Monday, April 30, 2012

Our Seasons

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.

Curriculum Connections:
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.

Personal Reflections:
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.


Age/Interest Range:

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).

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