The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston.
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky: Naperville, IL, 2009.

This poetry book is a lovely surprise. Knowing the intent of the collaboration, I was expecting something more heavily scientific or education oriented, and biased at that. What I found instead was beautiful and thoughtful contemplation of nature and many aspects of life. It is educational in that there are informational extras, on the pages and in the glossary and poet sections in back. Also in that it is a thinking experience for all readers, or listeners. There are many delightful observations, and as is normal with poetry, so much play with language.

The overall themes are gradual evolution through time and biological curiosity. I like the approach of the book. It is primarily a nature poetry book. I think if Darwin could be taught in this way (mainly observations that he had, that we all can have if we look closely) the subject would be less controversial. The poetry is exciting. There are many facts or points that increased my own curiosity about creatures, things I never thought of before, as well as comparisons between the creatures and society of mankind.

I can see this collection being used as a middle school poetry textbook. Different forms of poetry are represented by well-known poets, including Mary Ann Hoberman, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate of 2008. The biology teachers will love it, too, for the promotion of exploration in the natural world, looking closely at unique features and tiny elements normally overlooked.

The collection includes a CD with selected poems performed, mostly by the poets. Twelve of the poems selected were poems that I picked out as favorites before checking the tracks. The title poem by Mary Ann Hoberman, Cross-Purposes by her also, Think Like a Tree by Karen I. Shragg, Just Living by Hans Christian Andersen, Rain Forest by Marilyn Singer, and Locust by Hoberman are among my favorites of the collection, and all are on the CD.

The poet biography section leaves me wanting to find many of their own collections for further reading. There are also recommended books for further interest in evolution, Charles Darwin's books and others.

Here's a link to a great interview with Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, cultural anthropologist and teacher, about the inspiration for the collection and some of the audio poems.

related-figurative language, poetry, scientific observation, biology, anthropology, philosophy
RL=4th and up, mainly for middle graders

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