I have am happy to be participating my first Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday post! (I hope I am not breaking any rules if I focus on Nonfiction Poetry) I was first introduced to Marilyn Singer in a Children’s Literature course I was taking at university. I remember the Professor, Ron Jobe, sharing a new poetry book by Marilyn Singer called “Turtle in July” (published in 1989 – Yikes! Am I that old?). He read aloud the title poem and I was fascinated by how she was able to so effortlessly weave factual information into a simple poem. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since.
Over the last 2 decades, she has written over 30 poetry books (much of which is based on nature), picture books, novels and nonfiction books. She gained much attention and earned several awards in 2010 for her remarkable and unique writing of Fairy Tales Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. If you have never read this – it is an incredibly clever collections of poems that can be read both forwards and backwards. Amazing! Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems, the follow up, was released this past February.
Now, on to her Nonfiction books…..I am drawn to her poetry collections and nonfiction books that center around nature and animals. I’m particularly fond of her poetry books Fireflies at Midnight and The Company Of Crows where she writes poems in the voices of different animals (and birds). I have used both books as anchors in both reading and writing lessons. In reading, we practice inferring information about the animals from the poems. In writing, I have used them as models for writing with voice. Both books have inspired amazing animal poetry in my classroom over the years. Students choose an animal, research its habits and behavior, then write a poem in first person, trying to capture both the “voice” and personality of the animal.
I recently came across her latest poetry collection called A Strange Place to Call Home (published in 2012) In it, she writes poems about the most dangerous habitats on earth and the animals who live there. The book is illustrated by Caldecott winner and honor recipient Ed Young. His illustrations are gorgeous and he uses a torn paper collage style similar to Steve Jenkins. Singer uses many different poetic forms in the book, including haiku and sonnets, as she captures 14 relatively unknown creatures and their unusual homes. (There is information on each creature included at the back of the book) Through her unique poetic style, Singer is able to capture so many interesting facts, often through sparse text. Students will be fascinated to learn about these unusual creatures and I could see how this could be used as an excellent “launch” into a research project. The book could also be a great way to launch a Science Unit on Extreme Environments or how animals adapt to their environment.
A Strange Place to Call Home
Where it’s dark Where it’s deep Where’s it’s stormy Where it’s steep Where the rain rarely falls or the water always races They survive strive to thrive in a world of risky places
– Marilyn Singer