Book Beat

Poetry Month: A Time To Celebrate Nature

by Jessica Lane

April is National Poetry Month, and spring is the perfect time to plant seeds of lyricism and watch them grow. Here are some opportunities to engage your child’s mind as you enjoy the blooms of spring and nature’s progression.

Take a look at the exploration of the natural world through the lens of a budding scientist in What Is Science? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshi-kawa (Henry Holt, $16.95). Yoshikawa’s illustrations are warm and colorful. The rhyming text makes this book an engaging read-aloud. Dotlich uses simple phrases to explain that science means questioning “the how, the where, when, and why,” while inspiring children to look around them and seek out knowledge.

Natural Wonders
Big or small, there are natural wonders everywhere, and On One Flower: Butterflies, Ticks and a Few More Icks by Anthony D. Fredericks, illustrated by Jennifer DiRubbio (Dawn Publications, $7.95) explores a child-level microcosm contained in a single branch of goldenrod. Rhythmic text follows bugs up the food chain while they live as neighbors, all going about their separate buggy tasks.

Crisp illustrations show the bugs true to form, while humanizing them through their relationships to one another. On One Flower is also full of resources, with illustrated “Field Notes” that include fun facts about the bugs pictured, and ways children (and parents) can learn more about ecology, making this an excellent way to pique everyone’s curiosity.

For a more fanciful look at nature’s wonders, Handsprings: Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian (Greenwillow, $15.99) visits the wonders of spring through the eyes of a child.

Florian captures our imagination from the first poem, “When Winter,” which is accompanied by a whimsical picture of a daisy peeking around the corner. Florian’s childlike, sometimes subtly clever illustrations complement his lyrical verses very well.

An ordinary garden becomes extraordinary in I Heard it From Alice Zucchini: Poems About the Garden by Juanita Havill, illustrated by Christine Davenier (Chronicle, $15.95). This cheerful book takes a remarkable trip through the garden, where the fairy, Alice Zucchini, dances in the moonlight and spreads “Garden Gossip” through the grapevine.

Throughout the year, Alice occupies the garden, watching its changes take place, from sprouting and weeding to the plentiful bounty that results. The poems flow well together, and contain tidbits of plant-rearing wisdom among the roots.

Taking Flight
Leaving the ground and soaring, Today at the Bluebird Café: A Branchful of Birds by Deborah Ruddell, illustrated by Joan Rankin (McElderry Books, $15.99) is playful and occasionally witty. Ruddell flits from bird to bird with ease, and Rankin’s illustrations, particularly “Mrs. Crow Gets Dressed,” are very well matched to the verses. Birds preen, scheme, read, and play in the pages of Today at the Bluebird Café.

Edgar Allan Poe has a darker view of our feathered friends. Older kids will appreciate the menacing sentiments of The Raven, illustrated by Ryan Price (KCP Poetry, $16.95).

Price’s illustrations focus on the poem’s grimmer aspects, peppering the landscape with graves while inserting small moments of lightness to offset the dark. (For example, the raven wears a waistcoat.) Lenore’ ghost wanders through nearly every page, while the raven continues to lurk and plague the narrator with a guilty conscience.

As spring blossoms, so can your child’s enjoyment of poetry. Then every month can be Poetry Month.

Jessica Lane is a freelance writer and managing editor of Northwest Baby & Child magazine.