Monday, July 20, 2009

Science Verse

Last month I reviewed Cowboy and Octopus by the dynamic duo of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. I--to put it politely--disliked the book and said so. It was the first and hopefully only time in this blog that I will bash a book. I decided shortly after that review not to do anymore negative reviews. There is no reason for me to write about bad books when there are so many good ones to talk about.

So it is a totally different story when I talk about the duo's title Science Verse, which I finally bought and read this past weekend. I could not be more in love with this book. I picked up a number of books at the bookstore this weekend but I only had eyes for this one. I have read and reread these poems over and over since Saturday. They are just too wonderful.

For those of you who don't know Science Verse is a somewhat sequel to Math Curse (which I already own). The boy from Math Curse even makes a quick cameo in this book. Here is one instance where a sequel tops the original and that is saying a lot. I loved Math Curse but Science Verse is even better. The book is a series of poems all about science, which are done in the style of famous poems or songs. Evolution, is a silly little poem about (you guessed it) evolution, set to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Mary Had a Little Worm, a poem about parasites, is a direct takeoff on Mary Had a Little Lamb. And these are the shorter poems. My favorite had to be a poem about the scientific method told to the rhyme of Casey at the Bat. Or the hilarious Dino-Sore told in the same cadence as The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

Jon Scieszka is at his marvelous best, combining familiar rhymes and cadences with new and delightful wordings. Kids may want to see what the original poems sound like but I guarantee they will enjoy the new wording so much more. Scieszka is just so witty and clever with the parodies that kids will be singing and reciting the poems over and over. These are funny, silly, wonderful poems. And they will be learning a little about science in the process. Scieszka gives credit where credit is due at the end, listing all the poems and songs that were parodied.

Not to be outdone, Lane Smith has created silly and interesting spreads for each of the poems. His illustrative work is always inventive but in this book he really creates characters that stand out. The poem Evolution has a wonderful spread with each of the evolutionary stages of our narrator. He goes from knuckle dragging monkey, to upright boy wearing his adorable little bow tie. The spreads for Dino-Sore are colorful and just plain beautiful. One of my favorite spreads is for a poem called Water Cycle which looks at the precipitation-evaporation cycle. Our narrator is held in tiny water droplets only to be pushed high in the air during evaporation. Silly, inventive, and always interesting, Smith has easily become one of my favorite illustrators.

Science Verse is hilarious, innovative, and actually educational. Kids won't understand that they are learning about parasites, the water cycle, or the scientific method, but they will want so many repeated readings that they will soak in the information. Kids will love the funny poems, adults will love recognizing the source poems and songs, and everyone will love this book. Both this and Math Curse should be required reading. I'm excited that both of them now grace my shelves.

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