Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs

Cindy: The beautiful cover art of Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems (Chronicle 2012) lured me in like a siren but every page turn continued to enchant me. The opening poem, “Song of the Boat” pushes the reader from the shore with lines that rise and fall like the waves:

Song of the Boat

    Push away from the stillness of the nut-brown land,
from the road that leads to the shore.

Push away from the town with its tight tree roots,
from its closed brown shutters and doors.

Push away–heave-ho–from the heavy brown pier,
from its pilings huddled and dull.

For the water sings blue and the sky does, too,
and the sea lets you fly like a gull.

From there poems flow through subjects from seagulls and sand to tidal pools, waves and blue whales and many others dealing with the creatures and features of the ocean and its shoreline. Some poems rhyme, others feature structure for readers to notice and perhaps imitate (haiku, anyone?), but all are fine, fine poems accompanied by Meilo So’s gorgeous watercolor paintings. Some are serious and some showcase Coombs’ sense of humor that was evident in her middle grade fiction, The Runaway Princess and the The Runaway Dragon.

Sea Urchin

The sea urchin fell in love with a fork.
With a tremble of purple spines,
she told her mother, “He’s tall, not a ball,
but just look at his wonderful tines!”

I just finished the first three of my open water scuba dive tests and after two more I’ll be ready to expand my shoreline shell collecting and go looking below the surface of the ocean for all of the treasures this book describes! I can’t wait.

Lynn:  No scuba diving for me but I completely agree with Cindy on this book!  The combination of these really excellent poems and gorgeous illustrations just swept me away.  Firstly the perspectives are so unusual  – and so fitting!  Coombs gives a voice to the waves, shipwrecks and even the sand itself.

We used to be rocks,

we used to be stones.

We stood proud as castles,

alters and thrones.

The focus group and I have been reading the poems together and they, like me, especially like the humor in the poems from the shy octopus author or the tide pool shopper.

This book is a must for classrooms and libraries and has endless possibilities for curriculum and Common Core use.  What a great way to give young students practice in identifying point of view and pick out supporting evidence.  Put the poem up on a visual presenter and read one together and then let the discussion flow.  It’s a great way to study different poetic forms playing with one subject and it’s also a wonderful springboard for a research and writing assignment.  Read this charming book and then ask the students to research their own water-related life form and create a short poem of their own that incorporates some of their research. 

Well, it IS summer after all so you can also just take this lovely book to the beach and enjoy.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees.

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