Friday, November 25, 2011


Don Graves, my all-time favorite most important teacher ever, always said that poets and scientists have a lot in common, because both force us look at the world so closely, and through whole different eyes. I think of Don's comments often, and I was definitely thinking about them this week as I was reading Jane Yolen's book, BIRDS OF A FEATHER.

The book opens with a foreword by Dr. Donald Kroodsma, who says, "As an ornithologist obsessed with the details in the daily lives of birds, I know these eagles and chickadees and kingfishers…But after absorbing the poems and photographs here, I'll never see these birds again in the same way…"

BIRDS OF A FEATHER is a collection of 14 different two-page spreads, each about a different kind of bird, written by Jane and illustrated with Jason Stemple's gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, nature photography. Some of the poems, like "Haiku for a Cool Kingfisher" are playful. Listen:
Hey, girl, fish lover,
Sitting on the dead gray tree,
Love the blue mohawk.

Or how about Yolen's play on words in "Terns Galore"

"At the seaside, terns galore,
One tern, one tern, one tern more.
I tern. You tern…"

In each poem, Yolen captures the spirit of that particular bird. I love this description of from"Rufous-Sided Towhee."
"As if the painter had run out
Of ordinary brown,
Mixing what little was left
With a bit of orange…"

Each two-page spread also contains an inset box with interesting facts about that bird. Did you know, for instance, that "a black-capped chickadee is a hoarder that hides sides and other foods, each in a different place, and that days and weeks later the chickadee can remember all of these hiding places? Or that a "kingfisher kills or stuns a larger fish by thwacking it against a tree branch or perch?"

And did I mention that each two-page spread has an absolutely magnificent closeup photograph of that bird. The light and shadows and details and lines had me looking and looking and looking again. I'd love to hang the photos on this book in my living room!

Can't wait to share this one with my fourth graders- First, they will flove Yolen's poetry. Secondly, BIRDS will teach kids not only about the different species, but also about how to observe like scientists. Also, they will learn much about the writing of poetry. And then there is the whole realm of art and photography…

POETRY FRIDAY today is at Heidi Mordhort's my juicy little universe

The foreword


Linda B said...

I love all things about birds, and even better, by Jane Yolen. I'm glad you reviewed this book because as you said (from Don Graves too), it's perfect for connecting science connect with poetry. Students of all ages will love it, and also my neighbor, a real birder!

Joyce Ray said...

Any book by the Yolen-Stemple team is outstanding, I think. Thanks for the preview of this one.

GatheringBooks said...

I normally prefer breath-taking illustrations over photographs - but you had me at Jane Yolen. I will definitely check out this book! :) We are doing a Poetry-filled Yuletide Cheer theme over at GatheringBooks until first week of January. Will try to see if I can squeeze this book in. :)

Rebecca Gomez said...

I love Jane Yolen. This book looks absolutely beautiful!

Mary Lee said...

I agree about scientists and poets, and I love the new surge of poetry books connected to science that we're seeing!