Retro Review: Song of Water Boatman by Joyce Sidman

Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems

by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Beckie Prange Houghton Mifflin, 2005.


Caldecott Honor
Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award

NCTE Notable Book in Language Arts

NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book

April is National Poetry Month, and one of my favorite books of poetry to share with children is Song of the Water Boatman. Sidman vividly describes animals and plants found in the pond. “Listen for Me” is told from the point of view of spring peepers awaking from their winter’s nap. The lyrical language and use of repetition will grasp the attention of readers.

“Listen to me on a spring night,

on a wet night,
on a rainy night.
Listen for me on a still night,

for in the night I sing.”

Gorgeous woodblock illustrations hand-colored with watercolors reflect the rich, green and blue colors of the pond. Each poem is accompanied by an expository paragraph containing facts about the plants and animals. Did you know that tree frogs contain a special substance in their cells that allows their bodies to almost freeze during the winter months then thaw in spring?

“Spring Splashdown” gets rave reviews from the readers in my library. Kids love the playful language used to describe ducklings taking their first swim in the pond.

“Splash down,

bobbing, bobbing.

Heads up,

Paddle, Paddle.”

Other poems describe caddis flies, water boatmen, algae, diving beetles, dragonflies, and cattails. If you’re looking for a way to attract kids to poetry pull out Song of the Water Boatman, and you will have them hooked. Science-minded readers will be attracted to the way Sidman weaves facts into the poems, and children who love words will be mesmerized by the rich use of language.

Visit Joyce Sidmanʼs web site for more information about her books and for poetry ideas to share with children:

Cathy Potter is a school librarian in Falmouth, Maine. She co-authors the Nonfiction Detectives blog along with her good friend, Louise: http://  Cathy serves on the Chickadee Award committee in Maine and writes app reviews for School Library Journal.

Follow Cathy on Twitter: @cppotter.