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.
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 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”:
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.
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.