Friday, June 9, 2017

Exploring Science through Poetry

Two recent books allow kids the opportunity to explore science through poetry. They tickle the imagination and make you want to learn more.

themes: nature, imagination, poetry

Cricket in the Thicket
by Carol Murray; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
40 pages; ages 6-10
Henry Holt, 2017

Cricket in the thicket, cricket.
Cricket in the house, cricket.
Cricket in the bedroom, not as quiet as a mouse, cricket.

Playful, whimsical verse about a diversity of bugs, accompanied with the wonderfully bright, bold illustrations of Melissa Sweet. Can you ask for more?

What I like love about this book: It's about bugs! Butterflies, bumble bees, dragonflies, and even the least-loved members of the tribe: cockroaches, mosquitoes, ticks... yeah, even ticks. While the poems may be whimsical - they are also factual, and for each arthropod there is a text-box at the bottom of the page with a cool fact about the critter. For example: dragonflies are not true flies, daddy longlegs are not spiders, and roly-polies are related to shrimp.

I love the illustrations! This one, of inchworms and ladybugs is one of my favorites - probably because they feature common insects we can find in the garden. Or in your front yard, back yard, playground, neighborhood park. And there is Back Matter: notes on each featured creature, plus a table of contents.
Thunder Underground
by Jane Yolen; illus. by Josee Masse
32 pages; ages 5-10
WordSong, 2017

Thunder under- ground.
That's the sound beetles make
when walking 'round.

These poems explore the world beneath our feet - both natural and man-made. We explore ant cities, fox dens, beetle mazes, subways, fossils, and plate tectonics.

What I like love about this book: The way Jane Yolen incorporates unusual aspects of nature. Did you know that plants talk to each other? Corn roots do - they send secret messages we can't hear. But they can be picked up by recording devices. In her end notes, Yolen notes that other plants make noise, too. What juicy gossip are we missing out on? I like that she includes plate tectonics and lava, and a pirate ship that sails across a number of pages.

And there is Back Matter: the notes where she explains in more detail about the natural features and creatures in each poem. There's also a table of contents.

Beyond the Books:

Write a poem about a bug. Or a fossil, skull, rock, tree, plant, or animal that lives in your area. There are so many kinds of poems to try: haikucinquain, or an acrostic. One thing to keep in mind: the best poems grow out of close observation. So take a good look at whatever you're going to write about. Look at it up-close. Look at it from a distance. Notice whether it smells, or moves, or makes noise. Most of all, have fun.

Explore science through art. Paint or draw or tear paper and glue it into a collage - to create a picture of something in nature. Maybe a ladybug. Or a flower. Be bold and try something new.

Today is Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies from the publishers.


  1. What a great day when I'm introduced to two new-to-me books. And because I have a love for poetry, these books got moved to the top of my library list for today. Now, I'm going to take your advice and write poems about bugs with my daughter that we can illustrate with torn paper collages. Great ideas!!!

  2. I think poetry is a fabulous way to explore science, especially nature with young children. Thanks for giving us TWO great suggestions today, Sue!

  3. Your choices today have such exquisite word sounds for read aloud. Both Jane Yolen's poem and Carol Murray's words chirpy cricket refrain. Thanks!

  4. I love the poems, repetition and illustrations in Cricket in the Thicket. But, I love the aspects of nature Jane Yolen shares in Thunder Underground. I knew that trees develop a network of communications with their roots. Just never thought about corn and other plants communicating. And, why not? Great choices.

  5. What wonderful poetry books. I love Jane Yolen, to the point I get a poem delivered each day from her. Covers are terrific on both books. Though I am by no means a bug person, (Don't care if daddy longlegs is not a spider--what is it?--I don't want them on my screen door), kids will love it, the younger ones the most.

  6. Ooooooohhhh. I can't wait to check out these books. I love that they are about bugs. I am not good at poetry. I so admire poets and enjoy reading science/nature poems. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I love all of Melissa Sweet's books. This one looks precious. On mu list. Great activity ideas, too. Thanks, Sue.

  8. I just LOVE Cricket in a Thicket but haven't seen Thunder Underground. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the post.

  9. Love, love, love, both of these! Gotta find Thunder Underground...

  10. Sue, thanks for sharing. These sound great, and they are SO YOU!

  11. Interesting choices and I love anything Jane Yolen. Thanks for sharing.