Friday, April 13, 2012

Poetry Friday: Science Verse (by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith)

I am thrilled to share this week’s poetry collection—Science Verse (by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith).  These two authors know how to turn things upside down and make your rethink how you look at everything from fairy tales to science!  This collection is no exception.   The book begins with a group of children in class.  Their science teacher tells them that if they listen closely they will “hear the poetry of science in everything.”  One of the students is zapped with a curse of science verse.  He begins to think of everything in the form of a poem.  The poems and pictures that follow are his journey through the world of science and language.   

The duo uses nursery rhymes, popular songs, and famous adult works as models for their entertaining, educational, and, at times, irreverent poetry.  “Lovely” parallels Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees.”

I think that I ain’t never seen
A poem ugly as a spleen.

A poem that could make you shiver,
Like 3.5 … pounds of liver.

A poem to make you lose your lunch,
Tie your intestines in a bunch.

A poem all gray, wet, and swollen,
Like a stomach or a colon.

Sometimes like your kidney, lung,
Pancreas, bladder, even tongue.

Why you turning green, good buddy?
It’s just human body study.

This next selection follows the rhythm of the children’s song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”

“Food Chains”
“I’ve been working in the food chain,
All the livelong day.
In the middle of the food chain,
I’ve got no time to play.

Can’t you see the green plants growing?
That’s energy, okay?
Consumer eats up the producer,
Predator eats prey.

Who’s for lunch today?
Who’s for lunch today?
Don’t you just wonder, who’s for lunch today?
Predator or prey.
Predator or prey.
Eat or be eaten, that’s the only way.

Under “Why Scientists Don’t Write Nursery Rhymes” is a “Mary Had a Little Lamb” parody.

“Mary Had A…”
Mary had a little worm.
She thought it was a chigger.
But everything that Mary ate,
Only made it bigger.

It came with her to school one day,
And gave the kids a fright,
Especially when the teacher said,
“Now that’s a parasite.”

As the book comes to a close, it is revealed that the student with the science verse curse was asleep (in class) the whole time!  Science Verse is witty and entertaining, but it also has several educational tie ins.  Subjects covered are evolution, water cycle, human body, space/astronomy, dinosaurs, food chains, chemistry, scientific method, senses, matter, and life cycles.

Teaching Opportunities:
  • Poetry:  students can write their own poems using nursery rhymes, children’s songs, or other poems as models.
  • Sound Devices:  identify rhyme, alliteration, consonance, and so forth
  • Figurative Language:  identify and discuss examples (similes, puns, personification)
  • Science:  use a poem to begin a science lesson or unit study; discuss what is revealed through the poem about the subject
  • Critical Thinking:  look carefully together to distinguish fact from fiction in the poems

 Today is Poetry Friday!  Check out other great poems and anthologies at the round up at Book Talking. 


  1. We liked this one too. There is also a fun one called Math Curse along the same lines.

  2. This reminds me of when my son had to write a poem using the words 'organism' and 'omnivore' for science class last year.
    The illustrations for this book look great.

  3. We're reading from childrens poetry books each day this month. I'll have to look for this book, I bet my oldest would like it.

  4. Oh wow! Thanks for sharing one of our absolute favorites! This is a classic Scieszka-Smith collaboration. They also wrote Math Curse, although that one, if I remember correctly, is not written in verse but it's great too! :)

  5. Oh, this is great. My middle school boys would love it.


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