Let me back up a little bit and tell you about one of the ideas in the podcast, and how it illuminated Margaret's book for me and made me appreciate even more the beautiful way it mixes nature, reading, and writing.
In the podcast, Krista Tippett interviews Michael McCarthy, the British author of The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy. She starts out by sharing this quote from McCarthy: "The sudden passionate happiness which the natural world can occasionally trigger in us may well be the most serious business of all." He has a lot to say about crisis in the natural world, the way ecosystems are collapsing, habitats are disappearing, and there are just fewer creatures out there. It would be easy to despair, and sometimes when we teach kids about nature we can do it in a negative way, focusing on words like "endangered."
Tippett says to McCarthy: "while statistics of decline and demise and the destruction of the natural world don’t mobilize action — they, in fact, dampen us — and so joy can have a quality of seriousness, and yet, be animating."
And he replies: "If we could mobilize this sort of love we have for the natural world — and the essence of it is the fact that the natural world is a part of us, and that if we lose it, we cannot be fully who we are. And if we were to realize that, which is hard, and if we were to realize it on a large scale, which is even harder, that might offer a defense of nature at the time when we are trashing it remorselessly."
As I was listening to this interview, I was thinking about how we can do this with children; how can we encourage them to love the natural world so much that they want to protect it, not out of fear and despair, but because it's so important to them?
When I read Margaret's book, I thought: this is how.
In Bayou Song, Margaret doesn't write about the whole world. She writes about her tiny part of it, a part that she loves, a part on a bayou in Southern Louisiana. Using a variety of forms, she writes loving tributes to plants and animals that live where she does. Beautiful photography and drawings help the reader see Margaret's world even more clearly. And then each poem is accompanied by a prompt, so that we, following Margaret's lead, can look around closely at the nature in our world. What lives where we do? Let's pay attention, and let's write about it!
Here's an example of Margaret's writing, "Ode to a Toad."
Ode to a Flamboyant Tree (Delonix regia, Royal poinciana)
your bright red jazz
through June’s steamy days.
You are all flourish
you make the most
of your conspicuous claws.
You accessorize your red
with glowing flashes
of yellow and white.
I curtsy to you as I walk by.
I watch you fan yourself
with your green fringes
and display your blossoms
Flamboyant you are
as you dance
with your castanets,
far into the night.
by Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
How can we encourage kids to care for nature? We can encourage them to love it, and we can do that by teaching them to pay attention to it, not as a grand abstraction but in the specific plants and animals around them. Margaret's poems and prompts will help me do that with my students next year.
Order your own copy of Margaret's book here.
Bayou Song Blog TourTo read more exciting posts about Margaret Simon’s debut children’s poetry book, Bayou Song, follow this blog tour.
Friday, June 22: Michelle Kogan
Tuesday, June 26: Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Friday, July 6: Kimberly Hutmacher at Kimberly Hutmacher Writes
Friday, July 13: Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Tuesday, July 17: Laura Shovan
Tuesday, July 24 Amanda Potts at Persistence and Pedagogy
Friday, July 27: Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink
Monday, July 30 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Friday, Aug. 3 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work that Matters
Carol has today's roundup.