By Douglas Florian
Cover image retrieved 3/30/13 from
Florian, Douglas. Poetrees. New York: Beach Lane Books, 2010. ISBN 9781416986720
Douglas Florian’s poetry is as rich and descriptive as his magnificent paintings, which serve as the backdrop for each poem. In crafting this collection, Mr. Florian created eighteen poems about a variety of trees, describing their unique attributes. With each poem transposed onto the illustration, a complete literary/visual connection is achieved. Readers will be fascinated with the facts about the tree or tree part on each page. A table of contents sets the stage for the book, with the “glossatree” slyly occupying the spot typically reserved for the glossary.
As is typical with Florian’s poetry, clever wordplays hook the reader. Figurative language abounds, as does sensory imagery. It is difficult to determine which is more appealing, the construction of the poem or the illustrations. Full-page illustrations provide the background for each poem. The illustrations are mixed media, sprinkled with a canny mix of images that offer a play on words. Rhyme and rhythm provide a hook that leads the reader to want to reread it often, for the pleasure of how the words trip off the tongue. Ancient seers / Of three thousand years. / Heavenly high. / Friends to the sky. from “Giant Sequoias” flows freely when read aloud. The poems and illustrations are a treat to the senses.
Text arrangement is key to the impact of many poems. Concrete poetry is cleverly used in poems such as “The Seed,” which is scripted in an infinity loop, and details the never-ending cycle of seed to tree to seed. In “Roots” several words are printed down, evoking the growth of the root. Other text is spread out, to mirror the girth or magnitude described in the poem. Each poem begs to be read again and again, as the reader will discover new images, wordplays, and connections with repeated readings.
Readers of all ages will connect to the poetry and learn from it, as well. This book is a wonderful resource to integrate Science and Language Arts. Though the book is officially for ages six and up, all levels of learners will find something to please them here. It is recommended for all school libraries.
Hazel Rochman (Booklist, Mar. 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 13))
Starting with the book’s title and ending with a final glossatree, the wordplay in Florian’s latest poetry collection provides plenty of fun. Each of the 18 poems celebrates the wonder of trees, from the giant sequoia (the world’s tallest trees) and the Banyan (an acre in its canopy) to the bristlecone pine, one of the oldest trees on earth (alive for fifty cen-trees). The final fascinating notes on each tree, and on leaves, stems, and roots, spell out the call for conservation that is part of the poetry and pictures.
CBC Reviewer (National Science Teachers Association (NSTA))
More than a dozen species of trees are the subject of the poems in this illustrated anthology. The accurate science and inspirational lyric text earned this book a place on the list of NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for 2011. Detailed information about the trees as well as leaves and roots is provided at the end, so that the teacher or mentor can effectively continue the discussion long after the students' awe has been evoked.
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
In this unusual collection, Florian focuses on several types of and parts of a tree, with poems about seeds, roots, bark, leaves, and tree rings. Solid in their meter and rhymes, the poems are idiosyncratic rather than comprehensive, creating a hybrid of information, wordplay, and artistic invention.
Best Children's Books of the Year, 2011 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2011 ; National Science Teachers Association;
Poetry Break!Spotlight Poem
I am no ordinary tree-
I’m master of longevity.
One of the oldest trees on Earth,
With swirling branches, twirling girth.
And where it’s cold and dry I thrive:
For fifty cen-trees I’m alive.
I cope on slopes ten thousand feet high.
I’m Bristlecone Pine-
I never say die!
§ Display a photograph of a Bristlecone Pine, such as the one found at http://www.yourdictionary.com/bristlecone-pine
§ Share the poem orally, lingering over the lines for impact.
§ Invite students to read the poem chorally. Ask them to share words and phrases that catch their attention.
§ Distribute drawing paper. As you read the poem aloud again, invite students to sketch their interpretation. Engage students in a discussion of how this tree looks and feels different from others in this book, such as the Banyan tree or Sequoia.
§ Challenge students to represent this poem in a concrete format. Encourage them to share ideas of how the words could be placed on the page to reflect the imagery of the tree in this poem.
Other Books by Douglas Florian
Douglas Florian’s website: http://www.douglasflorian.com/
Douglas Florian’s blog: http://floriancafe.blogspot.com/
Shiver Me Timbers!
Poem Runs: Baseball Poems
Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars
bow wow meow meow
in the swim
lizards, frogs, and polliwogs