a book of great ocean poems for children

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Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo SoWhat would the sea urchin say if it fell in love with a fork? What type of story would sand tell? How are beagles and seagulls similar and different?

Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs contains delightful poems for children. My favorite of them have surprise questions and endings, and I suspect a few of them are clever enough to count as having conceits.

Some knock us out of our expectations, dislocating us from the center of the universe and putting the sea-creature in its place. For example there’s a poem titled “Prayer of the Little Fish.” The first six lines are rather predictable requests to keep safe, for help finding food and to “swim with grace and care.” Though they’re about the experience of a fish they don’t seem all that different from what a human child might pray. Then the last lines go: “And please, O Lord, protect me from / the high, dry, breathless air.” The softness is gone and we’re left with the awareness that we are here in the high, dry, breathless air. We’re here in that which the fish dread. The distance between us and the fish is huge.

There’s a really awesome one about a shipwrecked boat too, but I don’t want to spoil it by describing why its so great.

The poetry book would be a great accompanyment to a homeschooler’s unit-study on sea creatures, as there’s poems about well known species like blue whales as well as poems about lesser known creatures like nudibranch, gulper eels and oarfish. There are three jellyfish poems, which to me is an invitation to try to write our own poems about jellyfish. (My theory is if there’s room for three poems about jellyfish, then there’s room for four, five or six, and that we don’t have to worry as much about the temptation to copy if we’re responding to a collection of poems then if we’re responding to a single poem.)

Some of the poems might be used for art projects.  One poem is about a “Water Artist” making art in the movement of the water: in what ways could we use water currents in creating art? Could water currents carry paint, or perhaps colored sand or salts? Or could the movement itself be a form of art like a dance? Could we do art with air currents? What about making a mobile of fish and then using fans to make them dance? Could we use blotches of ink like in the poem “Octupus Ink”? Or perhaps take a camera out to the beach to capture pictures of the tide’s graffiti.

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  • Patty

    This sounds like a wonderful book – I love the idea of poems from the perspective of sea creatures, and that we humans live in the high, dry, breathless air. Great ideas for working with homeschool themes and this book! I stopped by from the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

  • Alex Baugh

    This sounds like a fun summertime poetry book and well as a nice common core companion to studying about sea creatures. I stopped by from the Kid Lit Blog Hop, too.

  • Elizabeth Low

    I’m here from the Kid Lit Blog Hop. I also wrote about beach books this week, but I’ve never seen this one. I love your vivid description of the fish poem, as well as your description of how you plan to use the collection with your children.

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