SEEDS, BEES, BUTTERFLIES, AND MORE! POEMS FOR TWO VOICES Poems by Carole Gerber Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Seeds Bees Butterflies
Gerber, Carole. 2013. Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems For Two Voices. Ills. by EugeneYelchin. New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN: 9780805092110.


Gerber’s collection of poetry in Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems For Two Voices is as bright and airy as a Spring day. With a total of 18 pieces of poetry to be shared in two voices, readers will be delighted to learn about how plants and insects need each other just as one reader needs the voice of the other.

Critical Analysis

Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices incorporates science and performance poetry. The poetry is bouncy, and almost seems to buzzzzzzz! From poppies and pansies to bumble bees and honey bees, the poetry brings a new spin to the process of pollination, metamorphosis, and how insects and plants rely on each other to sustain the species. Gerber’s use of performance poetry lends itself quite well to teaching students about the interdependence of plant life and other species, as the two readers are converse with each other through the poem. This is especially evidenced in the poem “Bedmates”.


Stop eating my compost!
It’s my autumn snack.

It’s my winter blanket, and I want it back!

Your bloom time is over. You look nearly dead.

I’ll be back next summer – get out of my bed!

I’ll have to come first to plow up the ground.
without my help, Flower, you’d not be around.

Okay! You can stay, Worm.
But where will you go
when wintertime comes and it starts to snow?

I’ll rest, just as you do. I’ll tunnel down dep,
curl up near your roots, and have a long sleep.

In the meantime, dear Worm, I’ll kindly feed you.
More compost?

Thanks, Flower. Don’t mind if I do!


Each poem serves as a mini-lesson. In “Now We’re Sleepy” and “New Baby” readers learn about the life cycle of a butterfly.

Now We’re Sleepy

I am drowsy.
I am sleepy.
Both of us have had our fill
Of crawling, creeping, eating.

It’s time now to be still.
I’m curling up beneath a leaf.
I’m snuggling down to nap.
No more crunching.
No more chewing.

No more drinking milkweed sap.
Hey! Are you asleep yet?
No, I’m in a sack! What’s this?
It’s what our skin turned into.
It’s called a chrysalis.
I feel cozy in this thing.
Mine’s exactly the right size.
Good night. Sweet dreams.
Sleep tight now.

Soon, we’ll be butterflies!

now we're sleeping

New Baby

That’s an odd-looking leaf
Hanging from that old tree.

What could that strange thing possibly be?

It’s wiggling. Waggling.
Looks ready to burst.

Let’s hunker down low.
Prepare for the worst!

See! Something popped out.

I’m shaking with dread.
I hope we’ll be safe in this flower bed.

Look now! It’s gorgeous.
Eek! It’s flapping nearby!

It’s coming to visit.

Hello, Butterfly!

new baby

Eugene Yelchin’s vibrant illustrations using graphite and gouache on watercolor paper create the feeling of traipsing through the garden. The bright colors contrast and complement the poetry beautifully. Yelchin alternates the colors used in the two voices in the title of the poems, further highlighting the interdependence between the two voices.

Science teachers could use this to teach pollination and metamorphosis.

Students could be given a pairing and asked to research their interdependence and then create a poem in two voices. Pair with Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman to model poetry written in two voices.

This collection would make an excellent choice to use with students who are reluctant to read poetry out loud or share with the class.

This collection would also serve as an excellent readers’ theater. What fun students would have pretending to be bees or ladybugs!


BUTTERFLY EYES AND OTHER SECRETS OF THE MEADOW written by Joyce Sidman, Illustrated by Beth Krommes

Butterfly Eyes

Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. Ills. By Beth Krommes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 061856313X


Poetry interwoven with informational pieces in Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, create a whimsical collection that is sure to engage readers. Each poem gives snippets of information and poses a question as to the identity of the topic of the poem. As readers turn the page, they are treated to a vignette that details the specifics of how the two creatures are related to each other. The artwork beautifully illustrates what the poems teach. Together Sidman and Krommes have crafted a beautiful collection that is both educational and captivating.

Critical Analysis

Sidman’s Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow gives readers from a variety of backgrounds the opportunity test their knowledge about fairly average critters. Through the poetry and artwork on the pages, the animals and other living matter come to life in a way readers might not have considered before. The poetry breathes new life into the subjects of pollination, germination, food chain, and complete metamorphosis. Sidman’s setting of a meadow from sunrise to sunset is a clever way to incorporate science. The poetry is rhythmic and varied. Free-verse, shape, and poetry in the format of a letter (with the identity of the critter concealed as part of the riddle/answer scheme) are all incorporated in this collection. This variety of poetry, riddles, and vignettes combined with the artwork give readers a deeper insight to the meadow and the life that abounds there.

Beth Krommes’ illustrations on scratchboard are a contrast to the lively poetry on the pages this collection. The colors are somewhat muted, yet provide a striking contrast. The details Krommes’ artwork incorporates balances the poetry well. Just as one reads the line, “What is it?” or “Who am I?” they are treated to a small clue in the artwork. A small slither of a snake’s tail or the breast and talons of a hawk treat readers to a glimpse about which the poem was written. This is evident in “An Apology to My Prey”.

An Apology to My Prey

I am deeply sorry for my huge orbs
of eyes, keen and hooded,
that pierce your lush
tapestry of meadow.

And my wins: I regret their slotted tips
that allow such explosive thrust;
their span that gathers wind
effortlessly, and of course their
deadly, folding dive.

Let me offer an apology, too,
for my talons, impossibly long
and curved, sliding so easily
through fur and feathers,
seeking, as they do,
that final grip.

And last, of course, the beak.
It does tend to glitter, I know –
a merciless hook,
a golden sickle poised over
your soft, helpless heart.

I’m sorry. For you, that is.
All this works out quite well
For me.

What am I?


Curriculum Connections

Science teachers could use this collection to show connections between plants and animals. Also, this would be a strong selection when promoting taking care of the environment.

Students could be arranged in pairs and given a match. Each would write a poem as a riddle and create the informational vignette for the whole class. The class could then create an anthology of their work.

English teachers could use this to teach reading strategies such as using inference skills.

BUTTON UP! By Alice Schertle Pictures by Petra Mathers

Button Up Picture

Schertle, Alice. 2009. Button Up! Ill. By Petra Mathers. New York: Harcourt Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780152050504.

Plot Summary

Alice Schertle’s Button Up! is a sweet collection of poems that highlight the triumphs and tribulations of one of our basic needs: our clothes! From shoelaces to jammies to a puffy blue jacket, all these items come together to tell how they see the world. Children of all ages will find something about which to chuckle when reading these “wrinkled” rhymes.

Critical Analysis

Through Button Up! children are able to see themselves mirrored through the animals on the pages. With young mice, rabbits, pigs, alligators, and bears as the wearers of each item, young children will find a connection to the poetry. Most of the bouncy, rhythmic poems follow the A-B-C-B format, which create a light-hearted feeling while reading these poems out loud and captures the attention of young children quite well.

Petra Mathers’ watercolor illustrations on cold-press paper are whimsical and create a nursery rhyme feel. Suited to young children, the characters’ sweet, gentle expressions add to the nursery rhyme feel and further construct personification of the clothing item. This is evidenced in the illustration that accompanies “Tanya’s Old T-Shirt”. While the poem exudes personification through word choice, the illustration further personifies the t-shirt.

Tanya’s Old T-Shirt

I live in a bucket shoved under a stair.
They call me a dust rag!
I don’t think it’s fair.

I’m still the same size as when I was new.
I didn’t shrink—
it was Tanya who GREW.

She started out small and we fit to a T.
Now she’s big as a sofa!
She’s tall as a tree!
She’s out of control, and they’re dusting with me!

You’ll never, not ever
Hear anyone say,
“She’s gotten too big, she’s just in the way,
let’s dust the piano with Tanya today.”

button up t-shirt


English teachers could use this collection to show examples of figurative language such as simile, personification, and onomatopoeia.
Teachers could use these as inspiration for students to bring an item from home and create a poem using the types of figurative language in the book, primarily personification.
Teachers of young children could have the students bring a favorite item of clothing about which to write a poem.

IN THE SWIM By Douglas Florian

in the swim

Florian, Douglas. 1997. In the Swim. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace & Co. ISBN: 0152013075

In the Swim is a fun collection of poetry that captures the “personalities” of 21 different water creatures. From the salt water fish to fresh water fish, Florian’s illustrations and poetry creates a vivid illustration of each critter and what makes them unique. Young readers will enjoy reading these short, snappy poems out loud, all the while learning science
standards pertaining to water animals.

Critical Analysis
This collection is comprised of 21 poems that can enrich science units about animals that live in the water. Filled with humor, the poetry on the pages are simple, but rich in facts about each creature. The corresponding illustration gives readers fun visual with which to associate the poem, thus the water animal. This is illustrated best in the poem “The Skates”.

The Skates

The skinny skates are flat as plates.
They feed on small invertebrates
They find upon the ocean floor
Then skate along to find some more.


Florian also gives character to his poetry through the placement of the text. In “The Sawfish” the zig zag placement of the text creates movement.



Florian’s use of watercolor on rough French watercolor paper is appropriate considering the topic: animals that live in water. Some paintings are simple with muted colors while others are more vivid with sharp contrasting colors. In addition to his poetry, the illustrations further personify the animals they portray. These come together beautifully as the poem “The Starfish”:


The Starfish

Although it seems
That I’m all arms,
Some other organs
Give me charm.
I have a mouth
With which to feed.
A tiny stomach
Is all I need.
And though it’s true
I have no brain,
I’m still a star –
I can’t complain.

Curriculum Connections
This anthology of poetry is a must have for science teachers who teach an oceans unit or animals that live in water. Including this collection in a research unit about these animals would be extremely helpful and give context, along with visuals, to what the students are learning.

English teachers might want to consider using this collection when teaching about figurative language and how it enhances writing. Students are able to see real examples of personification and using similes and metaphors.

FRIDA: ¡VIVA LA VIDA! LONG LIVE LIFE! By Carmen T. Bernier – Grand


Bernier-Grand, Carmen T. 2007. Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life!. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Co. ISBN: 9780761453369

Carmen Bernier-Grand’s poetry paired with Frida Kahlo’s paintings creates a biography unlike any other. Beginning with Kahlo’s birth and ending with her death, Bernier-Grand gives insight into the life of Frida Kahlo. Each poem is inspired by a painting and gives intimate detail of Kahlo’s tumultuous life. The chronology of the poetry and placement of the paintings create a well-rounded story that serves as tribute to Kahlo’s life.

Critical Analysis
Readers, both young and old, will find Frida: ¡Viva la vida! intriguing and engaging. This collection creates a compelling biography that artistically tells Kahlo’s story. Through poetry paired with Kahlo’s artwork, Kahlo’s life story is told in a way that seems fitting with respect to her and her place in art history. Bernier-Grand gives Kahlo a voice through the poems; almost as if Kahlo is speaking directly to readers through the poems and her art. Readers are given insight to the pain Kahlo endured in a terrible bus accident that is seen in the poem “Life Begins Tomorrow”.

Life Begins Tomorrow

Enclosed in a cast,
It hurts a lot to laugh with carcajadas.
Spinal column broken in two places,
Pelvis in three,
Ribs in two,
Right leg in seven,
Left elbow dislocated,
Deep abdominal wounds.
But I laugh with carcajadas,
For Death didn’t take me.
“I’m still alive,” I tell mi jefe.
“And besides, I have something to live for,
That something is painting.”

Bernier-Grand’s poetry echoes the sentiments portrayed in Kahlo’s art. While much of Kahlo’s art focuses on the traumatic events that shaped her life, there is also a sense of empowerment. Paired with the painting The Little Deer (1946), “Wounded Deer” leaves readers with hope despite much suffereing.

Wounded Deer

My barren landscapes show my barren self.
I have lost three children.

Four arrows in my heart
to remind Diego how his shots have made me bleed.

Shooting pains in my hip,
Shooting pains in my foot,
Shooting pains in my spine.

I am not sick.
I am broken.
But I am happy to be alive.

wounded deer

To complete the biography, Bernier-Grand includes quotes from Kahlo’s diary, a glossary (for terms in Spanish), a chronology, detailed notes, and sources for further reading. These additions, round out the biography and add further depth to Kahlo’s story.

Curriculum Connections
English and art teachers could work together to use this collection to have students create a self-portrait and then create a poem to explain a turning point in their lives.

Pair with other biographical poems such as:

My Name Is Gabito/Mi Llamo Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/La Vida De Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Monica Brown
The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle


the brothers war

Lewis, Patrick J. The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. ISBN: 9781426300370

Lewis’s recounting of the Civil War through poetry and photographs creates a compelling collection. Through The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse, the legacy of the Civil War is made visible through the use of poetry inspired by photographs and actual letters from this time period. Actual photographs from the Civil War are paired with poetry to give readers context.

Critical Analysis
The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse is a stunning depiction of the Civil War and how the war began. Beginning with the Table of Contents and ending with detailed Author’s Notes, the black and gold pages give the poems a feeling of antiquity that balances the photographs nicely. Each poem is paired with a photograph from the Civil War. The photographs are emotionally stirring which works to invoke a feeling of empathy in readers. Additionally, Lewis includes detailed footnotes that give readers more information about particular events that inspired each poem.

The poetry and photographs in this collection create a timeline in prose and picture. The poems are well-placed in chronological order. After the introduction, Lewis lays a foundation for the start of the war with a stirring poem about slavery called “Down on the Plantation”.

Down on the Plantation
(Picking Cotton near Savannah, Georgia – Early 1860’s)

I stopped to stoop
And stooped to chop,
The clipped to scoop
The cotton crop.

The way it went
Long after dark. . .
A woman bent
Like a question mark.


Special consideration needs to be given to Lewis’ attention to detail. A two-page spread gives readers key historical information about the Civil War and those who sought to document it through photographs. Lewis includes a detailed United States map along with a timeline of the Civil War. Additionally, a note is included about the photography detailing how the war was documented while giving readers more information on where to find more photographs from the Civil War not included in this collection. In addition to a detailed bibliography, the Author’s Notes provides with insight as to how each poem was inspired.

Lewis concludes the collection with a poem that speaks of sacrifice and honor. “Passing in Review” sums up the anthology with a somber reminder of the savage beast that is war. Paired with a particularly stirring photograph, this poem serves to remind us of war and all that it implies.

Passing in Review
The tortured howls,
The wretched noise,
The lives it dooms or redeploys. . .
A civil war breaks men from boys.

Surprise attacks –
Again, again!
Such eerie stillness now and then
Is when a war churns boys to men.

Remember them
Today, deceased,
Young men-at-arms who would increase
By inches some foothold on peace.

Salute the boys
You never knew
For valor. It’s long overdue.
Young men still passing in review.
Don not require
A great parade,
A big brass band or cavalcade
To sing the sacrifice they made.

armless dude

Curriculum Connections

History teachers could use this collection throughout their Civil War unit to supplement their teaching and provide context for learning. Infusing the poetry and photographs throughout the unit, teachers would create a more meaningful learning experience.

Using a poem from the collection as a mentor text, students could choose a photograph from the Civil War, research the event behind it, and create a poem inspired from the photograph and their research.