Thursday, February 17, 2011

Poetry Book Review: "NCTE Award Poetry"


Fisher, Aileen, and Karmen Thompson. 2001. Sing of the earth and sky: poems about our planet and the wonders beyond. Honesdale, Pa: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. ISBN: 1563978024.


Aileen Fisher is one of the recipients of the NCTE poetry award. In Sing of the Earth and Sky she writes about different themes such as the moon, sun, earth and stars.

The voice Fisher translates into the poetry is that of a childlike viewpoint. These lines read "It may be true / what people say / about our spinning / night and day ... / but I keep wondering / anyway". Another example is a poem about how many stars there are in the sky: "I wonder if people / will ever know". With this childlike curiosity reading through the poetry book, students will be able to identify with its literature.

Each stanza of Fisher's poems is different in size, rhythm and rhyme. Most are short stanzas with every other line rhyming and others rhyme with the last line of each stanza. With various kinds of ryhme and rhythm the poetry reads differently through each poem.

The poetry expressed in this book is not as descriptive as it could be. Even though this is an award winning author, the poetry imagery and illustrations are concrete and bland. For its topic of astronomy, I believe children would expect more visual imagery. Fisher uses more wonder-type poetry than descriptive-type poetry.

The illustrations are all black and white images, while the cover is colorful and inviting. Karmen Thompson, the illustrator, has captured many of the poetry's themes in simple black and white illustrations. However, these simple images and the poetry's lack of visual imagery creates a dull mix.

In a brighter note, many of the poems will cause the readers to become curious and interested in astronomy. Several of the poems outline ways to wonder about the solar system and beyond. Sing of the Earth and Sky also touches on subjects more than once. Instead of one poem on each theme (sun, moon, earth, and stars), Fisher has sections of each theme. Because of the larger volume this poetry book would suit a higher age group for children.

Poem: "Endless Space"

The billions of stars
in the Milky Way
seem out at the end of space:
Rivers of stars,
cities of stars,
too many to name or trace.

But what do you think!
Those rivers of stars,
those cities of stars a-spinning
aren't really the ending
of space at all,
but only the mere beginning.

Introducing the Poem:

This particular poem, "Endless Space" is one that I found more descriptive than others. It introduces the Milky Way to children by comparing it to rivers and cities so that it can be easily understood.

Fisher's childlike viewpoint is also seen with this poem by showing the vast number of stars as "too many to name" and "aren't really the ending / of space at all". This correspondes to earlier poems in the book, since "Endless Space" is the last. It sends a message that while you can't understand all of astronomy, you shouldn't fear it. Instead, you should admire it.

This poem would be a great introduction to the Milky Way, astronomy, or science. It is a great ending to the book because it gives a pop of surprise that children will admire. I would introduce the topic of the Milky Way in relation to where our solar system is. Then I would describe a few aspects of the Milky Way. Next, I would read the poem to the class and have them ask questions or make comments about what they think the Milky Way looks like.

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