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PoetreesAs you know if you’ve read Susan Lempke’s article, there are lots and lots of books with poems about a particular subject — enough to read one every day of the school year. As she says, some work better than others as poems.

What do you think of this one? Florian has several volumes of this kind: poems about planets, amphibians, fish, mammals, seasons, etc. I think his poems and art work on several levels. In most cases, they are both simple and quite sophisticated.

One thing to bear in mind as you read any book that has multiple poems: you are not necessarily supposed to read the whole thing in one sitting. Poems need breathing room, both on the page and in time. They are meant to be savored one at a time, so if you are reading this book all at once, give yourself a few beats to digest the words and images before you move on to the next one.

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Lolly: Yes, I couldn’t agree more that Florian’s books are that rare hybrid: simple and sophisticated, and I have pretty much secured his prolific output that has proved very popular with first graders.

    2014 has brought us a splendid poetry picture book by Lin Oliver (with illustrations by the great Tomie de Paola) titled “Little Poems For Tiny Ears” that has proved a terrific read-aloud, what with the theme of infants and abundant humor. This would make a perfect unit with 2013’s exquisite “The Silver Moon” by the incomparable Jack Prelutsky (with truly sublime illustrations by Jui Ishida), which contains lullabies and cradle songs, and I have indeed paired them to great success.

    Of course Prelutsky just came off his rightly celebrated teaming with Carin Berger on the dazzling “Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and other Poems.”

  2. Abigail Russo says:

    As one who was never particularly drawn to poetry, I think this book is wonderfully done. The poems are engaging and fun to read and the illustrations are beautiful. I could see this as a wonderful book for opening up discussion on word play and children’s observations of nature and their neighborhoods, as each poem offers something distinct in terms of style and content.

    My question would be how this would be used at home or in a classroom. I have always been an avid reader but I have never read poetry recreationally- do teachers see this is something they could easily utilize in a classroom? I would imagine that it lends itself to interesting discussions around words, sounds, images, nature, and so on. It also seems like there is some very advanced language for a book that is structured as a picture book, so I would love to hear how people think that works for children or for what age group this would be best suited.

  3. Felicity Fu says:

    I loved the combination of illustration and poetic sense of this book! The drawings illustrated on the large canvass that sketches into two pages make the illustrations stand out and help draw the young readers into the setting. Every poem is so rhythmic and descriptive to be read out loud to students. Even as the adults, poems such as “weeping willow” evokes senses and emotions that can be felt for all ages. By the wide arrange of information about trees and different forms of poems, the author incorporates many sense of the readers. I can imagine this book to be used flexibly in classrooms to aid lessons with nature and poetry.

  4. Annemarie M. says:

    I really love Douglas Florian’s poems. My all-time favorite of his is probably his inchworm poem (not in this anthology!), but I also now love his poem about seeds because it was shaped like a seed! I really love this double meaning and my kindergarteners used to love reading this work because of how illustrative his words and their formatting are (for example when the word “spreading” is stretched out to convey more meaning). To answer your question, Abigail, I used some of his work with kindergarteners near the end of the year when they were beginning to learn about metaphors and adding detail to their writing. They LOVED poetry, probably because we used fun, dynamic poems including Florian’s, Shel Silverstein’s, and Eloise Greenfield’s. About Florian in particular, the illustrations are beautiful and imaginative, as my classmates have said, but what is so powerful about his work is that the words are often just as visually stimulating as the illustrations.

  5. Janice Chong says:

    I love the way the book opens vertically like a tree, and how the words in the poems are used for visual emphasis (e.g., “s p r e a d i n g” with intentional spacing). I also really enjoyed the variety in structure; while some poems were written in standard short stanzas, others were circular and in shapes characteristic or symbolic of the tree it was describing. The illustrations were interesting drawings and paintings that had a very earthy feel to them. I think these illustrations had more impact than a real photograph would for two reasons: first, to reflect the artistic nature of poetry, secondly, to emphasize texture and detailing that may be overlooked in a photograph.

  6. Ashley Szofer says:

    I seriously loved this book, which is weird because I seriously don’t love poetry. I should specify that I do love poetry that uses really awesome word play, which some of these poems do. But what I think really made this book great is a combination of features. The watercolor images with the words right on them, almost like a part of them, make the reader feel a part of the tree that the poem is describing. Kids also love to do water color paintings and I could see children being inspired to paint and write about trees after reading this. I could also see it inspiring kids to play with word sounds to describe things, thus making is a really great introduction to poetry.

    Most kids feel like (and sometimes I still feel like) poems are just supposed to be lines that rhyme; however, this book introduces them to a much more mature version of poetry. Well, several really. And I think the way the words work individually for each of the poems is a great way to talk about the power that words can have and there are so many great classroom activities that could be done here to get kids writing their own poetic descriptions of things. Also, this book would have room in a science classroom as a really fun introduction to lessons about trees and leaves and such. All around, I just very much enjoyed this little book of poetrees.

  7. Cami Gordon says:

    I really enjoyed reading this anthology. As others have mentioned the illustrations are gorgeous and I found myself running my fingers over many pages to feel the texture I expected to be there. Some of the poems I found to be potentially more helpful in the classroom, if in fact a teacher were to use these works to supplement a lesson on plants and trees. One poem I particularly found useful was “Leaves.” I think this poem would work really nicely with children. I envision having kids go outside and find different leaves and then make a list of descriptive words to describe them. I think it would be fun to then read the “Leaves” poem and see if there was overlap or if the kids had come up with other descriptors that Florian has included. I do think some poems in the anthology would be more useful and concrete than others in helping students learn about this topic; however as poetry for the sake of poetry I loved the way the words were presented in a variety of ways and enjoyed reading the text overall.

  8. Esther (Kyungeun) Lee says:

    This is such a beautiful book that teaches kids about both poetry and different types of trees (I had no idea so many funny names existed for different types of trees). The illustrations are lively, but I was surprised that the poems were also engaging and full of puns for kids to enjoy. I found the illustrations to be as lyrical as the words on the page.

  9. Alexandra Fish says:

    I love poetry books for the elementary classroom because they offer a perfect opportunity to incorporate literacy across different subjects. In this case, Poetrees could be an excellent collection to use when studying trees in science, or when studying different styles of poetry in language arts. As others have mentioned, I enjoyed how the spacing between certain letters and words served as a visual representation of what the tree was doing (ex: Roots poem). In response to Abigail’s comment about how this book could be used in a classroom, I think this book would be appropriate with elementary students and older students, depending on how the poems are used and applied in the classroom. I’ve even seen poetry used as a transitional tool in a kindergarten classroom where I student taught. If students had lined up quickly and quietly, the teacher would reward them by reading a Jack Prelutsky poem. I love this idea – I think it’s a fantastic way to develop a love of poetry in students, and believe that my former kindergartners would have loved some of the sillier poems (Coconut Palm) from this book.

  10. Kathleen Zheng says:

    I absolutely loved this book how this book played with so many different types of visual representations of poetry. I thought the winding format of both “The Seed” and “Tree Rings” was cute. I also liked how the words, “down,” “branch,” and “pours,” in “Roots” matched the movement they described. The words themselves are so visual and fun that I don’t think young children would be put off at all by the watery paintings and hazy sketches. In fact, I think the illustrations help foreground the text/poems very well and establish the dreamy, imaginative mood that the author is going for.

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