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Poetry for Earth Day

By on April 6, 2018

April is a busy month with poetry activities hosted to spotlight the prominence and strengthen the emphasis and importance of poetry, not only in literature but as a way to focus attention. Also, Earth Day arrives in April, with a myriad of celebratory events to engage people in ways to care for the world that is our home. This month’s reviews do not need to compete with each other for attention. The books featured are handsome picture books to celebrate the earth and our environment while also enjoying the rhythm and language that poetry is uniquely recognized for. Enjoy!! 

by Meribeth C. Shank 

A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build 

by David L. Harrison, Illustrated by Giles Laroche


A variety of animals and their homes are featured in this beautifully constructed picture book of poems. Mammals (black-tailed prairie dog, star-nosed mole, beaver), insects (termite, paper wasp) fi sh (stickleback, white-spotted pufferfish), birds (red ovenbird, white stork), arachnids (trapdoor spider, yellow garden spider) and a reptile (king cobra) are shown building underground homes, homes on land, in water and in air.

Harrison’s poems are easy to read and understand. The poems use rhyme, rhythm and repetition to explore how food is captured and nests are created and hidden. Laroche’s illustrations are fashioned from original hand painted cut paper in multiple layers to extend and support the poems. The pages are rich in detail, textures and colors; a memorable combination of science and poetry. Endmatter includes additional information about each creature, accompanied by suggestions of books for further investigation. The final page is a bonus poem and illustration highlight; “A Different Kind of Builder,” sun coral, the creator of coral reefs.

Charlesbridge, $17.99 Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 4 (This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

Curious Critters

 by David FitzSimmons

CCritters1This amazing picture book of poetry is a stunning collection of animal photographs accompanied with a poem written by the author as if each animal is speaking their own story to the reader. The animal images appear on a completely white background so the reader is able to focus on details that stand out sharply.

The bush katydid is intriguing, at least in part because of its pink color. In the katydid’s words, “My mother . . .. says her great-great-great grandmother was pink. “That’s how I got my color . . . . handed down to me from my relatives.” And because of the color “other animals decide not to eat me. Would you eat a blue hamburger?” The elegantly realistic photos paired with FitzSimmons’ cheerful text are an exciting combination to introduce 21 inhabitants of the natural world.

Back matter includes, two pages of natural history – a small paragraph for each animal beside a small size photo – life-size silhouettes for readers to solve and identify by their shapes, several challenging questions to consider, and a glossary.

Wild Iris Publishing, $17.99 Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Northeast, Miami Lakes. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.) Among other titles by FitzSimmons from the same publisher and of similar high quality, interest level and cost: Curious Critters Volume 2 and Curious Critters Marine

Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up

Sally M. Walker, illustrated by William Grill

earthThe wonders of the earth and its geology are the focus of this groundbreaking haiku picture book. Often a favorite of both children and adults, haiku can express in lean language even surprising and explosive earth movements like a volcano erupting: “hotheaded mountain / loses its cool, spews ash cloud — / igneous tantrum.”

Clearly intended for middle graders and older, Walker crafts poetry that supplies profound contrasts as in these two haiku: “sky shenanigans: / lightning bullies storm clouds with /thunderous results” paired with: “birds sleep in their nests / winds unfurl a fog blanket . . . / leaves sing lullabies.” Her prose end notes inform readers with clarifi cations and descriptions that support the poetry with science.

Gill’s color pencil illustrations, are sometimes abstract, but are often large double page spreads surrounding the usually three lines of poetry. From minerals, rocks and fossils, to earthquakes, volcanoes and glaciers, this unusually engaging picture book of haiku poems introduces readers to what’s below and above Earth’s surface.

Candlewick Press, $17.99 Interest Level: Grade 3 + (This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

Meribeth Shank works in the Media Center at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, has taught classes on Writing Books for Children, and earned her MFA in Writing for children from Vermont College. You can also find her on the web:

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