Apr 1, 2012


I'll post a day early this week to focus on a major event.
Drum roll please...

lift the page on the calendar...

April has arrived, Poetry Month.

*Sigh* Brace yourself for another mini-rant on the mixed blessing of "Months"- Black History, Women's History, and now Poetry. In my opinion (and I'm far from alone in this) awareness and appreciation of poetry and the rich diversity of contributors to history should be ubiquitous.

Ubiquitous? I've been a word-aholic for as long as I can remember, but I confess (with a mix of smugness and shame) that I rarely used a dictionary. As a prolific reader from a verbal family, I was reasonably good at inferring from context. Add to that my reluctance to interrupt a good story and teachers who also valued expansive vocabularies and I was convinced that I "knew" most words. I even used them in my writing successfully (as indicated by minimal red circles or questions marks on my returned papers). I rarely looked up words, especially if they appeared frequently in text.

"Ubiquitous" is one of those words that I "knew" in a generic way- it kinda sorta meant common or regular or often, or... something like that.

Eventually I acquired enough age to slow my reading and thinking down, to appreciate nuance and precision (obsessive, I am; perfectionist, I am not). That's when I began to "look up" words and found out why the word ubiquitous is so... so... ubiquitous. (adjective: everywhere, omnipresent).

Which brings me to UBIQUITOUS: CELEBRATING NATURE'S SURVIVORS, with Poetry by Joyce Sidman and illustrations by Beckie Prange. (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010).
Every detail of this book deserves attention, beginning where else- with the end papers. The challenge of creating a timeline for the 4.6 billion year history of planet Earth, to scale, is daunting. A densely swirled and convoluted line fills the double page spread of this large format book, each centimeter equaling a million years. Sweeping timespans from the emergence of bacteria to mollusks, lichens, sharks, beetles, diatoms, geckos, ants, grasses, squirrels, crows dandelions, coyotes, and humans actually make some sense with this accurately rendered and labeled art.

Each page turn after that offers parallel text- a poem paired with accessible scientific narration- embedded in equally beautiful and informative illustrations. Together they offer insight and praise to Earth's ubiquitous survivors over millions of years, to the living things so "omnipresent" that we overlook their amazing success. Precise vocabulary serves both the science and the poetry well, supported by a glossary, author's note, and illustrator's note.

(Patience. I'll tie this all together soon. We're on the home stretch now.)

This book, spotlighting Earth's ubiquitous survivors, should not be overlooked. Nor should poetry. Thus, Poetry Month has its place.

For a little inspiration, and daily links, follow Gottabook, a blog by Greg Pincus, to share his annual 30 Poets/30 Days. He features a different kids' poetry superstar each and every day, some of whom even share original creations for this project.

Do you know any kids who like to write poetry? (Or some who don't?) Check the KIdsWWWrite site edited by Margriet Ruurs. It's a safe and supportive opportunity for kids to publish their work, and even reluctant writers love to do that.

While you're online stop by several other poetry sites, each of which can become addictive habits for you and for kids. First, a resource for you, is PoetryAtPlay.org. Then, for you and for kids, visit GigglePoetry.com and Poetry4Kids.com.

Since April is Poetry Month, seize it. Dive in with both feet using UBIQUITOUS and countless other picture books (to be named soon). Cram every nook and cranny of space and time available (and unavailable- it's POETRY MONTH-duh) with poems of every size, shape, and topic. Make it ubiquitous. And then keep it that way, all throughout the year.

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