Friday, January 08, 2010

Poetry Friday -- The Tree That Time Built

The Tree That Time Built: a celebration of nature, science, and imagination
selected by Mary Ann Hoberman (U.S. Children's Poet Laureate) and Linda Winston
illustrated by Barbara Fortin
audio CD included with "39 minutes of poetry on 55 tracks"
Sourcebooks, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

This is probably my favorite poetry book of 2009.

In ways that are elegantly woven, Hoberman and Winston have given us a poetry book that is a science book, a science book written in poetry, and a collection of poems that can serve to teach us the arts of reading and writing poetry. All this in one volume.

As anthologists, they are collectors of poetry about the living world in the same way that naturalists are collectors of facts and artifacts about and from the living world.

This is a poetry book with a glossary in which scientific terms stand next to poetic terms: Adaptation, Alliteration, Altruism, Assonance, Cell...

Every section of the book has an introductory essay (a kind of Literary Essay for those of us who need mentor texts for students who are expected to tackle this genre of writing).
Oh, Fields of Wonder: "Both poets and scientists wonder at and about the world. Out of that wonder, scientists devise experiments to see whether they can verify what they think may be true, while poets craft language to examine and communicate their insights."
The Sea is Our Mother: "The poems in this section recall life's watery origins as well as the Earth's own geological beginnings. They speak about the planet's ongoing transformations, the diverse creatures engendered in the sea, and about our own human connection to them both."
Prehistoric Praise: poems about fossils
Think Like a Tree: "We wouldn't be here without plants."
Meditations of a Tortoise: "In both Iroquois and Hindu legends, the earth is supported on the back of a giant turtle."
Some Primal Termite: "Naturalists define fitness as the ability of a species to reproduce itself in the greatest numbers and to adapt to the widest range of environments. According to this definition, insects are the fittest of all living creatures."
Everything That Lives Wants to Fly: "Along with Archaeopteryx (the earliest known bird), Darwin's finches play a key role in evolutionary theory."
I Am the Family Face: poems that explore all the meanings of family
Hurt No Living Thing: "It is natural for species to go extinct, but the rate at which this is happening today is unprecedented."
And every poem in this book is accessible to and readable by children. They never preach. They show, rather than tell. They introduce children to poems by children's poets as well as some of my favorite adult poets: Wendell Berry, Maxine Kumin, Ogden Nash, Mary Oliver, Theodore Roethke, Rumi, and May Swenson. The scientific and/or poetic notes at the bottom of some of the pages are unobtrusive but informative.

The book comes with a cd that has 44 of the poems read by 20 artists. Alan Cheuse, a voice familiar to NPR listeners, reads from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence:

To see a World in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

•Extensive review with lots of links at Wild Rose Reader
•Mary Ann Hoberman's guest blogger post about memorizing poetry at the blog
•Also a "Best Poetry of the Year" pick on Harriet the Blog: The Poetry Foundation

Tricia has the Poetry Friday round up today at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


  1. Enjoyed hearing your thoughts about this amazing book. Thanks so much!! :)

  2. Your favorite poetry book? That's good enough for me, I'll check it out immediately.

  3. Mary Lee,

    I loved the book too! I think it's one of the best poetry anthologies I've ever read. I wish the "The Tree That Time Built" had been available when I was still teaching. I love connecting poetry and science.

  4. This sounds lovely--I've added it to my list!

  5. Jim, I'm feeling a little scared of the power of my recommendation...but this book will not disappoint you!

    Karen, Happy Snow Day back at you! I am catching up on blog reading and I'll be able to make the Poetry Friday rounds for the first time in a couple of weeks! YAY!!!

  6. This sounds like a great book for parents who want to better understand how to engage kids with poetry, too. I'm adding it to my list.

  7. You are right Mary Lee! This book will not disappoint anyone. I absolutely LOVE it and my students enjoyed it too!

  8. Wow this looks fabulous! Thanks for the links too.

  9. Anonymous12:12 PM

    Yes! I love this book so so so much and have been meaning to post from it. Thank you!!!

  10. Sounds like a wonderful book. I'll definitely check out. Thanks!

  11. Anonymous3:19 PM

    It looks amazing. Some of my fave poets. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I just loved this collection of poems. It has so much in it to share - it's perfect to have as a family and dip into. One thing I particularly liked was how it was aimed at children ages 8 - 13, so children who are beyond the bouncy illustrations often associated with young children's poetry, but aren't ready for complicated poetry studied in high school.

  13. You beat me to it, Mary Lee! I was going to us a poem from this book next Friday when I post books for Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish Festival of the Trees. I will do it anyway and come back and link to your site then. This is an incredible collection of poetry. I love it!

  14. I can't wait to read this. It's in my lineup! Great review--

  15. It's an amazing book. I rarely buy books, but this is one that I just have to have so I can return to it again and again.

  16. This book seems interesting,i will check it out,thanks


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