Bursting With Poetry

April is a wonderful time for National Poetry Month. Flowers are blooming, the leaves are popping, insects are buzzing. Spring is a magical time of rebirth, which seems can only be fully and joyfully expressed in the form of poetry.

For example, the bright yellow brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) are blooming on the roadsides right now in Arizona.

brittlebush

brittlebush1

The bright yellow masses inspired this simple acrostic poem:

Brittlebush

Bright yellow flowers
Rattlesnakes slip into shade
Indigenous to Arizona
Tortoises munch
Tarantulas wander by
Lizards sunbathe quietly
Elegant bouquet

Bees slurp, then zip
Underneath is cool
Sun loving
Heat resistant

By Nathan and Roberta

brittlebush-bee

And this haiku:

bee sits on flower

buzz buzz bee sips sweet nectar

quick! next flower waits

Roberta Gibson

If you are in the mood to read some insect-inspired poetry, then Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman (illustrated by Eric Beddows), is an absoulutely wonderful older book to pull out and enjoy once again. It was the winner of 1989 Newbery Medal.Joyful-Noise

On page 3, the grasshopper poem is a perfect accompaniment to a good bout of spring fever.

Enjoy!

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (December 28, 2004)
ISBN-10: 0064460932
ISBN-13: 978-0064460934
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices

 

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Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Shelf-Employed.

Nest, Nook and Cranny Review

How do poets like Susan Blackaby do it? In her new book, Nest, Nook and Cranny (illustrated by Jamie Hogan) Blackaby manages to condense an obviously superb understanding of animal behavior and ecology into 22 beautifully-crafted poems, while still injecting humor and word play. What a delight!nest-nook-and-cranny

Teachers will absolutely love this book. Not only can you squeeze in science (the book is organized by habitats and the author includes a description of each in the back), but also language arts. Blackaby has added a behind-the-scenes look at each of her poems in her “Writing Poetry” section. No need to guess whether or not she intended the poem about the skink to be a cinquain, she tells you that it is, and explains the form. This section will be especially helpful to budding poets because they can go to the poems and see concrete examples of different types of poetry, from sonnets to triolet.

You might think that this revealing of craft could make the poems seem artificial or stiff, but they hang together wonderfully as a coherent package. And describing hanging bats as “fur bangles,” you just have to laugh.

The charcoal and pastel illustrations give the feel of a nature journal, with just the right touch of sophistication added by use of occasional silhouettes.

My favorite part of reading this book to my son was when we reached the poem about the duck on page 24, he spontaneously decided to read the quacks in counterpoint to my reading the text. It was a special moment.

If you love poetry and nature, this book is a sure winner.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 49 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing; New edition (February 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1580893503
ISBN-13: 978-1580893503

nonfictionmonday

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Miss Rumphius Effect.

Tarantulas Inside and Out

While looking for a book to review this morning, Uncover a Tarantula by David George Gordon popped out at me, and I remembered it fondly. A few years ago I was helping a fourth grader who was a reluctant reader with his report about tarantulas, and I brought in my copy of the book to help him find some cool facts. He opened the book and started exclaiming. Before I knew it, the whole class was gathered around, totally fascinated. He proudly showed them what he had discovered. It was a wonderful moment.

The Uncover series are definitely unique. They contain a plastic model of whatever organism is being studied right in the middle of the book. As the reader turns the pages, he or she delves deeper inside the tarantula (in this case), like viewing a dissection. Around the central model is an explanation of the inner organs that are displayed at that page, and also detailed information about the biology of tarantulas and spiders in general.

The text is good and I even learned a few things, like the practical joke itching powder once contained the urticating hairs (stinging hairs) of tarantulas, and how tarantulas walk with eight legs to keep under control. Although it must be a organizational nightmare to create these books, the work is worth it because the model creates a visual and physical experience like no other.

The first thing that an educator might say when seeing the plastic model is, “Will it hold up to probing fingers?” Although the plastic looks flimsy, it is also flexible and it will definitely hold up to standard classroom use. Library level wear and tear could be another matter. I do know of one copy that is used at a museum and it is still intact.

What I particularly like about the text is that it presents the scary aspects in a factual way instead of playing them up to generate sensationalism. Too many books these days go for the creepy, scary aspects of arthropods to generate interest, when in reality the arthropods are pretty fascinating without all the hype once you get to know more about them.

Although listed as for ages 9-12, this book could easily be used with older ages and even adults. Take a look inside this book and you will be amazed.

Uncover a Tarantula: Take a Three-Dimensional Look Inside a Tarantula!
by David George Gordon

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 16 pages
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books (September 29, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159223237X
ASIN: B00112AVMI

nonfictionmonday

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at All About Children’s Books.

Helping Children Grow

Grow: A Novel in Verse written by Juanita Havill and illustrated by Stanislawa Kodman is a delightful book that pushes the boundaries of middle reader fiction. First of all, Grow is written in appealing verse, which leaves much of the page open for whimsical illustrations and gives it a lighter, more delicate feel. Secondly, it is filled with strong, and realistic adult characters, which are often left out of children’s and young adult’s fiction.

Kate, a twelve-year-old girl, is the main character. She helps her neighbor, a large woman named Berneetha, to start a garden in an abandoned lot. At first all the neighbors seem skeptical, but soon they are drawn in by the lure of growing plants and Berneetha’s welcoming spirit. Along with the plants, a sense of community develops as well.

That is not to say this is a light-hearted story, it does have depth. Early on a vehicle hits one of Berneetha’s cats, killing it. Later the garden is threatened when the lot changes ownership. Harlan, a boy that has been working on the garden, is accused of stealing a truck. And underlying is a message about female body image and weight, as Kate struggles with both.

Grow is a book you want to share and discuss. It would be perfect for a literature circle or book club, because it doesn’t take long to read and yet it offers a wealth of material to think and talk about. Reluctant readers would find it appealing because the action is fast paced. Think about how fun it would be to start a garden, or grow some plants, as a supplementary activity. At the very least, this book should be accompanied with a bouquet of fresh flowers and a tray of garden vegetables for a snack.

Juanita Havill, a gardener herself, knows the therapeutic value of mucking around in the soil. Spend some time with this great little book and you will too.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (April 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1561454419
ISBN-13: 978-1561454419

Edit: Book Review Blog Carnival #24 is now up at Inkweaver Review.