this month, you'll note that finding good science poetry is, thankfully, not so hard these days! This is definitely something to celebrate.

Today's "perfectly paired" is about books of science poems that are wide-ranging in topic, and some comprehensive books for the classroom that complement them.

Poetry Books
Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Virginia Halstead, is an anthology of 15 poems that includes work by Valerie Worth, Lilian Moore, Carl Sandburg and others. Here's one of my favorite poems.

by Florence Parry Heide

Big rocks into pebbles,
pebbles into sand,
I really hold a million million rocks here in my hand.

Poem ©Florence Parry Heide. All rights reserved.

Covering topics such as rocks, snowflakes, and stars, this collection invites readers to think about science and the work that scientists do.

Scien-Trickery: Riddles in Science, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz, is a book of 18 riddle poems on a range of science topics. Here's an example.
The Old Switcheroo 
My father's the arc,
My mother's the sparck.
Without them you would
Be left in the dark.
Do you know the answer? Readers turn the page upside down to find it. The illustrations that accompany each riddle give visual clues if readers can't make sense of the poems.

Here's one more for you to puzzle over.
I am expressible
Only by decibel:
10 is a whisper
30 is cripser,
60, in relation,
Is normal conversation.
80 is traffic and telephones.
120? The Rolling Stones.
130 is a cannon shot!
150 is ... what?!
Poems ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.

Back matter includes notes on the poems that explain a bit about the science of each subject.

Together there are some wonderful topic pairs that can be made using SPECTACULAR SCIENCE AND SCIEN-TRICKERY, including the poem Magnet by Valerie Worth with the poem Push Me, Pull Me by J. Patrick Lewis, as well as the poem Under the Microscope by Lee Bennett Hopkins with the poem Buggety Buggety Boo! by J. Patrick Lewis.

Science Verse, written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith, is a collection of science poems that parody poems by Joyce Kilmer, Lewis Carroll, Ann Taylor, Robert Frost and others, as well as nursery rhymes and childhood songs. It begins:
On Wednesday in science class, Mr. Newton says,
"You know, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the poetry of science in everything."
I listen closely. On Thursday, I start hearing the poetry. In fact, I start hearing everything as a science poem.
Mr. Newton has zapped me with a curse of SCIENCE VERSE.
I love this book because it makes reading (and singing) about science FUN and uses poetry to do it! Could there be a better way to learn about the food chain, water cycle, and more?! Here's an example
Food Chain
(Sung to the tune of I've Been Working on the Railroad)
I've been working in the food chain,
All the livelong day.
In the middle of the food chain,
I've got no time to play.
Can't you see the green plants growing?
That's energy, okay?
Consumer eats up the producer,
Predator eats prey.
Who's for lunch today?
Who's for lunch today?
Don't you just wonder, who's for lunch today?
Predator or prey.
Predator or prey.
Eat or be eaten, that's the only way.
The book ends with our young hero waking from a dream, cured of his Science Verse. While I can't imagine any student sleeping through science class, this is one book that will surely keep a sleepy student's attention!

Nonfiction Picture Books
Smart-Opedia Junior: The Amazing Book About Everything, written by the Editors of Maple Tree Press, is the perfect book for kids who love to ask questions. The following seven chapters are divided into more than 90 topical pages:
  • Our Bodies
  • A House to Live In
  • In the City
  • History
  • A World of Plants and Animals
  • A Big, Wide World
  • The Universe
The book opens with an introduction that describes the features of the book. Beyond the information presented on each topic, readers will find these five fun additions (as described in the book).
  • Figure It Out! - Have fun with puzzles and games. Spot hidden animals, read Egyptian Hieroglyphics, make movie sound effects.
  • What About You? - You are a very special person. What are your favorite colors? What's your birthday? What was the first word you said?
  • Did You Know? - Eye-opening facts about animals, plants, people, and places add more information -- to make you even smarter.
  • Number Time! - Discover the size of a lion, how many blocks in a pyramid, and the speed of your sneeze!
  • Kids' Question - Why does the Moon change shape? How do fish breathe underwater? Why are leaves green? Find answer to real questions like these, asked by kids just like you.
Here is a sample spread showing the What About You? feature. (Click to enlarge.)
The book covers a lot of ground in 192 pages. It includes an extensive table of contents and index. It starts small with an introduction to the child's world, and then branches out to include the community and larger world. The section on Our Bodies provides a nice introduction to many of the questions kids ask about human growth and development, as well as parts of the body and illness. The section on A House to Live In can be a bit hard to follow, with some of the individual pieces seemingly unconnected. It begins by looking at the physical structure of the place ("How Do We Get Electricity, Water and Gas?" and "Who Built the House?") and then goes on to look at "One Day at Home" (lots of chronology and time-telling) and "What to Wear?", which looks at clothing and seasons. Next comes nutrition with "A Good Breakfast for Holly", and "Linked In Living Room", which looks at all the ways we use technology to keep us connected. It ends "In the Bathroom".

The next section, In the City, looks at the community and all it offers. The section on History is only 20 pages long, so the areas highlighted need to reflect the interests of readers this age. Need I say more than inventions, dinosaurs and pirates? The choices all make sense for the target audience. A World of Plants and Animals includes information about farming, domestic and wild animals, plants, habitats and life cycles. A Big, Wide World focuses on continents and the biomes found in them, as well as the people who live there. The final section, The Universe, examines space exploration, the solar system (correctly ending with Neptune and describing the dwarf planets of Pluto, Ceres, and Eris), and living in space.

The colorful cartoon drawings and simple sentences make this an appealing book for young readers. There is much here that curious kids will love.

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, written by Bill Bryson and illustrated by Yuliya Somina and Martin Sanders, is an abridged and adapted version for kids of his bestseller, A Short History of Nearly Everything. Here's an excerpt from the Foreword.
I learned two particular things from doing this book. The first is that there isn't anything in existence—not a thing that—isn't amazing and interesting when you looking into it. Whether you are talking about how the universe began from nothing, or how each one of us is made up of trillions of mindless atoms that somehow work together in agreeably coordinated fashion, or why the oceans are salty, or what happens when stars explore, or anything at all—it is all amazingly interesting. It really is. 
After the Foreword readers will find these (loosely constructed) chapters. (There are no definitive stops between sections that mark them as such in the text, only how they are organized in the Table of Contents).
  • Lost in the Cosmos
  • The Size of the Earth
  • A New Age Dawns
  • Dangerous Planet
  • Life Itself
  • The Road to Us
While the chapters vary in length, each topic in a chapter receives a double-page spread that combines lively text with illustrations and (sometimes) photos. Together, all these things combine to create a vastly understandable and engaging treatment of a range of science topics. The scientists who made many of the discovers that have helped build our understanding of phenomena today are included, helping readers to understand that science is a human endeavor.

Here's an excerpt.
Finding Earth's age 
By the late 1700s, scientists knew very precisely the shape and dimensions of the Earth, its distance from the Sun and planets, and its weight. So you might think that working out its age would be relatively straightforward. But no! Human beings would split the atom and invent television, nylon and instant coffee before they would figure out the age of their own planet. 
After this introduction are subsections entitled Mountain-climbing shells, Neptune versus Pluto, A heaving Earth, and A new science. The side bar on the right side of the double-page spread contains this tidbit.
Geology - the study of rocks, soil, and all the materials that make up our planet, how they formed and changed—all this would transform our entire understanding of the Earth.
The final chapter, The Road to Us, ends with the sections Humans take over, What now?, and Goodbye. Here is an excerpt.
I mention all this to make the point that if you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep of record of where it has been, you wouldn't choose human beings for the job.
The best there is
However, we have been chosen—by fate or providence, or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is. We may be all there is. It's an unnerving thought that we may be the living universe's supreme achievement and its worst nightmare at one and the same time.
The fact is, we don't have any real idea how our present actions will affect the future. What we do know is that we have just one planet to inhabit, and we are the only species on it capable of deciding its future.
Bryson doesn't shy away from controversy in this book. He tackles the topics of age of the Earth and the theory of evolution and addresses them directly without any waffling. If you teach in Kansas, Texas, or a state in the midwest in which these ideas are controversial, this may not be the book for your classroom. However, if you're willing to share just pieces, you won't be disappointed. Bryson's gift for storytelling and making difficult science understandable will most certainly spark the interests of your students.

Additional Resources
I'll wrap today's post up with links to a few (not all!) of my favorite science sites. (Please note that as much as I like BrainPop, it's not free. You'll only find free resources listed below.)
  • Ology is the science web site for kids sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History. Kids can explore all areas of science here, including astronomy, dinosaurs, genetics marine biology, and more. 
  • TryScience is a site with resources for kids, parents, and educators that encourages active engagement with science concepts and ideas. Connected to more than 400 science centers worldwide, TryScience invites kids to investigate, discover, and try science themselves.
  • The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception located in San Francisco, California. The Explore, Play, Discover section has all kinds of great science-related topics to investigate.
  • Chem4Kids is a terrific introduction to chemistry, providing information on matter, atoms, elements, the periodic table, reactions, and biochemistry. (This is the Andrew Rader site that started it all. Since then sites have been added for Cosmos4Kids (astronomy), Geography4Kids (earth science), Biology4Kids, and Physics4Kids.)
  • The Lawrence Hall of Science kids site contains a wealth of activities on a range of science topics.
  • The Why Files is a site that explores the science behind the news. While probably not appropriate for use in most elementary classrooms, curious teachers will find all kinds of answers to their questions here.
Tomorrow I wrap up this National Poetry Month celebration with the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science and thoughts on authors you must have in your collection.

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9. Tom Hiddleston Reads ‘Sonnet 18′ by William Shakespeare

As we prepare to bid farewell to National Poetry Month, we’ve uncovered a video featuring The Avengers actor Tom Hiddleston reading William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18.”

Hiddleston delivered this performance for “The Love Book” app. It features a collection of poems, short stories, quotes and letters. What’s your favorite love poem?

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10. Science Poetry Pairings - All Things Science

Alas, it is the 30th of April and National Poetry Month is coming to a close. I've enjoyed pulling books from my shelves and sharing them with you. Originally my intent was to tackle a subject area each week, but when I realized that I had more science than I knew what to do with, I decided to stick with a theme that is near and dear to my heart.

Today I'm going to share the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science and some final ideas about authors and books every teacher should have in his/her classroom, or should at least know about. If you haven't made friends with your school or local children's librarian, please do! Librarians are invaluable resources in helping you find good books for instruction.

Poetry Book
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, is a collection of 218 poems by 78 different poets. In the acknowledgements (p. 303) the authors have this to say about science and poetry.
... For generations, poets have been observing nature, exploring the physical world, and asking questions about the universe. 
It shouldn't be surprising that poetry has a lot to offer the sciences. In fact, astrophysicist Adam Frank revealed, "Poems and poetry are, for me, a deep form of knowing, just like science . . . each, in its way, is a way to understand the world." Poets and scientists both seek to observe, explain, and understand the world around them.
You'll find 36 weeks of poems for every grade from K-5. That's means there are 216 grade level poems, bookended by opening and closing poems for everyone. Every grade level poem is accompanied by a Take 5! box containing teaching tips and ideas. Here's an example.
Imagine Small
by Eileen Spinelli
Imagine something very small:
a rubber duck, a pin-pong ball.
Imagine something smaller yet:
a pebble or a violet.
Go smaller now: a silver bead,
a baby's tooth, a pumpkin seed.
Keep going—
freckle, flea, or gnat,
a speck of dander from the cate.
Imagine that.
And then imagine this—so cool!—
a teeny-tiny molecule.
So teeny-tiny you and I
can't see it with the naked eye.
To think of it gives me a chill.
But there is something smaller still:
the atom!
Billions fit in a fleck of foam
or on the dot at the end of this poem.
Poem ©Eileen Spinelli. All rights reserved.

The Take 5! box that accompanies this poem begins with this idea.
  1. Before sharing this poem, invite students to close their eyes and imagine the smallest thing they can think of. Then read this poem aloud, pausing before each stanza for added effect.
In addition to a wealth of poems and teaching tips, you'll also find information on reading poetry aloud, building your own poetry library, children's poetry websites and blogs, websites to support science learning, a science glossary, and much more. If you haven't used poetry in teaching science before now, this is the book to get you started.

Authors and Series You Should Know
When I began teaching science in the laste 80s, my classroom library was filled with books by Patricia Lauber, Seymour Simon and Franklyn Branley. The Magic School Bus series had just been born, Eyewitness books were popping up all over, Vicki Cobb was writing fun and engaging hands-on activity books for kids, and the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series was regularly adding new titles. 

We are fortunate today that there are MANY terrific authors and illustrators/photographers of incredible nonfiction science books for kids. I've had the pleasure of sharing many with you over the course of this month. Here are the authors I recommend to my preservice teachers, and whose books I drag with me into the elementary classrooms that are kind enough to have me. 

I wish I had time to write some words about each of these talented folks, but instead I've linked to their web sites where possible. Not wanting to show any favoritism, I've listed them alphabetically.
And here are a few series that are not to be missed. 
If I've missed a terrific author or series, please let me know so I can them to the list.

I hope you've enjoyed exploring science and poetry with me this month. My goal is to post once a week about some other perfect pairing of poetry and nonfiction picture books. For now, however, I take my leave to grade exams and final projects as I wrap up my 20th year at the University. Thanks to everyone who's stopped by to visit this month. I've enjoyed having you.

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11. Christine Heppermann: ‘Read with inflection and emotion but not affectation.’

Christine HeppermannHappy National Poetry Month! All throughout April, we spoke with poets about working in this digital age. Recently, we spoke with writer Christine Heppermann.

Heppermann (pictured, via) worked as a columnist and reviewer for The Horn Book from 1996 until 2013. In addition to poetry, she also writes nonfiction and fiction for young readers. Check out the highlights from our interview below…


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12. Poetry on the TED Stage

ted logoAs we end our National Poetry Month celebration, we’ve collected three TED videos on poetry.

The list features poets who have given poetic performances on the TED stage. This trio includes Project V.O.I.C.E. founder Sarah Kay, award-winning poet Malcolm London, and author Suheir Hammad.

For more recommendations, visit the TED blog and check out a post entitled “3 thoroughly slamming spoken word performances.” Which poets do you nominate to perform at future conferences?


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13. Wednesday Writing Workout: Social Media Poems!

Throughout April (National Poetry Month), I'm posting poetry-themed Wednesday Writing Workouts. This week, I was in the mood for something short. I thumbed through my worn copy of The Book of Forms by Lewis Turco, but none of the 175+ forms jumped out at me. I wanted something new.

Then my son Jimmy sent me an article, "The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research," which defines (among other things) the ideal length of a tweet as 100 characters and the ideal length of a Facebook post as less than 40 characters. Naturally, I thought about writing poems short enough to be posted on social media.

I searched online to find out what already existed on the topic. In an article from 2011, Carol Ann Duffy, Britain's Poet Laureate, said poetry is "a way of saying more with less, just as texting is. We've got to realise that the Facebook generation is the future – and, oddly enough, poetry is the perfect form for them. It's a kind of time capsule – it allows feelings and ideas to travel big distances in a very condensed form."

To celebrate National Poetry Month, New York City hosted its fifth annual "#NYCPoetweet" Twitter poetry contest. So obviously, I didn't make up the idea of writing poems to post on social media sites, although I've posted a number myself. Haiku fit perfectly, as you can see in Laura's daily Riddle-Ku. Liz Garton Scanlon is posting a haiku on her blog every day this month. My cousin Maureen sent me an article about H. W. Brands (@hwbrands), an author, historian, and history professor who is tweeting "Haiku History: The American Saga Seventeen Syllables at a Time."

But a brief poem intended for social media doesn't need a specific form—it just has to be a short poem, maybe with a tangy metaphor, an alliterative pun, or a haiku-like twist. Writing short-short poems is practice in writing concisely. Here are a couple new ones of mine, both about this spring in Wisconsin:

Gray skies, more rain.
One goldfinch brightens 
the world.

Wet sidewalks = worm traps.
Stop wiggling—I'm trying to help!

I found social media-length poems on Twitter using these hashtags:
If you search (as I did), be aware that you will find poems of uneven quality, from brilliant to confusing to downright offensive. But do try writing some of your own just for fun—and then share them online!

Congratulations to our Fifth Blogiversary Book Bundle winners!
Rafflecopter lists our prize winners on the original post, so you can always check back there after a drawing ends to see who won. Five entries were chosen to receive five books each. Here are the winners:

New Teaching Author Book Giveaway!
Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a copy of Jill Esbaum's Angry Birds Playground: Rain Forest.

National Poetry Month
On my own blog, I'm posting more poetry writing tips and assorted poetry treats on Fridays through April. This week's post includes the final National Poetry Month giveaway of Write a Poem Step by Step. Be sure to stop by!

JoAnn Early Macken

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14. National Poetry Month - Recap and Reflections

It's hard to believe that National Poetry Month is over. Like others who bemoan the fact that we trot out certain subjects and peoples for monthly celebrations instead of making them part of the fabric of our lives and teaching throughout the year, I have mixed feelings about a month devoted to poetry. While I am appreciative that it exists and that it generally compels teachers and others to pay attention, I want more for poetry. More reading, more writing, more consideration beyond the 30 days in April. I hope that through my poetry pairings teachers will find poetry creeping into the classroom all year round.

Here's a recap of the month with links to the topics presented and a few reflections thrown in.
  1. Darwin and the Galapagos - I'm mortified that I failed to include Jason Chin's amazing book ISLAND: A STORY OF THE GALAPAGOS. I may just go back and add it so that the post becomes a book trio.
  2. Frogs and Toads
  3. Nature of Science
  4. Volcanoes
  5. Going Green
  6. Dinosaurs - In many states dinosaurs are not part of the elementary curriculum. I probably should have mentioned that in my post. However, in the last revision of our state standards, a standard was added to second grade that read "fossils provide information about living systems that were on Earth years ago." That works for me!
  7. Birds - I could have easily created two posts (or more!) featuring birds. Next time around I'll be sure to include the books BEAKS! by Sneed Collard III and FEATHERS: NOT JUST FOR FLYING by Melissa Stewart.
  8. Nocturnal Animals
  9. Food Chains
  10. The Ocean
  11. Animal Senses
  12. Animal Dads
  13. The Moon - This post included two books of poetry and one nonfiction title. This is another topic that could have garnered two posts. I wish I had done this so that I could have included a book about space exploration, like IF YOU DECIDE TO GO TO THE MOON by Faith McNulty, or ASTRONAUT HANDBOOK by Meghan McCarthy. I also failed to include Gail Gibbons and THE MOON BOOK
  14. Extinction
  15. Butterflies - I'm very happy with the nonfiction titles I chose for this one, but I was remiss in not including Nic Bishop's book BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS.
  16. Bugs - Do you have any idea how many poetry books there are about bugs? LOTS! This topic also could have encompassed two posts. My son was upset I didn't include his favorite, ULTIMATE BUGOPEDIA: THE MOST COMPLETE BUG REFERENCE EVER from National Geographic Kids.
  17. Seasons
  18. Animal Collectives
  19. Forests
  20. Rain
  21. African Animals
  22. Animal Homes
  23. The Human Body - Steve Jenkins already had a number of books in my pairings by the time I wrote this one, but I should have included his work BONES: SKELETONS AND HOW THEY WORK.
  24. Geography
  25. Camouflage
  26. Museums
  27. Water
  28. Water (Again!)
  29. Assorted Science In Poem and Verse
  30. All Things Science
I wish I had written posts on trees (not to be confused with forests!), deserts, inventions, and numbers. 

Despite that fact that I always feel like I can do better, reflecting on the month and recapping has taught me that there is much ground left to cover. I look forward to exploring it with you.

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15. Wednesday Writing Workout: Fibs!

Throughout April (National Poetry Month), I'm posting poetry-themed Wednesday Writing Workouts. Today's form is a Fib, a counted-syllable form with an increasing number of syllables per line, following the Fibonacci sequence. Each number in the series (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on) is formed by adding the two previous numbers. The Fibonacci sequence can “describe an amazing variety of phenomena, in mathematics and science, art and nature.”

Greg Pincus visited the Teaching Authors last year. He explained the origin of the Fib form on his blog. The New York Times article “Fibonacci Poems Multiply on the Web After Blog's Invitation” describes the form’s increasing popularity. According to the Poetry Foundation, “These short, straightforward poems are that rare thing capable of crafting a bridge between the often disparate souls of art and science.”

When I tried writing Fibs, I found that the lengthening lines seemed to suit a subject that unfolds gradually or a conclusion that slowly dawns on a narrator and/or reader.

In this poem, my early drafts stopped at seven lines. Then I realized I had more to say, so I reversed the pattern and counted back down.

Signs of Spring

my dog
through our neighborhood
in spring, when warning signs crop up
on lush green smooth-as-carpet lawns: Pesticides! Keep off!
How on our dear troubled planet did poison become
an acceptable lawn care tool?
Is grass truly green
if nothing
else can

Today is the last day to enter to win one of five Teaching Authors Blogiversary Book Bundles! Details are here.

On my own blog, I'm posting more poetry writing tips and assorted poetry treats on Fridays, including giveaways of Write a Poem Step by Step. Be sure to stop by!

JoAnn Early Macken

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16. Clint Smith Uses Spoken Word Poem ‘Memoir’ For Activism

What are your thoughts on immigration reform?

Clint Smith, a poet and a high school English teacher, decided to express his opinion in a poem. The video embedded above features Smith delivering a performance of “Memoir.”

In a Q&A with Food Politic, Smith talked about his inspiration for this piece: “‘Memoir’ wasn’t something I thought about until I had a student that said, ‘It doesn’t matter if I have a 4.0 and 2400 on my SATs. I don’t have a social security number so I can’t go to school.’ My poetry is me trying to reconcile my own life and opportunities I’ve had with opportunities my students aren’t given and how profoundly unfair that is.” What do you think? (via UpWorthy)

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17. Michael J. Rosen: ‘Read poets from other countries, in other languages, if possible.’

Michael J RosenHappy National Poetry Month! All throughout April, we will interview poets about working in this digital age. Recently, we spoke with writer Michael J. Rosen.

Throughout his writing career, Rosen (pictured, via) has authored more than a dozen books. Recently, he wrote two installments of a children’s book series that focuses on animal-themed haikus, The Cuckoo’s Haiku and The Hound Dog’s Haiku. Next Spring, Candlewick Press will release book three The Maine Coon’s Haiku. Check out the highlights from our interview below…


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18. Science/Social Studies Poetry Pairings - Geography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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19. April News

April has been a busy, crazy, fun, busy, poetical, busy, bunny business month--and it's not over yet.
So before it gets any crazier, I'll share what I've been reading, doing, writing...

Who says libraries are just for books? Not the Lorain, Ohio children's librarians! They are encouraging kids to explore their creative side in fashions with "Sew Lorain Kids." A long time ago I worked in a couple of libraries in the Cleveland area. I'm so glad to see that the librarians there are continuing to be innovative. There are so many great craft how-to books in libraries, but why not give kids a chance to actually put the lessons into practice. My hats off to all of you in Lorain!!!

 I've been working on a variety of writing projects--one of them is an easy reader narrative nonfiction book on stars. So I was delighted to see a new book by Kathleen T. Isaacs which highlights picture books dealing with nature: BUGS, BOGS, BATS, AND BOOKS. Young readers--as well as their parents--often need help in finding age-appropriate books on various nonfiction subjects. This title also including science activities relating to various topics in the book. Look for this book at the library or ask your librarian to help you find some delightful nonfiction books to share with your children.

Kuddos to another librarian--this time with the focus on poetry. Thinking totally outside of the norm, Cathy Jo Nelson, a South Carolina educator, blogs about "The Unexpected Perks of Poetry." She and a teacher collaborated on a poetry assignment--encouraging the students to create poems from words in book titles: spine poetry. Ms. Nelson elaborates in her blog about the many bonuses of this activity for both students and faculty. Poetry always seems to expand the world for us.

I'm writing the rough draft of chapter book with a poetic ghost in it. Although the story didn't start out with a lyrical ghost, she just appeared out of thin air--so to speak. And who am I to tell her that she doesn't belong in this story. I might be haunted for eternity...so I continue writing.

 Apparently April is also NATIONAL HUMOR MONTH. Although I was unaware of this, I have been reading some humorous picture books of late. A couple of favorites are CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown. Here is a video by the illustrator explaining how he envisioned the sneaky carrots. My two-year-old grandson loves this books. We've read it over and over again. I've even made him his own creepy carrots with real carrots and a black sharpie. Beware biting into that next crispy, orange carrot! There may be many more lurking in the shadows--just waiting to pounce!!!

The other fun picture I've been studying of late is WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore, illustrated by Howard McWilliam. The author uses the "what if" storyline to create an elaborate beach day fantasy complete with fire-breathing dragon. And the illustrator brings the creature to life with humor and charm, sure to entertain children of all ages. But of course, there is the dilemma--once a dragon moves in how do you get him to move out??? Rather like the moles in my backyard, I'm afraid. :)

So here's hoping April is poetically humorous--and beware of carrot-eating dragons, or something like that!

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20. Science Poetry Pairings - Camouflage

When I was young I often wished for clothing that resembled the woods around my home, largely because I wanted to win at hide and seek. I so wanted to be the last person found. Blending in with one's environment can come in handy, particularly when someone wants to make a meal of you. Camouflage is nature's way of hiding animals in plain sight. While those stripes may make a tiger stand out in his/her zoo home, they allow him/her to vanish in that stand of tall grass in the wild.

Whether it's zebra stripes, a body shaped like a stick, or fur that changes color with the seasons, today's book trio highlights the amazing adaptation of camouflage. 

Poetry Book
Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed ... and Revealed, written David Schwartz and Yael Schy with photographs by Dwight Kuhn, is a book filled with "eye-tricking photos, poems offering up clues, and information about the organism. The book begins with a brief introduction to camouflage and the book itself. Here is an excerpt.
Imagine that you are an animal in the wild trying to avoid a prowling predator. If it can't find you, it can't eat you.

Now imagine that you are the predator, silently hunting for prey. If you prey does not see you, you can catch it and eat it.
See if you can find the camouflaged animals photographed in their natural habitats. The poems will give you hints. When you think you have found a hidden animal--or if you give up!--open the flap to see "where in the wild" it really is. Then read on to find out more about these amazing animals and their vanishing acts.
What follows are examples of 10 clever uses of camouflage. On the left side of each spread is a poem describing the animal, and in some cases, its location. The outside of the gatefold on the right contains the picture that must be searched. Readers must be keen observes, as some of these animals are hard to find! In the corner of the gatefold is a small circle that says, "Lift to find me!" When the gatefold is opened, the image appears again, this time with everything grayed out except the animal in question. Often times, the appearance of the hidden animal is so startling that the reader must flip back to the original picture to search it out. In addition to the "answer" to photo puzzle, the inside of the gatefold also contains information on the animals subject.

The poems in the book come in a variety of forms, including haiku and concrete. Here is an example.

speckled treasures lie
     bare upon the pebbled bank
          fragile life within
The photograph that accompanies it shows a rocky landscape. Can you guess what is hidden in plain sight?

There is another book that follow on the heels of this one, written in the same form and extending the ideas presented here. It is Where Else in the Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed...and Revealed. Both of these are great books for looking at animals in plain sight.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing Ruth Heller here. She wrote a series of books that examined camouflage across the animal kingdom. Titles in this series include:
    All of Heller's books were written in verse. On the title page is this opening.
    you take
    a careful look,
    you'll see
    in this book
    and out
    of view—

    Here's an excerpt from HOW TO HIDE A CROCODILE.
    and the
    bear a similarity....
    It he's
    will depend
    how well their colors blend.
    Each page shows the animal in full view, and then again camouflaged in its habitat.

    Nonfiction Picture Book
    Hide and Seek: Nature's Best Vanishing Acts, written by Andrea Helman with photographs by Gavriel Jecan, is a book organized by habitat that highlights the features of the location and describes how a handful of animals in each use camouflage to survive. What's interesting about this book is that readers won't find the answers to what they're looking for until they get to the back of the book! In a section entitled The Back Story, readers see a thumbnail version of the photograph with the animals circled. They will also find a bit more information about each animal photographed.

    Readers will find savanna/grasslands, sea, desert, Arctic, forest and mountains. Here's an excerpt from the mountains section.
    Elliot's Chameleon 
    Motionless, the colorful and crafty chameleon stays still, disappearing into tree bark in the Rwanda mountains. Its bulging eyes rotate in different directions, searching the turf for tasty treats. Aha! It focuses both eyes to judge the distance and position of an insect. Zap! The sticky-tipped tongue shoots out at 20 feet per second. Success! Chameleons are nature's quick change artists, exchanging one color for another to protect themselves from predators and become invisible prey.
    Readers will spend a great deal of time examining the photos in this one, and will learn about a wide range of animals while doing so.

    Perfect Together
    All three of these books, and really any other title about camouflage, are about what you can see. I love that the poems in Schwartz and Yael's book offer up clues to the animals hidden in the photos. I might start with a book by Heller to give students an opportunity to see how animals move from visible to hidden. This might offer clues to finding animals in actual photographs. Once you've had a chance to look these over, ask students to categorize the types of camouflage animals use. Then give them a paper butterfly to decorate and hide in the classroom. See how well they can hide their butterflies in plain sight!

    For additional resources, consider these sites.
    • Let your kids try this camouflage game, where they get to choose an animal and a background. Then they try different fur colors, shadings, and patterns to see which ones work best in different habitats.
    • The camouflage field book lets kids learn about animals hidden in different environments.
    • Seeing Through Camouflage is a game that asks kids to identify the four different types of camouflage and identify animals belonging to each one.
    • Hide & Seek Sea is an illustration that contains 22 animals. Once students find them all, they can click on the animals to see pictures and learn more about them.
    • Nature Works has a great article on deceptive coloration.

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    21. California Dreamers, Book Givers, and Poets

    Melinda Palacio
    World Book Givers Emma Trelles and Melinda Palacio

    I arrived in California a week ago, amidst the buzz of poetry month in Santa Barbara. April is national poetry month in case you are wondering why your local barista is turning sonnets instead of steaming your cappuccino. The first poetry event I attended was a big ticket team of Billy Collins and Aimee Mann at UCSB's Campbell Hall. The combination of poet and rock star was superb. The two luminaries met at the White House and there was much banter and references to their having met at the President's request.

    I don't begrudge them their numerous White House references. I'm sure if I ever found myself reading poetry at Obama's request, I wouldn't let anyone forget my presidential invite. Thanks to my friend Diana, I had a seat in row D with no one in front of me. The parley of poetry and musical performance felt intimate, even though Campbell Hall at UCSB is a large theater. My favorite song that Aimee Mann performed was the last one, written by Harry Nilson, "One Is the Loneliest Number." The song was made famous by Three Dog Night. Aimee Mann's haunting rendition brought out the song's sadness.
    Sunday Poets: Susan Chiavelli, Katie Ingram, Sojourner K Rolle, Fran Davis, Steve Beisner, Melinda Palacio,
    Toni Lorien, Alison Bailey and Marcia Meier

    A few days later, I participated in the 10th annual SantaBarbara Sunday Poets read at the Book Den. The facebook invite looked pretty grim with six people going and five maybes. However, we ended up with a standing room only crowd that snaked to the door. Many of the numerous weekend book browsers stayed for our event. The Book Den is Santa Barbara's oldest bookstore, established in 1902, and Eric Kelley recently celebrated his 35th year as owner. Eric didn't have enough chairs for our poetry fans, but it was wonderful being surrounded by books and people while we read spring poems in honor of poetry month. I love it when poetry elicits such enthusiasm.
    SRO Crowd for Sunday Poets at the Book Den

    Last Wednesday, April 26, was World Book Night, where people around the globe give away books on Shakespeare's birthday. Poet Emma Trelles signed up to be a book giver and enlisted my help. When I arrived at the bookstore, they had an extra box of poetry books. We stopped people on the street and plied them with a free book of 100 Best-Loved Poems, edited by Phillip Smith, or a novel by Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper's Wife.
    World Book Takers and Giver

    Cyclist Ryan was happy to receive free books.

    This lady was on her way to the library to return a book.
    She couldn't believe we were giving her  free books.

    Emma is really good with talking to strangers, and talking in general. Her journalism skills are always on. Listen to her interview on the Writer's Cafe; she sort of takes over towards the end. 
    Emma listening to a lecture on Andre Breton, surrealism and guitars.

    When our first possible book receiver approached, I thought we would never complete our mission because Emma proceeded to listen to a lengthy discussion on Breton, surrealism, and one man's fantasy of a guitar using a keyboard. In addition to being a good talker, Emma is a good listener (the sign of a good poet). Listen to her poems on theWriters Cafe. Emma Trelles was the 2010 Andres Montoya Poetry Prize Winner. The 2014 winner is Fresno's David Campos for his collection, Pica.

    We sure had a lot of fun giving away books. Of the experience, Emma Trelles said:

    "My favorite part of WBN was seeing the delight in people's faces when we put books in their hands. It reminded me of the power of print and of literature. Standing outside in the sunshine and talking about reading was a pretty great way to spend an afternoon."

     Upcoming April Events

    April 30, UCSB Little Theatre, 4pm
    May 2, First Friday Phoenix, 6:30 pm at Obliq Gallery

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    22. DECONSTRUCTING A POEM...and Happy Last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month 2014!

    Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday!  
    Today's host is Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.
    Thank you, Tabatha!

    Our Carmela is out to make trouble.  I swear...she's a full-blown cyclone blowing through Poetry Month!

    (Actually, she's not.  I'm just playin' with you.  I've been on the look-out for metaphors all month on my website, and that was a metaphor, blowing by...the poem on my site today compares writing to a challenging walk...)

    Carmela has posted (and reads aloud) two versions of one of my poems, and she suggested I talk about the process of writing and revising it.

    So...here's the story behind HOW TO READ A POEM ALOUD:

    I was asked to help organize a poetry coffee house night for teens, and I wanted to teach them how to read aloud. Could I smush all the information into a poem, I wondered?  My teacher Myra Cohn Livingston always read poems aloud twice; I knew I wanted to include that in my instructions.

    I've found nine versions of this poem; there may be more.  But don't panic--I won't make you read every draft!  Here's the very first version:


    Take a sip of water.

    Read the title to your daughter. 


    Read the poet’s name.

    Read the poem.

    Read it once again

    Take your time.

    Say each word slowly

    Let each word shine.

    Take a breath and sigh.

    Then think of how the poet put her hand to pen 

    and why.
    and here are the next several versions mashed together so you can see the ideas I tried and discarded...


    [Sit down in a meadow with a friend.
    Tell the poet’s name and the title—
    Now begin.]

    [Stand up in your kitchen with your friend.
    Tell the poet’s name and the title—
    Now begin.]

    [Walk home from the bus stop with your friend.
    Tell the poet’s name and the title—
    Now begin.]

    [Take a sip of tea.
    Tell the poet’s name to your friend.]

    [Take a sip of tea.
    Read the poet’s name
    and say its title deliciously
    to me.]

    [To begin,
    say the title
    and the poet’s name
    with a small smile.]

    [To begin,
    announce the title of the poem
    and the poet’s name.
    Make sure to pronounce it clearly]

    [To begin,
    read the title of the poem
    and the poet’s name.
    Be clear.]

    Now—[your job is to] completely disappear

    Say [taste] its title

    Tell the poet’s name to me.

    [Tell the poet’s name to me.
    Taste her title deliciously.]


    [Be sure you’re heard
    so I can savour every word.]

       savour  [polish]


    Then—read it one more time.

    Next, take a breath
    and sigh.

    Then think about the poet 
    at her desk
    late at night
    picking up her pen to write—

    and why.
    *   *   *   *   *   
     And here some of my moods as I write
    and rewrite and write and rewrite (can you relate?):




    At some point on this journey, I read Marilyn Singer's prose,"How to Read a Poem Aloud"...and though it's a terrific list, it made my head spin, so I decided to stick with just the few points I'd been working with.

    *   *   *   *   *  

    And finally, here are the two versions Carmela posted (they've been floating around the internet, passing each other in the night, for years)...which do you like best?

                Version #1

                HOW TO READ A POEM ALOUD

                First, read the title of the poem
                and the poet’s name.

                Be clear.

                Now completely

                Let each line

                Then read it
                one more time.

                When the poem
                ends, sigh.

                Think about the poet at her desk,
                late at night, picking up her pen to write--

                and why.
    *   *   *   *   *
    Version #2 (as published in Sylvia Vardell's book, 


                To begin,
                tell the poet’s name 
                and the title 
                to your friend.

                Savor every word—

              read it one more time.

              Now, take a breath—
              and sigh.

              Then think about the poet,
              at her desk,
              late at night,
              picking up her pen to write—

              and why.
                                 © April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved. 

    Do I like one version better than the other?  Depends on what day you catch me.  That's the trick in creating something, isn't it: sometimes I know, I just know when it's finished: there's that satisfying click of the lasts puzzle piece...
    from morguefile.com

     But just as often, I just...get...(yawn) t i r e d...so...I stop.

    And that, dear campers, is the story behind HOW TO READ A POEM ALOUD!

    Now, go outside and play.

    posted with a glue gun by April Halprin Wayland.
    (p.s: I've just been interviewed by author
    and Seminar on Jewish Story organizer Barbara Krasner here.)

    from mykidcraft.com

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    23. Poetry Friday: “Broadway Moon Again” from A Full Moon is Rising

    marilyn singerMarilyn Singer is the author of more than eighty-five children’s books, including many poetry collections. Her works have won numerous honors, including the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor and the Orbis Pictus Honor. A Full Moon is Rising is a collection of poems that bring readers on a whirlwind tour of the world to discover an amazing collection of full moon celebrations, beliefs, customs, and facts. You can find out more about Marilyn Singer and her work on her website here.

    Since April is National Poetry Month, we asked author Marilyn Singer to tell us a little bit more about what inspired her to write A Full Moon is Rising:

    I’ve always been entranced by the moon—especially when it’s full.  In NYC, where I live, it can sometimes be hard to see because of the tall buildings.  But one night in Midtown Manhattan (and many times thereafter), I saw it peeking out between two skyscrapers.  I’m a big theatre-goer, and I had the image of that moon being an actor who’d been waiting to make a grand appearance.  That inspired “Broadway Moon” and “Broadway Moon Again,” the opening and closing poems of A Full Moon is Rising.

    broadway moon again poem

    “Broadway Moon Again”

    “Broadway Moon Again”

    New York City, USA

    On the sidewalk, the audience of one

    is now ten.

    “What you looking at, girl?” they ask.

    “Oh, the moon,” she says. “Just the moon.”

    But what a moon!

    Between the skyscrapers, it takes a bow.

    “Encore in one month!” it proclaims.

    “Admission is always free.”

    Further Reading:

    Poetry Friday: Andrea Cheng & Etched in Clay

    Marilyn Singer on how to read a poem out loud

    Filed under: guest blogger Tagged: A Full Moon is Rising, children's books, full moon, Marilyn Singer, National Poetry Month, New York City, poetry

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    24. Science/Social Studies Poetry Pairings - Museums

    I love museums. In some of my favorites I find myself rooted to a spot in front of an exhibit that fascinates me. I wonder about the history, the happenstance, the science, and more. If I close my eyes tightly I can imagine The Met, The Field Museumand the National Museum of Natural History. I'm inspired by Tyranosaurus bones, the Hope Diamond, a hippopotamus named William, a painting by Milton Avery, a British court dress from the 18th century, and so much more. There is much to inspire us inside a museum. What museum pieces inspire you? 
    Today's book pairing is about museums and how objects big and small find their way there.

    Poetry Book
    Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen, is a collection of 14 poems about museums and the objects found there. In it you'll find poems by Jane Yolen, Myra Cohn Livingston, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Kristine O'Connell George, Alice Schertle, J. Patrick Lewis, and more. The title of the book comes from this poem.
    Behind the Museum Door
    by Lee Bennett Hopkins 
    What's behind the museum door?

          Ancient necklaces,
          African art,
          Armor of knights,
          A peasant cart;

          Pioneer wagons,
          Vintage cars,
          A planetarium


                with stars;

          Priceless old coins,
          A king's golden throne,
          Mummies in linen


          A dinosaur bone.
    Poem ©Lee Bennett Hopkins. All rights reserved.

    Here's one of my favorite poems from the book.
    by Myra Cohn Livingston
    This mummy lies,
    Closed in death,
    Red-lidded eyes,
    While, underneath
    The swaddled clothes
    Brown arms, brown legs
    Lie tight enclosed.
    What miracle
    If he could tell
    Of other years
    He knew so well;
    What wonderment
    To speak to me
    The riddle of
    His history.
    Poem ©Myra Cohn Livingston. All rights reserved.

    This is a terrific little collection with poems on suits of armor, a dinosaur skeleton, wheels, clay, the woolly mammoth, trilobites, and much more. 

    Nonfiction Picture Book
    How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum, written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland, tells the tale of how a diplodocus skeleton makes its way from the plains of Utah to the Smithsonian Nation Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.. Before the bones are found by a dinosaur hunter, Hartland describes the formation of fossils in an informative double-page spread. Using a cumulative refrain, Hartland describes all the different people who come into contact with the skeleton as it makes its way to the museum. After the dinosaur hunter readers learn how a paleontologist, excavators, movers, preparators, a curator, paleontologists, night watchman, welders, riggers, exhibits team, and cleaners all play a part. Here's an excerpt from the text.
    Here are the museum's riggers,
    who use cranes, hoists, and bobcats
    to move, position,
    and post the 15-ton,
    skeleton of the diplodocus,
    which was ... 
    hung from the steel structure by the welders,
    stumbled over by the night watchman,
    put together by the preparators and paleontologists,
    made complete by the curator,
    assembled by the preparators,
    transported by the movers,
    excavated by the paleontologist,
    and found in the crumbling sandstone by the dinosaur hunter.
    Text ©Jessie Hartland. All rights reserved.

    Back matter includes information on dinosaurs, fossils, diplodocus, the provenance of the fossil described in the story, the man behind the discovery (Earl Douglass), the paleontologist (Charles W. Gilmore), and links to dinosaur dig web sites.

    Similar books by Hartland include How the Meteorite Got to the Museum and How the Sphinx Got to the Museum.

    Perfect Together
    What kid hasn't stood in front of a museum exhibit and wondered how it got there? Or how it was assembled, hung, or preserved? Begin by reading a few of the poems in BEHIND THE MUSEUM DOOR and ask students how they think mummies, trilobites, and dinosaur skeletons become part of a museum collection. Follow-up with one (or all three!) of Hartland's engaging, informative and accessible books.

    For additional resources, consider these sites.
    • Curating an Exhibit is an interactive resource where students pick artifacts to build a museum exhibit.
    • Learn more about Diplodocus longus and the Carnegie Quarry where many have been found.
    • You can learn all about the Peekskill Meterorite, the subject of Hartland's most recent book.
    • You can also learn about the Sphinx of Hatshepsut, the subject of Hartland's first book in this series.
    • Experts at the University of Cambridge answer the question "Why do we put things into museums?".
    • The Making Museums Project is a partnership between two museums and eleven UK schools in which children follow objects through their many museum processes, from archaeological dig, to documentation, conservation and research before returning to school to make museums in their own classrooms, exploring their identities. Check out the link to teacher resources.

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    25. Science Poetry Pairings - Water

    The first poem I remember writing was also my first published poem. Here is my contribution to the Times-Union's version of the Mini-Page, called Young World.

    Clouds turn black
    weather turns cool
    Clouds start to cry
    in the big swimming pool

    At a very young age I was quite enamored of the natural world and weather, so it seemed a natural topic to write about. Today I still read and write a great deal of poetry, much of it about the natural world.

    Today's book pairing is inspired by water in all its magnificent forms.

    Poetry Book
    Water Can Be... , written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Violeta Dabija, is a book length poem that begins with spring and cycles through the four seasons looking at the importance of water. It begins:
    Water is water—
    it's puddle, pond, sea.
    When springtime comes splashing,
    the water flows free.

    Water can be a. . .
    Tadpole hatcher
    Picture catcher
    Otter feeder
    Downhill speeder
    The text may be economical, but it doesn't miss a beat in highlighting the important functions and characteristics of water. For example, otter feeder relates to the fact the water in rivers sustains many of the life forms that otters eat. Back matter in the book does a terrific job of explaining the meaning of each water "nickname." Here's what it says about otter feeder.
    Otter feeder: A healthy river is full of fish. Lots of animals both in and out of the river rely on the river for their food. River otters love to eat fish. They'll also dine on turtles, frogs, salamanders, and crayfish.
    Poem and Text ©Laura Purdie Salas. All rights reserved.

    For any classroom undertaking the study of water, this is the book to begin with!

    Nonfiction Picture Book
    A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder, written and photographed by Walter Wick, is a stunning exploration of water in its many forms. Inspired by science books written for children more than 100 years ago, Wick was inspired to try the experiments listed and photograph them. The photographs show readers water in a way most have certainly not seen before. It opens with this excerpt from a book written in 1878.
    We are going to spend an hour today in following a drop of water on its travels. If I dip my finger in this basin of water and lift if up again, I bring with it a small glistening drop out of the water below and hold it before you. Tell me, have you any idea where this drop has been? What changes it has undergone, and what work it has been doing during all the long ages water has lain on the face of the earth?
    —Arabella B. Buckley, 1878
    Wick carries out a number of these experiments and in doing so captures water in stop-motion and highly magnified. The text that accompanies these photos is clearly written and not only informs but encourages exploration. Here's how it begins.
    Water's Smallest Parts 
    A drop of water falls through the air. Down it splashes, breaking apart into tiny droplets. What would you see if you could break water into even smaller bits? 
    No matter how closely you look, you can’t see water’s tiniest parts. Like every other substance in the world, water is made of very tiny particles called molecules. On the pin above, the smallest droplet contains more than three hundred trillion water molecules.
    Text ©Walter Wick. All rights reserved.

    Photos and text explore water's elastic surface, floating and sinking, soap bubbles and bubble shapes, moving molecules, ice, water vapor, condensation, evaporation, how clouds form, snowflakes, and much more. There is so much to learn here! Back matter includes ideas for readers to carry out their own observations and experiments.

    Perfect Together
    Both of these books can be used to introduce students to our most precious resource. Start with Salas' book to get kids thinking about all the ways water exists and is used in our world. then move on to Wick's book for the science behind the substance.

    For additional resources, consider these sites.

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