Welcome to Poetropia, an arena for discussion about children's poetry, specially designed for my graduate Special Topics (LS 5903 Section 22) at Texas Woman's University. Please feel free to visit as often as you like and to give me your reactions to my reactions of the poems and poetry collections I'll share here throughout the Spring 2007 semester. Thank you for your visit. You can leave the door ajar for the next visitor as you leave. Happy reading!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Poetry Book Four: Science in Poetry

Shields, Carol Diggory. (2003). Science, Fresh Squeezed!: 41 thirst-for-knowledge-quenching poems. Brooklyn: Handprint Books. ISBN 1593540051.

This is an AWESOME collection of poems truly about science. Not about science in general, but about specific topics ranging from fossils to the water cycle (and the itsy bitsy spider’s role in it); from the ecosystem to the food chain to cloning to the periodic table. The poems are hilarious yet informative. What a wonderful way to play with both poetry and science—two subjects many young people have a problem digesting. The language is always accessible and, as I mentioned, funny. All the poems have a predictable rhyme scheme as well as a catchy rhythm, but they are varied within the collection. The accompanying illustrations (done by Richard Thompson) are cartoon drawings that echo and add to the humor of the poems. ALSO, accompanying each poem is a funny tidbit of science (at the top of the page).

Choosing a favorite in this collection was tough, so here are my top three in descending order:

The Solution Problem (the funny tidbit to which is this: “A picnic at the beach: OCEAN (salt + water solution), AIR (oxygen + nitrogen solution), PEANUT BUTTER (ground peanuts + oil solution), LEMONADE (water + lemon juice + sugar solution).”

My solution had a problem:
It was weak and too dilute,
I had poured in too much solven,
And not enough solute.

So I added lots more solute
And stirred with concentration
Until, at last, it reached
The point of saturation.

But, oops, I overdid it,
No more solute would dissolve.
These solutions are a mystery
I fear I’ll never solve.

“Heat it up,” my teacher said,
So I did and—jubilation!
My solution’s resolution,
Was supersaturation.

What if? (the funny tidbit to which is “Each speck of dust contains a million million atoms.)

Atoms are tiny, small as can be,
Far too small for us to see.
But scientists say that inside each one,
It looks like planets encircling the sun.
What if our sun and the planets that twirl,
Are only one atom in a much bigger world?

Fungus Among Us (the funny tidbit to which is “ ‘We took a LIKIN’ (LICHEN) to AL G. (ALGAE) because he was a FUN GUY (FUNGI).’ (LICHENS are made up of ALGAE and FUNGI).”

There’s a fungus among us,
It’s everywhere!
In the house, on the ground,
In the water and air.
You’re sure to find fungi,
Sooner or later,
Just look inside
Your refrigerator.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop. I LOVED these poems! I was one of those kids who thought science was boring. So I can see where poems like these with their accessible language, riotous/silly humor and REAL SCIENTIFIC MESSAGES could help a child change his or her mind about science not being interesting. Not only could this sort of poetry open a child up to science, but it could open a science-loving child to poetry!!!

Review of Science, Fresh Squeezed (per Amazon.com):

School Library Journal: “…Shields continues her humorous looks at school subjects. This collection of 41 poems is divided into four sections: "Earth and Space Sciences," "Life Sciences," "Chemistry," and "Physics." All of the selections are brief; some are quite clever and others are forced. …The factual content is accurate, and the witty poetry just might draw science-phobic children into learning about these topics.”

As I said before (and the SLJ review echoes), I would use these poems to open up discussions about both science and poetry, both subjects many young people are reluctant to explore.


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