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The Study of Poetry and Literature for Children & Young Adults

Module 4: Book Review of a book of Poetry ideally suited to Science Instruction

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1999. Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems. Ill. by Virgina Halstead. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689812833

 

 Lee Bennett Hopkins, prolific author (over 70 books to date) and spokesperson for Children’s Poetry has scored another hit with Spectacular Science illustrated by Virginia Halstead. He is also the donor of both the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, presented by Penn State University, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins/International Reading Association Promising Poet Award.

 

This anthology of 15 science related poems celebrates the wonder of exploring science. The poems are done in a variety of poetry styles to include free verse, rhyming, question format and repetition in a refrain. Poets include Lee Bennett Hopkins Carl Sandburg, David McCord, Alice Shertle and others.

 

 The first poem, “What is Science?” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich sets the tone for the book by answering the question in its title.  The poem is in question format with the answer provided in simple rhyming verse at the end of the poem, “We question the how, the where, and the why.”

 

 The use of line breaks is especially significant in the poem “How?” by Lee Bennett Hopkins, each line is just one word.

 

The poems are featured one to a page; each on a double page spreads with brilliant full bleed illustrations done in a combination of oil pastels, oil bars, wax, and Prisma color pencils. The multi dimensional effect is accomplished by Halstead using a layering technique with the different types of media.

 

The Hornbook review expresses satisfaction with this process with the following, “the poems encourage both scientific curiosity and literary creativity; the fanciful mixed-media illustrations extend the poetic narratives and invite interpretive scrutiny.”

 

My favorite is “Crystal Vision” by Lawrence Schimel done in simple rhyming verse.

 

The prism bends a beam of light

And pulls it into colored bands

My fingers tremble with delight:

I hold a rainbow in my hands.

 

This book is particularly well done as it reads equally well aloud or to oneself. Spectacular Science creates a mood of educational excitement for science. Children in the primary grades will enjoy hearing the poems and following up with classroom scientific exploration of the poem’s particular subject.

 

The review for Publisher’s Weekly states, “ Though the collection’s definition of science may be expansive to the point of being amorphous, it offers proof positive that poetry and science share a profound delight in observing the world around us.”

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WORKS CITED
 
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1999. Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems. Ill. by Virgina Halstead. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689812833
 

Hornbook. 1999. Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems. Ill. by Virgina Halstead. (book review). Hornbook. July 26, 1999.

 

Publishers Weekly. 1999. Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems. Ill. by Virgina Halstead. (book review). Publishers Weekly. August, 1999.
 
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