Review: Hungry for Science

Kari-Lynn Winters and Lori Sherritt-Fleming
Illustrated by Peggy Collins
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2018

As society recognizes that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields need to become more diverse and inclusive, and as creative people increasingly add “art” to STEM fields to produce STEAM (art-influenced science-based thinking), a volume like Hungry for Science represents a welcome addition to libraries and book shelves.

The poems in this short picture book speak to basic scientific concepts such as magnetism, chemistry, life cycles, and sustainability; they’re intended for pre-readers and beginning readers. The chunky, boldly coloured illustrations accompanying the poems are pleasant and inclusive. Some of the little scientists are girls. Some are people of colour. Some are people with disabilities. All playfully suggest that science is for everyone — an important idea, particularly for early learners (who, research shows, are likely to represent scientists as male and able-bodied). The bouncy, playful verses will encourage repeated reading aloud, and the scientific concepts introduced in the poems are supported by a brief back matter to point scientists-in-the-making to further topics for investigation.

Hungry for Science makes science fun and appealing. It’s a great addition to school and classroom libraries, with lots of potential contact points for extension in math, science, ecology, and health lessons. It would also make a strong addition to public libraries, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods where young readers may need encouragement to see themselves in creative, innovative futures.

 

This review was originally published in Resource Links, December 2018.

 

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Review: Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things

by Sheree Fitch and Anne Hunt, eds.
Nimbus Publishing, 2017

Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things is a fresh collection of children’s poetry from and about English Atlantic Canada. It includes more than one hundred poems, not all of them written specifically for children. The collection has considerable reach, spanning from late nineteenth-century poetry to poems written just a few years ago. It is particularly well organized for teaching. The poems are organized by theme, and the book includes short biographies of the contributors. There are poems here to complement many standard Language Arts units and to demonstrate a breadth of literary forms and techniques. All in all, it’s a smart, compact, versatile collection, wrapped in a delightful, appealingly designed package.

If you’re looking for a book that will be greatly enjoyed and cherished, check out Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things. It’s an essential addition to public children’s libraries and a worthwhile extension to school and classroom libraries. It would also make a wonderful gift for any young reader who shows an aptitude or appreciation for writing and poetry.

This review was originally published in Resource Links, December 2017.

 

Review: Dear Tomato

edited by Carol Ann Hoyte
photography by Norie Wasserman
Create Space, 2015

 

dear tomatoYou might be surprised to read poems addressed to food and agriculture, but I hope you won’t be surprised if you’re delighted by them. Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food and Agriculture Poems is an insightful, inspiring collection of poetry about the food we grow, eat, waste, and celebrate.

I should declare my bias from the top: I love poetry and would like to see much more poetry in schools and life. The poems in Dear Tomato range from simple and accessible to complex and intricate and encompass a variety of forms, which the editor identifies. One of my favourites was “The Diversity of Dirt” by Charles Waters, which could easily be modelled and extended in the classroom. The contributors are international and reflect various ages, backgrounds, and perspectives, from gourmand to social activist. This range, so often a weakness in anthologies, was a strength in this volume and added greatly to my enjoyment of the collection. Two features particularly stood out for me: the number of humorous poems, which can be a gentle way to bring reluctant readers to poetry, and the photography, which reflects and elaborates the themes of the collection.

I truly enjoyed Dear Tomato and would love to see this slender book in school and community libraries. It would make an excellent addition to classroom libraries, particularly for teachers looking for environmentally thoughtful cross-curricular materials.

 

This review was originally published in Resource Links, October 2015.

Review: Changelings

by Cassy Welburn
Frontenac House, 2015

Changelings_FC-275x413In Changelings, Cassy Welburn presents poems of everyday transformation, rooted in fairy tales, myths, rituals, and ceremonies and shot through with the banal and unremarkable. Boundaries are consistently blurred — dreaming and waking, the natural and the supernatural — rendering images mutable, elusive. Some of the titles appear familiar (e.g., “The Tell Tale Heart”, “The Thousand Nights and One Night”), but the poems re-present or embellish what we think we know about these texts, creating palimpsests of stories and retellings that are deeply personal and specific. The poems’ many grotesque images are counterpoised against natural and beguiling settings, and produce an eerie atmosphere of creatures on the verge of change.

Changelings is a powerful collection for readers 14 and up. With this age group, the book is likely best used as an independent reading assignment or as individual poems. This volume should also provide an emotionally moving text for teachers and librarians, for whom some of the poems may prove acutely identifiable. Reading it, I was spellbound.

 

This review was originally published in Resource Links, February 2016.