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Poetry Friday: Song of the Water Boatman

For the longest time I avoided Joyce Sidman's Song of the Water Boatman because I didn't get what it was about. At first glance I did not recognize the big duck foot on the cover and instead assumed it was some kind of expressionist abstract something. Wrong.

Song of the Water Boatman is about ponds, which I could have figured had I read the smaller print: & Other Pond Poems. But I missed that. I clued in once the picture book won a Caldecott honor and later when I read and liked Sidman's follow-up, Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, which won the Cybils poetry book of the year.

Junior and I are still working our way through Song of the Water Boatman, but I can tell you that 1. Beckie Prange's woodblock prints colored with water colors are beautiful, and 2. I love the science rendered as poetry. Junior is into catching tadpoles in a neighbor's pond this summer, so it's fun to recognize some of the creatures depicted here. (A water boatman is a bug, I discovered.) As in Butterfly Eyes, Sidman intersperses bits of factual information with the poetry.

Here is a brief excerpt from the poem "Song of the Water Boatman and Backswimmer's Refrain."

Down through the jolly waters green,
I stroke with legs both long and lean,
like a streamlined class-A submarine
...on a sunny summer's morning.

    Yo, ho, ho
     the pond winds blow
     and upside down in the way to go.

To read the rest, find a copy of this great summer book. Then head to your nearest pond.

Gwenda, at Shaken & Stirred, has the Poetry Friday roundup today.


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I missed this book too, thanks for suggesting it. The cover looks beautiful.

I've always loved water boatmen and am a particular fan of the animated Maisy segment about them.

I tried to rustle up a youtube video of them, but the youtubers seem to have mistaken water striders for boatmen.

This is most intriguing. Someday, I'll have to set a whole bunch of poems to music as a storytelling booktalk gig.

Hi, Sam. I just love the balance of science and rhymes here. The art really is splendid. And now I know what a water boatman is. Though I haven't seen one at our pond, I'm going to keep an eye out.

Alkelda, you know, this particular poem could work as a real, sing-out-loud song. You might check it out. Let me know what you think.

I really need to get this book. Thanks.

Jules, I just love it. I really enjoy the way Joyce Sidman looks at the world.

Me, too. I love her latest, the apology poems (which I reviewed recently at 7-Imp).


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