When Poems Fall from the Sky

When Poems Fall from the Sky
Zara Weil, Illustrated by Junli Song
ZaZa Kids

During the past year and a half a great many of us have found that walking in nature has both uplifted and calmed us: when we’ve so badly needed a boost, nature has been there for us inviting us to slow right down or stop and let the flora and fauna work their magic. As we read this treasure of a book, Zara Weil reminds us of those sights and sounds and introduces the joys of many others in this mix of poems, rhymes, haiku, raps, story poems and short plays, that were inspired by Kew Gardens where the poet spent time fairly recently; and having worked in the Kew herbarium on a gap year I can totally understand how Kew made her feel.

It’s clear that the poet observes with all her senses as she gently nudges and occasionally urges readers to see things differently, to discover new ways to look, feel and listen. She helps us to fine tune our ears to the various voices of nature that she has heard including that of a Butterfly’s Song, various birds such as a nightingale, and the Jay that acts its part along with Oak in That’s what friends are for – what delight this would give children taking on those roles in a read aloud, and a wonderful learning experience too.

The same is true of another ‘Mother Nature Production’ Oh Happy Day – a fig and wasp play that is a celebration of the amazing pollination partnership between wasps and fig trees.

It’s impossible to choose an utmost favourite in this collection but as a life-long lover of trees I was struck by the way Zaro captures their wonder and their ability to hold memories in Tree’s Story; ‘for who else still breathing / has been a part of long ago / who else / holds it written in / rings of memory / for anyone to read / in the far future ‘ – in those lines too (and throughout) is a reminder of our interconnectedness.

For its sheer exuberance and sheer delight in playful language, I absolutely relished Bug Parade with its ten quintillion minibeasts – ‘They whizzed by all zipping / glittering then flittering / diving and gliding / whoops sometimes colliding’. Brilliant!

Certainly a poem to make you laugh and perhaps, dance; but there are also poems to move you within, others to make you care and to think deeply.

Surely though, every one is a demonstration of the fact that in nature there is SO much to cherish and to wonder at; it’s as though nature itself has been given voice herein to give hope, to guide us ever to watch, to listen and to remember our role as guardians and stewards of our awesome planet.

Thoughtfully and beautifully illustrated by Junli Song, this is a must have book to cherish and return to over and over.

Botanicum & Destination: Space – Awesome Information Books

dscn8686

Botanicum
Katie Scott and Kathy Willis
Big Picture Press
I was fortunate to spend a year working in the Kew Herbarium in a kind of gap year after science A-levels and have retained an interest in Botany ever since. It was like being in another world and so I was especially interested to receive a copy of this large, lavishly produced book for review.
Published in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, it is essentially, a guide to the world’s flora, illustrated by Katie Scott (who also illustrated Animalium) with text from co-curator, Professor Kathy Willis (Kew’s Director of Science).
Before entering the seven galleries we’re given a wonderful introductory spread of the different types of plants that sets the scene for the whole thing …

dscn8687

Gallery 1 contains the most primitive plants in habitants of the Carboniferous Forests: from single celled diatoms

%0a

Algae

to ferns.
Trees (and shrubs) comprise gallery 2 and from there we move to Palms and Cycads, Herbaceous Plants,

%0a

Wild Flowers

then Grasses, Cattails, Sedges and Rushes; followed by Orchids and Bromeliads in Gallery 6 and the final section looks at Adapting to Environments.
The detailed illustrations are superb – look at these pitcher plants …

dscn8693

and the variety of page layout adds extra visual interest as the thick pages are turned and we gaze transfixed at some hundred colour spreads that provide a veritable visual feast.

dscn8691

Each entry is numbered and factual snippets are provided in a key. I’m pleased to see the Latin names are used – I often find these coming to mind more easily than the common ones, but I guess that’s my botanical background.

dscn8692

There’s something to interest everyone from primary school browser and information seeker to adult reader as the text ranges between chatty – in reference to the giant sequoia ‘it takes sixteen adults holding hands to reach around one‘ to the more challenging (of lichens): ‘They are a collaboration between a fungal element and photosynthesising algae.’ Having said that, I know that children at least, are able to absorb challenging vocabulary in context.
A terrific collaboration and a fine volume to accompany Animalium.

Information-hungry youngsters should find much to interest in:

dscn8696

Destination: Space
Dr Christoph Englert and Tom Clohosy Cole
Wide Eyed Editions
Herein readers can join five astronauts and embark on a journey of discovery through our Solar System to galaxies beyond. During the course of the mind-boggling journey, they can find out about such topics as ‘Stars’,’Earth’s Cycles‘ …

dscn8698

‘Black Holes’, ‘The Solar System’ and ‘Earth and its Magnetic Field’ . They can read about telescopes ancient and modern …

dscn8697

Unmanned Space Exploration’ that uses probes and contemplate ‘Life on Other Planets’. Each of these (and other fascinating subjects) is given a large, mostly visual double spread illustration by Tom Clohosy Cole onto which is superimposed an introductory paragraph and other snippets of information from lecturer in astronomy and physics, Dr Christoph Englert.
The grand finale is a fold-out page that when open becomes a large, double-sided poster.
Just the thing for a topic on space in the primary school or for interested individuals.

WNDB_Buttonlocalbookshops_NameImage-2