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Monday, September 23, 2013

Five Picture Books of Space Poems

Poetry books can be a huge joy or a tricky proposition for kids, depending on the style and the subject/topic. The typical collection of silly yet very kid-relatable ones (Kenn Nesbitt!) are favored to the heavier, deeper, imagery-rich, evocative ones. However, there is always something to learn, no matter what the subject, style, or format.

Outer space holds a certain fascination for some kids, while it incites an inexplicable fear in some.The older child is not a fan of outer space, despite liking the premise and adventures of Doctor Who. The younger child cannot have enough of it. If he can measure and catalog all the objects in outer space, he'd have reached one goal in life.

Anyway, here are a few children's picture books about outer space, written in verse or as poetry collections, that fascinated us at home.

Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings
by Douglas Florian  (Author)

Douglas Florian became a household name of sorts when the then six year old took a fascination for Poetrees which probably is unrelated to my (not-so) subtle influence on her reading choices at that time.

We've read a few of his poems included in National Geographic's 200 Animal Poems book, and his poetry collections in Omnibeasts and Insects, Frogs and Polliwogs; and almost always, the illustrations take front-and-center for us in his poetry books.

Twenty poems celebrate celestial things in Comets..., including the now ostracized Pluto and the ever-enigmatic black hole. All the 8 major planets are covered, even the minor planets, and the usual galaxy, constellation, and our special star, the Sun. Short, funny, and often witty, the poems entertain in a kid-friendly way.

Jupiter's jumbo,
So wide
Side to side,
But gaseous, not dense. 
With some sixteen moons 
It's plainly prolific-- 
So super-dupiter

The bigger attraction is the art work, not surprisingly. Die cut planets peek through the pages that feature dramatic collages that complement the poem. Quite a visual treat.

Galactic Glossary and further reading makes this an instructional collection.

A galaxy has stars galore:
A million, billion, even more.
Some galaxies are round, some flat.
Some form spirals, some seem fat.
Some are egg-shaped, some have bars.
All have stars, and stars, and stars.

Harcourt has a free downloadable Poetry Kit which has some useful Poetry Pointers from Mr.Florian.

7-Imp: Seven Questions over breakfast with Douglas Florian 

[image source:]

Out of This World: Poems and Facts about Space
by Amy Sklansky
illustrated by Stacey Schuett

One of the poems at the beginning of the book set the tone for the little guy - he read it, laughed, then ran to his dad to share it, then came over to me asking me to read aloud the Facts about the layers of our atmosphere given on that page.

With the picture showing the layers of Earth's atmosphere, and a rocketship in motion on its way out, the poem simply states:
(I'm outta here!)


Simply brilliant!

Every poem is clever and kindles the imagination, and the pictures by Stacey Schuett add fuel to the fire, which is refreshingly abated by the Facts included on each page.

[image source:]

Stargazer's Alphabet
by John Farrell

Stargazer's AlphabetWith endless supply of objects in space, the Alphabet book can be a potential goldmine for writers. Despite favoring the popular names for the stars, Og often uses the orderly Bayer Designation for them in our "I'm thinking of a Star..." guessing game at dinner time so that the much-loved Sirius is Alpha Canis Majoris and his favorite Arcturus is Alpha Boötis.

From A is for Andromeda, we parade through the celestial objects alphabetically, ending in a rather predictable Z is for Zodiac. The rhyme and lilt make it a fun read. The accompanying color photographs and diagrams are visually appealing. Plus there is enough facts/information about each to keep the young minds interested.

[image source:]

Night Wonders
by Jane Ann Peddicord

Traveling on a beam of light, the protagonist takes us through the wonders of outer space.

First stop, The Moon a.k.a Luna - the smiling face that greets us into outer space. While the whimsical poem conveys this idea, the short paragraph of facts on the page inform us that the craters make it seem like the moon has eyes and a lop-sided grin which, from ancient times, has probably been the inspiration for personifying our very own solitary moon as a smiley face.

We take a full trip and land back wondering what else is hiding out there for us to see..

[image source:]

Blast Off!: Poems About Space (I Can Read Book 3)
by Lee Bennett Hopkins
illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Mostly about Moon and rocket ship, this poetry anthology did not quite satisfy the kid or me. One or two caught our attention and made us sit up as we recognized the poets - viz., J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen.

Star Seeker: A Journey to Outer Space is another picture book much loved and oft-read from our bookshelf.

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