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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nest, Nook & Cranny, written by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Jamie Hogan. Charlesbridge, 2010. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"Skinks sneak
From cool crannies
To catnap in the sun,
Making themselves at home on slabs
Of stone."

These poems will find their audience in readers who are interested in conservation and the protection of the natural habitats that house the animals portrayed. The black and white illustrations that accompany the poetry are all about setting. Each new habitat is shown in a double page titled spread. Then we move on to the poetic descriptions of the animals chosen to represent its habitat. The settings are varied, the poems beg to be read aloud. The rhymes are clever while also showing that careful research was done before the writing began. There are many details shared about animal behavior, their food and their environment.

Five habitats are included...desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland and woodland. From three to six poems accompany each. The poetic forms are varied and smartly written and will provide fun for readers to share and perhaps even perform. It has the feel of a field journal, with careful consideration given to every single entry.

Children will be intrigued, teachers delighted to find this connection between science, poetry and art. Susan Blackaby is not content to simply share her poetry. In the back matter, she provides a quick description of the habitats before moving on to explain much about the writing of poetry. She describes each poem and the choices she made for the verse, sonnet, cinquain, couplets...the list goes on. And she also talks about sibilance, alliteration, homophones, wordplay, onomatopoeia, similes and metaphors. What more could a teacher and lover of poetry ask?

See what writer's strategies you recognize in this poem:

"The sweetest home sweet home must be a hive,
Humming with activities of bees.
They never wipe their feet when they arrive;
They track their tacky nectar where they please.

When the workers' busy workday ends,
They take off in a beeline for the comb
To serve up royal jelly to their friends,
And get the latest buzz from all the drones."

What fun!!

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