Friday, September 29, 2023

The Poetry of Science

There are so many ways to write nonfiction! I love that poets are exploring science, and finding different ways to talk about such things as physics and animals. I intended to review these in April for poetry month, but somehow they got buried at the bottom of my book basket – which I dumped out last week so I could see what all was in there. Besides books: dust bunnies and a sock. I know! So, on to books…

theme: poetry, science, dogs

Push-Pull Morning: Dog-Powered Poems About Matter and Energy
by Lisa Westberg Peters; illus. by Serge Bloch 
40 pages; ages 4-8
Wordsong (Astra), 2023

My new dog has one wet nose.
Me? No.

This fun book explores gravity, magnetism, electricity, friction, and states of matter through the friendship between child and dog. The first one is about “Stuff in Common” comparing things we don’t have in common, such as floppy ears, four paws with clicky nails – but helps us realize that we’re all made of “zillions of wiggly molecules and jillions of jiggly atoms.”

What I like about this book:  I love that a dog in motion will stay in motion until acted on by an outside force, and that you can’t make a dog go where they don’t want to because of the friction of claws digging into the carpet. Also, one of my favorite poems was about states of matter, where the dog was liquid when pouring itself into the basket to sleep. At the bottom of each spread the physics concept is printed in bold (to help parents, I’m thinking!). Oh, and did I say there was humor involved? Back matter provides a short definition for each physics concept, with a longer paragraph to explain the science. 

Galápagos: Islands of Change
by Leslie Bulion; illus. by Becca Stadtlander  
‎48 pages; ages 8-12
Peachtree, 2023   

The biogeographical history of the Galápagos Islands is told through a series of poems, from their beginning as volcanic hot spots through the evolution of life on each island. It is a complex story that begins in a fiery flash, and explores how plants and animals arrived on the rocky islands and adapted to the landscape. Now, the islands are populated with an array of plants, reptiles, and birds ranging from penguins to blue footed boobies.

As the poems celebrate the remarkable plants and animals, they highlight the unique ecosystem that has evolved on each island. One of my favorite poems is a short free verse about Zooplankton, “Mini-swimmers—most no bigger than the head of a pin…”

Another focuses attention on marine iguanas, “basking on a sun-soaked ledge” until they leap into the ocean and dive, their “flat-oar tails” whipping side to side as they plunge down to where the tastiest seaweed grows.

And then there are the penguins. Yes, the desert-dry islands have penguins!
On land they stand umbrella pose,
creating shade to cool their toes,
but underwater, watch them fly—
Courtesy of Peachtree Publishing Company Inc
 There are poems about the prickly pear cactus and the black carpenter bee and, of course, the very famous finches! The collection of poems is book-ended by expository text that introduces the Galápagos Islands in the beginning, and examines the challenges the unique plants and animals face in a warming climate and human impacts.

There is great back matter, beginning with a glossary and map – I did not know there were so many islands! There are poetry notes for every creature (what kind of poem, rhyme scheme) that will make this a great cross-curricular connection for language arts. And, in addition to the resources, there is a species list. 

Beyond the Books:

Play around with States of Matter and Physics. Here are a couple of resources with experiments and activities for younger kids here and here.

Explore the Galapagos Islands with ABC news and National Geographic Expeditions

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website.  On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by the publishers.


  1. These books approach their topics so differently, but each works so well. I do think that humor (and dogs/cats) often helps to hold the attention of the young reader when it comes to math-related concepts. And the more lyrical tone of wonder at nature works well for the natural world. Great reviews, Sue!

    1. I could have benefited from humor-related math books when I was a kid!

  2. Science and poetry go together like... thunder and lightning? Peanut butter and jelly? Observation and wonder? Thanks for highlighting these gems!

  3. I don't know much about the Galapagos Islands and the approach this book takes to educate will have me tracking down a copy. Thanks for featuring your post on MMGM this week.

    1. I've always wanted to visit the Galapagos, but getting there is not as easy as hopping on a plane. So I love reading about them and doing "armchair traveling"

  4. I love that poetry is being used like this in non-fiction and the book on the Galapagos Islands sounds particularly good! Thanks for sharing!

  5. So THAT'S where all the odd socks go! Great recommendations! I'm a dog fiend myself, so I will definitely take a look at Push-Pull Morning.

    1. Other places socks have high-tailed it to: toy box, under the bed, behind the couch...

  6. These sound like so much fun. Thanks for sharing them. Happy MMGM!

  7. Push Pull sounds like an amazing book. I have to get it for my little grandkids who are already learning physics. Thanks for the recommendation! Carol Baldwin

    1. They will have fun with it - and it might inspire some of their own physics investigations.

  8. Teaching about science through a kid's and dog's friendship sounds like a winner. Thanks for sharing it for MMGM this week.

  9. Poetry collections are hard to sell, but I guess if you find the right angle and do it well, you get something like these two books. Thanks for telling me about them.