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Poetrees | Class #5, 2016

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 book 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. Mariel Perlow says:

    The design of this book really transports readers to the tranquility of the woods, and the sense of humor within the language is extremely clever. Leaves “leave me in awe” and “never destroy a giant sequoia” plays with words in a way that amuses readers, while personifying trees- like the willow tree weeping over caterpillars- encourages readers to think about trees in new and creative ways.

  2. Megan Wilhelm says:

    I agree with Mariel that the design of Poetrees is well done. The flipped spine conveys the height of the trees, and the word and letter placement on the page is artful and reminiscent of some poems by e.e. cummings (ex. the word “down” written downwards). I thought arranging the text in an infinity symbol for the poem “The Seed” was a brilliant way to capture a tree’s ongoing cycle of life. I also noticed that Florian incorporated words from his poems into a few of the illustrations, which was a creative way to tie the writing and pictures together (ex. “slowly” in the branches of the oak, “birrrrrr” in the birch trees, etc.). This book of poetry is a nice balance of playful and informative, and I appreciated that readers could learn more about each type of tree in the “Glossatree” at the end. I think this book would be an excellent teaching tool across the curriculum and provides ample inspiration for reading, writing, science, and art lessons.

  3. Joanna Craig says:

    At first I was very put off by the format of this book! It looked so much like it should be opened like a regular book, but when I realized I needed to open it from top to bottom I became very confused. However, once I recognized how essential the format was to the content of the poems, I found that I grew more and more comfortable with it. I could also see how a book in this format might actually be easier for a teacher or a parent to hold up as they read aloud. I loved that all of the poems related to the same topic, because it seems like it could be a great way for teachers to begin or end every lesson in a unit on plants or trees. I also enjoyed the playful nature of the letters and words in the poems, and how the author changed the style of the font to match the tree shape or the intention of the poem.

  4. Andrew Bauld says:

    This is a very attractive book to look at, and I appreciate the format choice, as it doesn’t come off as a gimmick and fits the subject matter, but I really had trouble getting past the poems themselves. As a teacher, and whenever I tried to teach poetry, kids would always complain that they hated poems, especially writing their own, because they held the expectation that poems all sounded a certain way because of only being exposed to traditional rhymes. I think it would have been so much stronger if this book had played with a few different forms (maybe even just a few blank verse poems) to show young readers that poems, just like trees, come in all different shapes and sizes.

  5. Gabby Cohn says:

    I enjoyed the poems and design of this book (particularly the earthy vibes of the illustrations and color choices). As a child, I loved reading and writing poetry. However, like others mentioned, not every student loves poetry. In my personal experience, I’ve found that young readers tend to enjoy poetry, especially poems that rhyme. This book presents an exciting way for students to learn and memorize new information. This book caters to different elementary subjects; literature, reading, science and even art. In case there are students that don’t like poetry, they can still refer to the “Glossatree” in the back of the book. Overall, I loved the creative, beautiful nature of this book.

  6. Montserrat Cubillos says:

    I was impressed of how little green is needed to illustrate a book about trees. The way the illustrator broadens the color palette and plays with textures is very impressive. In one of the poems, I was pleased to find our very own Chilean Araucaria, but completely taken aback by the name they call it! I cannot believe the beautiful native name is translated into “Monkey Tree”! I wonder, as well, why did the author choose to mix tree-related “concepts” (like rings and roots) with different tree species (like baobabs and oaks). Also, does the order in which trees are presented respond to a certain reason?

  7. Addie Webb says:

    Like others have already commented, I loved the design of this book and the illustrations, which felt very natural and whimsical (not at all overworked or commercial) like the poems themselves. I especially loved the poem entitled “Coconut Palm”, which I felt really captured the spirit of a coconut tree. I had never thought about how the coconut tree is not one that you climb leisurely, but rather “scurry up and hurry” until reading this poem. Reading it aloud also brought out the rhythmic humor of the word choice, especially “for coco I am loco”, which I can see children really enjoying!

  8. John Travis says:

    Thank to all of the previous commentators who have lifted up design as a central component of this work. The design elements of Poetrees are most essential for understanding the experience of reading it. The book opens up, not sideways, with the orientation of a calendar. The illustrations look like they were made on folded paper bags and the title page lists a range of media from gouache water color paints to rubber stamps. The mixed media give a full aesthetic experience that is full of symbolism, the heart of any good poetry. Even just examining the first poem about a seed, you see the combination of picture and text setting to convey the infinite circle of possibility found in a single seed. I found it very compelling.

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