Step Gently Out

October 10, 2012

Step Gently Out

By Helen Frost

Photos by Rick Lieder

Candlewick Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5601-0

Grades PreK and up

Nonfiction poetry

“Step gently out,

be still,

and watch

a single blade

of grass.”

Gentle words carry the reader through a rhyming poem celebrating the beauty of insects and arachnids who share our world, if only you’ll look around. The words glide across the pages of up-close, beautiful photographs and it brings the reader along, too.

The praying mantis photograph is one of my favorites. The back matter includes a paragraph of information about each of the insects and orb spider mentioned in the poem. This lovely book will bring a hush to the listeners and provides an intimate, close-up view of the life hiding right under our eyes.


Make a chart showing the differences between an insect and a spider. Illustrate or use words to show the differences.

Then write words that help describe insects and spiders and the ways in which they are alike and different

This site has an excellent explanation of the differences for young children.

This site has information and a lesson about spiders and insects.

This site has an explanation of the differences.

A Fuse Eight Production has a more comprehensive review for Step Gently Out

100 Scope Notes has a lovely review and a suggestion for Step Gently Out. Great idea!

National Science Standards: LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, energy, and dynamics

Common Core:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.4 Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.5 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.6 Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.

A Leaf Can Be…

January 25, 2012

A Leaf Can Be…

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrations by Violeta Dabija

Millbrook Press, 2012

ISBN #978-0-7613-6203-6

Grades K-2

Nonfiction picture book

Visit Wendy’s Wanderings for all the excellent Nonfiction Monday titles.

“A leaf can be a…Shade spiller…Mouth filler…Tree topper…Rain stopper….”

Spare, simple verse follows the many ways leaves contribute to nature and life in this lovely, appealing picture book. The job of leaves changes with the changing seasons and the book traces these events with Salas’s lyrical poetrytext. Soft greens wash the pages until the seasons change and Dabija’s mixed media art makes the book lovely and soft, inviting the reader into a gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, world of nature.

Back matter includes specific facts and examples of each of the word choices used. The book also has glossary and further reading suggestions.


Take a leaf walk. Each time you see a different kind of leaf, have one child collect one. Back inside, draw outlines of each leaf. Then decide on a way to organize the leaves by finding similar characteristics. Post and label your collection with the categories.

Scroll down at this site to see lots of leaf activities.

The author has a site with activities to accompany the book. She also has links to fun leaf activities there.

This is an exciting book. Check other reviews at:

Wrapped in Foil

NC Teacher Stuff


National Science Standard: Variation of traits; structure and function

Book provided by Lerner.

At the Sea Floor Cafe

April 12, 2011

Peachtree is having a two week blog tour. Be sure to check out their blog.

TLA was such a great place to be last week. It was good to see many friends and make new ones. I signed books and spent some time with the terrific Peachtree people. The Austin SCBWI did a great job. The sourcebook was exceptional.

I met Lesley Bulion. We chatted and she signed my copy of her book. Talented and genuine–just like the book!

At the Sea Floor Café

Odd Ocean Critter Poems

By Leslie Bulion

Illustrated by Leslie Evans

Peachtree, 2011 

ISBN #978-1-56145-565-2

Ages 8-12

Nonfiction; poems

“Let’s visit a habitat shallow and deep,

And boiling hot, where acids seep,

And frigid and pressured and mountainy-steep,

Come explore the sea!

So begins the poem invitation to Dive In! and explore the vast sea and the unusual creatures living there. Each poem provides facts about ocean animals in a variety of poetic styles and forms. A smaller inset section gives an explanation of the animal and its habits expressed in the poem. The extensive back matter explains the poem’s form and specifics about that style of poem. It also includes a glossary of science terms, websites, and other books to enjoy. An acknowledgment page attests to the author’s research.

The art is lovely and evokes the fun nature of the poems in the book without being intrusive. It’s done in linoleum block print and perfectly suits the whimsy of the poetry it illustrates. This is a fun way to introduce science into literature and involve readers in the awe of science through the odd, interesting life forms in a time when science is more important than ever.

This book would make a wonderful reader’s theater or group presentation. There’s a poem for every child and the science details are a fun addition. It’s a great choice for libraries, schools, or home. What a joyous combination: poetry and science.

Activity 1

Research one of the animals from the book. Write a report about that animal. Include the facts from the poem and add any new information you’ve learned from the research. Present the information in an interesting way.

Enchanted Learning has ocean animals here.

National Geographic Kids has some ocean animals

Activity 2

Choose a favorite or well-known sea animal and write a poem about it in one of the poetry styles from the book. Illustrate your own poem.

I’ve also written a number of teacher guides for other Peachtree nonfiction. See those here.

National Science Standard: characteristics of organisms; organisms and their environment

Book provided by Peachtree Publishers for their Blog Tour

Nest, Nook, and Cranny

December 1, 2010

Nest, Nook & Cranny

Poems by Susan Blackaby

Illustrated by Jamie Hogan

Charlesbridge, 2010

ISBN #978-1-58089-350-3


Grades 3-6

“A doe will pick a thicket

As a place to place her fawn,

Its speckled hide well hidden

In the dappled forest lawn.

A bed safe in the shadows—

Mossy cushion, leafy crest—

A doe will pick a thicket

As a place to make a nest.”

This stunning book of poems has it all. “Poetry, animal behavior, ecosystems, habitats, figurative language,” says the Charlesbridge site. I agree.

Plus, I’d add mood and voice.  And art.

I read Nest, Nook, & Cranny for the science. Open the book and look at the fabulous endpapers. I was hooked before I’d read a word.

But it’s so much more than science. The book does an excellent job of fitting each animal within the context of its habitat while using evocative language in a variety of poetry styles. The language within each poem whisks the reader away to that habitat in the imagination.

The charcoal line drawings fit the mood perfectly and rendered the images in a realistic way that suited each poem and introduces each habitat across the spread with simple lines and shading.

Any teacher or librarian could enjoy reading this book to students, and it’s a wonderful place to continue either science or poetry activities. Lessons stem naturally from the wealth of carefully researched science information and the back matter, which explains the poetry forms by poem. An introduction tells the reader about the author’s inspiration for the book and she introduces her habitat in Beaverton, Oregon.

I loved this book and encourage it as a read-aloud. When time is short, as it often is during the school day, there’s not a better way to combine two lovely subjects.

Activity 1

The author describes her habitat. Use figurative language to describe your own habitat.

Activity 2

Look up habitats. Choose a habitat that isn’t used in the book. Write the characteristics of that habitat using interesting vocabulary. Include science words, too.

Challenge: Write about the habitat you chose in poetry form. Choose the style you want to use and fit your habitat information into it.

Habitat information

Interview of author and illustrator

See another review at Wrapped in Foil, March 29, 2010 and at Fuse 8.

National Science Standard: organisms and environments

Book provided by publisher


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