Sandra Markle's "Octopuses" + Outstanding Science Books for Kids
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Poetry Friday: "Sea Stars" (A Re-Run)

Writing about Sandra Markle's Octopuses reminded me of Sea Stars, a book of poems I mentioned on this blog a while back; here's that review.


The first-grade class where I volunteer as a reading buddy is spending the whole year studying oceans and sea life. Do I have a book for them! The picture book Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems is a collaborative effort by two British Columbians. Photographer Margaret Butschler took the vibrant photographs first; Avis Harley then wrote short poems for each picture. From the acknowledgments, I gather that the photos were taken at the Vancouver Aquarium, and you'll see a Beluga whale, giant Pacific Octopus, and sea cucumber, among other creatures, as you turn the pages. A two-page section of thumbnail photos at the end provides additional information on each animal or plant.

One personal favorite is "My Good Points," about the Dungeness crab. ("A toe-pinching scrimmage/has damaged my image.") In the introduction to "Sea Stars," Avis Harley writes,

A photograph can be highly inspirational. I encourage you to look for an image that sparks your imagination and then write a poem about it. Use lines that are short, and play with words. Try to describe your subject in a way that no one else has thought of before.

What good advice for young readers. That's exactly what Harley did with "Sips of Sea," a tribute to the pipe fish. Although I don't have copyright permission to quote it, she has an original way of looking at this cousin of a sea horse. Some children will want to write poetry, and many will enjoy looking at the photographs and reading the poems, which are not much longer than captions. My second-grader can read these poems aloud, and I think the first-grade students will get a kick out out of the book, just as we have. Sea Stars makes a fine new addition to the  poetry-and-science shelf.


Those kids did like Sea Stars, and I remember several of the girls ooh-ing and ah-ing over a photo of a sea otter.  I'm working with a new group of first graders now, and they, too, would happily listen to these poems read out loud. First, I'd also take in a few similarly themed picture books to share before going directly to Sea Stars. Going over some vocabulary would be good, too. We might talk about words like "scrimmage," "carnivore," "scarlet," and "crimson."  A little groundwork never hurts.

The roundup of other Poetry Friday blog posts is at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup, and she has a theme: the lyrics of Bob Dylan. I'll let others wax poetic about him.


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You are absolutely right about the magic of photos and poems together. No suprise I agree, of course. :) This looks like a great book and I'll be looking for it.

This looks like a fun book to track down for my Mom's school. I really love the ocean and picture books about sea life were always my faves.

This book sounds wonderful, Susan. I think I'll pick up a copy for a gift. The photos sound luscious.

Thanks for dropping by, Cloudscome, TadMack, and Jama. I really like this little collection. Give me a good book and good tide pool, and I'm happy.

"A little groundwork never hurts." I need to post that above my desk because I don't always remember the truth of it! And of course, there are those situations where I am stunned by HOW MUCH groundwork is needed.

I would need lots of groundwork when it comes to oceans and tide pools, but I think with my interest in aquatic entomology, I'd be a quick study!

I've no doubt that you would, Mary Lee!

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