Lin, Grace and Ranida T. McKneally. Our Seasons. Illustrated by Grace Lin. Charlesbridge, 2006. Unpaged. $16.95. ISBN 9781570913600.
Pairing science and nature with evocative haiku is a unique way to present a nonfiction text. Lin’s colorful, gouache illustrations of our four, multiethnic main characters, Ki-Ki, Owen, Lily, and Kevin, take us through the four seasons of the year. Each two-page spread has a 1.5 page illustration, with an accompanying haiku that relates to the informational sidebar. Each sidebar is headed by a question, one that curious children might have wondered about such as, “Why is the air sticky?” and “Why do I tan?” (summer), or “Why is there frost on the window?” (winter), or “What makes the wind?” (autumn). There are three two-page spreads devoted to each season. The language of the science question and answer is accessible to young listeners: “No matter how cold it is outside, your body is always a steady, warm temperature.” And the accompanying haiku: “Ki-Ki sees her breath,/ She pretends she’s a dragon/ Blowing out hot steam.” This is a cheerful and accessible summary of some of the key features of the seasons and a simple introduction to the form of haiku poetry.
This would make an excellent read aloud during a first or second grade unit on the seasons of the year. Alternatively, it’s a good browsing book and would be a nice addition to a classroom library. Since the content of haiku poetry is typically related to nature, this would be a way to introduce young writers to the haiku form and themes.
I enjoyed the simple format of this book and like the colorful illustrations, which will “read” well for a shared read-aloud. The question and answer format is just the right hook for an audience of early grade listeners.
Science, Seasons, Poetry, Nonfiction
Though there are many picture books about various seasons and the associated activities, this one seems to have a unique place. The haiku narrative and accompanying factual information remind me of the style of Song of the Water Boatman (Sidman).