If you are a frequenter of Poetry Friday, you know that today is the birthday of a champion of children’s Poetry (with a capital P!)—Lee Bennett Hopkins. And if you are a reader of children’s poetry, you no doubt have been delighted by Lee’s many poetry anthologies.
To celebrate Lee’s birthday, I’m going to continue my April project of reviewing a book each Friday and using it to inspire my own writing. I’ve got several Hopkins anthologies on my shelf to choose from, but there’s one that holds a special place in my poetry heart– Spectacular Science, Lee’s 1999 anthology that celebrates science. When I first explored combining my nonfiction bent with children’s poetry, I read and reread Spectacular Science. Study this book and you’ll find the works of master poets, from Valerie Worth to Carl Sandberg, writing about topics that speak to the curiosity of both scientists and children.
I had the good fortune to hear Lee speak via Skype a couple of years ago at The Craft and Heart of Writing Poetry for Children, a Highlights Foundation workshop led by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard. Lee spoke about how to put heart in a poem: “I’m interested in giving children beauty. I want kids to feel something, to have emotion…. As a poet you want to expand their view, to get them to look up.”
Spectacular Science certainly succeeds in expanding the reader’s view and getting them to look up, down, and all around. Kids are naturally scientists—they observe their world and ask questions. The poems in this book are brimming with observation and wonder. They invite a reader to look closely at everything from microscopic organisms to the stars. Consider “Under the Microscope,” by Lee Bennett Hopkins, which celebrates both microscope and creatures it allows us to see:
Some of the poems ask questions that capture a child’s curiosity about what they observe, like Aileen Fisher’s “The Seed:”
Others explore the sense of wonder that inspires scientists and young people alike. Alice Schertle’s “Dinosaur Bone” is one of my all-time favorite poems.
This quote from Bernice Cullinan which Sylvia Vardell posted on her Poetry for Children blog this week addresses how poetry and science are made for one another.
Every poem in this collection is a model of clear-eyed observation, wonder, and delightful language. I hope I’ve whet your appetite with a few selections from Spectacular Science . If you aim to write science poetry, you owe it to yourself to find a copy of this book and pore over its contents.
Revisiting Spectacular Science (along with dreaming about spring finally reaching Michigan!) provided inspiration for a poem I wrote this week:
How does a robin weave a nest
where eggs stay safe and snug?
How does a spider spin a web
that traps a hapless bug?
How does a beaver dam and shape
a stream into a lake?
Who digs the hole beneath your shrub—
a chipmunk or a snake?
Who taught raccoon to lift a latch
and plan his midnight caper?
Who taught a wasp to chomp a stem
and turn it into paper?
What will you learn when you watch and wonder,
ponder the questions here?
What can you make when you weave and spin,
construct and engineer?
— ©Buffy Silverman, 2018
Head over to Life on the Deckle Edge where Robyn is hosting a birthday party and poetry celebration!