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Can a poetry book surprise you? The Tree That Time Built caught me

I don’t usually participate in Poetry Fridays* because I don’t have access to enough poetry books to give you, the reader, outstanding resources every week. When I read a poetry book that dazzles me, I have to share it with you right away. The Tree That Time Built is an excellent example of poetry meeting science and logic meeting language. This 200-page book may become your reading and language arts teachers’ favorite tool for teaching figurative language, poetry, Tree That Time Builtscientific observation, and thinking skills.

The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination is edited by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston. Hardcover available October 12, 2009 for only $19.99. The Tree That Time Built includes one audio cd with poetry read by Marilyn Singer, Alice Shertle,  Mary Ann Hoberman, Patricia Hubbell, Bobbi Katz, Ogden Nash, X. J. Kennedy, Linda Winston, Joseph Bruchac and more. Click here to listen to the poem Feathers by Joseph Bruchac.

The theme of this book revolves around the beginnings and gradual evolution of life on earth. The collection of over 100 poems is arranged in such a way that the reader is compelled to continue exploring the world of nature through a poet’s view. I picked up this title to glance through and read a few poems before bed one night, but something unexpected happened. I was hooked! I couldn’t put it down. The Tree That Time Built is such a powerfully integrated book of poetry and science that I had to read the entire book immediately. I found myself making notes, dog-earring pages of poems to emphasize figurative language, and thinking – doing lots of thinking. One of my favorite poems that also teaches co-evolution is Cross-Purposes. Track 15 explains the scientific question and Track 16 is the author reading the poem. Click here to listen to Track16 – the poem Cross-Purposes.

Cross-Purposes by Mary Ann Hoberman 
The fickle bee believes it’s he
Who profits from the flower;
But as he drinks, the flower thinks
She has him in her power.

Her nectar is the reason
That she blooms, the bee is sure;
But flower knows her nectar 
Is there merely for allure.

And as he leaves, the bee believes
He”ll sample someone new;
But flower knows that where he goes,
Her pollen’s going, too.

Did you know… "Both reptiles and amphibians live on every continent except Antarctica, but amphibians, unlike reptiles, are absent from island populations. As Darwin noted, amphibians and their eggs are easily killed by immersion in salt water." This poetry book defies it’s label. It cannot be simply a book of poetry because it informs you of scientific facts while inspiring a contemplative approach to nature.

Interested in found poems? Many of your students are aware of these thanks to William Shatner’s poetic interpretation of Sarah Palin’s speech.  Found poems are "made from an existing piece of writing that is taken out of its original context and rearranged upon the page." Bobbi Katz chose several passages from Darwin’s journal to transform into a found poem called Journal Jottings of Charles Darwin

Do you know what Candlemas, a Christian holiday, is or when it occurs? I do after reading the description at the bottom of the poem called The Seed Eaters by Robert Francis. Hint: those of you looking to acknowledge Groundhog’s Day on an older level than preschool will be fascinated in the history of this holiday. 

I confess the glossary of this book delighted me. Yes, readers, the glossary. I had enjoyed the experience of reading these poems, but then I turned to the glossary and an entirely new way of utilizing this book appeared. Look at some of the terms defined: adaptation, alliteration, altruism, assonance, concrete verse, convergent evolution …  Does this inspire you like it inspired me? 

Middle school teachers will embrace this title for language units and science teachers will integrate descriptive language into their teaching. The CD included with this book enables the shyest teacher to share the love of poetry and words orally with their students. Listen to the poem The Tree That Time Built by Mary Ann Hoberman.

I appreciated the paragraphs about each poet that comes at the end of the book in the "About the Poets" section. While planning with teachers during the summer, they indicated their intent to have every student research biographical information on a different poet. Where will I find poets for 1000 students? The Tree That Time Built gives me hope that there are good anthologies available for middle school readers. This is a must-have title.

*Want to know more about Poetry Friday? Chicken Spaghetti blog has an explanation.


  1. Laura Shovan says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. Looks like a great book. Love the Hoberman poem you posted — she deserves her children’s poet post!

  2. Kelly Polark says:

    Sounds like a wonderful collection!

  3. Kate Coombs says:

    I’ll put this one on my list! And thanks for sharing the Shatner/Palin clip–I sat here laughing at my computer…

  4. Mary Lee Hahn says:

    WOW! I can’t wait to be dazzled, too!

  5. Andromeda Jazmon says:

    This looks wonderful! Thanks for posting with these suggestions.

  6. laurasalas says:

    Wow! This is totally going on my birthday list. Poetry and science–my two favorite things!