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!
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)