Book Review: COMETS, STARS, THE MOON AND MARS: SPACE POEMS AND PAINTINGS written and Ill. by Douglas Florian

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Florian, Douglas. 2007. COMETS, STARS, THE MOON AND MARS: SPACE POEMS AND PAINTINGS. New York: Harcourt. ISBN 978-015206625-3

COMETS, STARS, THE MOON AND MARS is a stunning mix of art, prose, and solar-system facts.  This middle-grade poetry book contains twenty playful poems about the universe and all its celestial bodies.  Douglas Florian takes readers on a whimsical journey from “Earth” (p. 1) to “The Great Beyond” (p. 45).  A “Galactic Glossary” of space terminology is included at the back of the book. In COMETS, STARS, THE MOON AND MARS, Flores merges humor, poetry, and art to make learning about our universe fun!

The poems in this book are simple and filed with scientific facts such as the phases of Earth’s moon, Jupiter’s 16 moons, and Venus’s extreme temperature.  Many of the poems in the book contain “cheeky humor” that keeps learning delightfully entertaining (Bruder 2007). Kirkus Reviews noted that the rhymes are “characteristically playful, wrapping itself around astronomical facts with ease” (Kirkus Review 2007).  For instance, this book contains humorous and fact-filled verses such as (p. 37): 

PLUTO

Pluto was a planet.

But now it doesn’t pass.

Pluto was a planet.

They say it’s lacking mass.

Pluto was a planet.

Pluto was admired.

Pluto was a planet

Till one day it got fired.

While most of Florian’s verse is playful and engaging, a few of the included poems “stumble on lumpy rhymes or fall flat” (Bruder 2007).  The mixed-media art and lighthearted language distract from awkward sounding verse when reading the book silently.  However, when the poems are read aloud the listener can hear the forced nature of some of the rhymes. This is unfortunate because children get more delight out of poetry when it is read silently AND aloud (Vardell 2008, 130).  Reading poetry aloud to children allows them to “develop their own oral fluency and understanding of language” (Vardell 2008, 130).

Enrichment Activities:

Florian plays with word spacing and form to merge the artwork in the poems.  For instance, the art and spiral text in the poem “A Galaxy” illustrates the varied shapes galaxies take (p. 10-11).

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To enrich the lessons of this book, children can be asked to create their own mixed-media masterpiece using space facts.  They can create their own solar system using materials such as fabric, magazine pages, buttons, and so on.  If parents would like to expand on this creative theme, the website “Kids Astronomy” has a fun and free makes your own solar system game (http://www.kidsastronomy.com/fun/make-a-solar-system.htm ).  Children can use this game to incorporate all the poems elements into their very own solar system.

What to Read Next:

Florian, Douglas. 2009. DINITHESAURUS: PREHISTORIC POEMS AND PAINTINGS. La Jolla, CA:  Beach Lane Books. ISBN 978-1416979784

Sklansky, Amy. 2012. OUT OF THIS WORLD: POEMS AND FACTS ABOUT SPACE.   New York:  Knopf Books. ISBN 978-0375864599

References

Bruder, Jessica. “Children’s Books: COMETS, STARS, THE MOON, AND MARS.” New York Times Sunday Book Review. June 3, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/books/review/Bruder-t.html?_r=0 (accessed February 19, 2014).

Kirkus Review. “COMETS, STARS, THE MOON, AND MARS: Space Poems and Paintings.” March 15, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/books/review/Bruder-t.html?_r=0 (accessed February 18, 2014).

Vardell, Sylvia M. CHILDREN’S LITERATURE IN ACTION: A LIBRARIAN’S GUIDE. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2008.

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