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Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature

Outside your Window: A First Book of Nature

Written by Nicola Davies and Illustrated by Mark Hearld
Published by Candlewick Press in 2012, ISBN 978-0-7636-5549-5
Grades PreK – 6
Book Review

Whether you live in a rural, suburban, or urban setting, there’s a wondrous world of nature right “outside your window.”  Biologist and author Nicola Davies invites you to explore this world year round with her seasonally organized collection of nature poems. Davies’s exceptional ability to use descriptive and figurative language, in particular similes and metaphors, makes the content come alive and the science facts and concepts more comprehensible to her child audience. Her writing is both beautiful and functional. The poems in various forms explore the cycles, patterns, and sensory experiences of flora and fauna in each season, such as this description of an apple:  “Fresh from the tree, / the apple sits in your hand, / cool and round, / and streaked with sunset colors.” The beauty in this collection is not limited to Davies’s words. Mark Hearld’s illustrations rendered in mixed media more than live up to the publisher’s description as “breathtaking.” Reminiscent stylistically of late nineteenth and early twentieth century children’s book illustrations, the images blend collage, woodblock print, pen and ink, and painting, creating rich pastoral scenes that beg multiple viewings.  With its oversized trim, thick pages, fascinating images, and engaging text, this book makes the impossible possible – Davies and Hearld allow us to hold the miraculous natural world around us in the palm of our hands.
Teaching Invitations
Grades PreK – 2
  • Shared Reading. Keep this wonderful volume close at hand to read these poems aloud throughout the school year. Select children’s favorites to rewrite on sentence strips to post in a pocket chart. Keep the lines of the poem whole on the sentence strips or cut them into individual word cards so that students can reassemble the poem from memory using letter/sound or sight word cues. Invite children to illustrate the poems using Hearld’s illustrations as models.

Grades K – 6
  • Anthology of Nature Poems. Invite students to make a personal anthology of favorite nature poems from multiple sources. See the Further Explorations section below for a list of online poetry resources and additional poetry collections about the natural world.  Discuss various organizational options for their personal anthologies, studying the variety of structures in the poetry collections you read. For example Outside Your Window is organized seasonally, while Butterfly Eyes by Joyce Sidman focuses on an ecosystem. Students can illustrate their anthologies with photographs, collages, and / or drawings. 
  • Mixed Media Illustrations. The illustrations in Outside Your Window are endlessly fascinating. Study the illustrations as models for original student artwork. Work with you art teacher to allow students to experiment with printing techniques (linoleum prints are manageable in a classroom setting), collage, and painting. You may want to ask children to photograph a favorite outdoor location to use the image as a model for their artwork.
  • Seasonal Poetry Collections. Extend the celebration of seasonal changes by inviting your students to explore their personal connections to the seasons through original poetry or a class created anthology of poems. Use Outside Your Window poetry collection and other seasonally organized poetry collections as mentor texts.

Grades 2 – 6
  • Nicola Davies Author Study. Nicola Davies is a biologist who has extensive experience studying animals in their natural habitats. She’s also a talented  and versatile author, writing engaging nonfiction for a range of ages. An author study of Davies’s work will help students understand the process and craft of writing nonfiction. With younger students, you may want to focus on the picture books Davies has written. Older students can explore the full range of her writing. Explore Davies’s website and examine her books, noting patterns in her writing content and style. Be sure to focus on her use of descriptive and figurative language, in particular similes and metaphors, to make nonfiction content lively and more accessible.
  • Nonfiction Poetry. Outside Your Window is a terrific mentor text for nonfiction poetry. Engage your students in close reading of the poems to examine how Nicola Davies  uses a variety of poetic forms to convey information about the characteristic and behaviors of animals and plants. See our Classroom Bookshelf entries for All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon, Poetrees by Douglas Florian, A Full Moon is Rising by Marilyn Singer, Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman, and Poem Runsby Douglas Florian for further discussion of nonfiction poetry writing.
  • History of Children’s Book Illustration. Hearld’s illustrations in Outside Your Window are fascinating. Although modern printing technology allows the reproduction of his collage images, Hearld’s illustrations are strongly reminiscent of an earlier time in children’s book publishing. Watch the YouTube video in which Hearld describes his artistic influences. Engage your children in a study of the history of children’s book illustrations, using Google Images and the International Children’s Digital Library to explore the work of children’s book illustrators in the nineteenth century, such as Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway, and the twentieth century, including William Nicholson, Clement Hurd, Jean Charlot, Garth Williams, and Leonard Wiseguard. Ask your students to discuss how illustrations in children’s books have changed over time. Can they articulate connections among Hearld’s illustrations and the historical illustrations?

Further Explorations

Online Resources
Nicola Davies Website
Mark Hearld: Inspirations: YouTube Video
The Poetry Foundation: Children’s Poems
American Academy of Poets
International Children’s Digital Library
Earth Day Network
Nature Explore
Books
Florian, D. (2006). Handsprings: Poems & paintings. New York: Greenwillow.
Florian, D. (2002). Autumblings: Poems & paintings. New York: Greenwillow.
Forian, D. (2001). Summersaults: Poems & paintings. New York: Greenwillow.
Florian, D. (1999). Winter eyes: Poems & Paintings. New York: Greenwillow.
  • Each of the titles in this four book collection of poems and paintings celebrates the characteristics and activities of the featured season.
Hoberman, M.A. & Winston, L. (2009). The tree that time built: A celebration of nature, science, and imagination. Ill. by B. Fortin. Napperville, IL: Sourcebooks / Jabberwocky.
  • This edited collection of more than 100 poems celebrated nature and environmentalism.
Hopkins, L.B. (2010). Sharing the seasons: A book of poems. Ill by D. Diaz. New York. Margaret K. McElderry Books.
  • A selection of poems from various authors that celebrate the four seasons.
Katz, B. (2006). Once around the sun. Ill. by L. Pham. New Youk: Harcourt.
  • Twelve poems, one for each month, celebrate the seasonal activities of a young boy living in a city. 

Lewis, J.P. (1994). July is a mad mosquito. Ill. by M.W. Hall. New York: Atheneum.

  • A seasonal collection of poems, one for each month of the year.
Lin, G. & McNeally R. (2006). Our seasons. Ill. by G. Lin. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.
  • This nonfiction picture book book about seasonal changes incorporates haiku and informational text.
Mannis, C.D. (2005). One leaf rides the wind: Counting in a Japanese garden. Ill. by S.K. Hartung. New York: Puffin.
  • This collection of haiku explores the natural beauty in a Japanese garden.
Mordhorst, H. (2009). Pumpkin eyes: Poems from the other side of nature. Ill by J. Reynish. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.
  • With a hint of the surreal, this collection of poetry in various forms celebrates the natural world.
Nicholls, J. (2008). The sun in me: Poems about the planet. Ill. by B. Krommes. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books.
  • An anthology of poems written by various authors that feature children interacting with the natural world around them.
Ruddell, D. (2009). A whiff of pine, a hint of skunk: A forest full of poems. Ill by J. Rankin. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
  • This collection of the poems features the activities of animals in a forest ecosystem throughout the seasons.
Sidman, J. (2006). Butterfly eyes and other poems of the meadow. Ill. by B. Krommes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • The ecosystem of a meadow is featured in this poetry collection. Poetry riddles and prose passages focus on teach science concepts such as seasonal changes and interrelationships. 
Sidman, J. (2005). Song of the water boatman and pond poems. Ill. by B. Prange. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • This collection of poems and accompanying prose feature the flora and fauna of a pond ecosystem. 

Singer, M. (2012). A stick is an excellent thing: Poems celebrating outdoor play. Ill. by L. Pham. New York: Clarion Books.

  • A collection of poems featuring the natural world as a site for children’s play.
Thomas, P. (2007). Nature’s paintbox: A seasonal gallery of art and verse. Ill by C. Orback. Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook Press.
  • A seasonally organized collection of poems about the nature with accompanying artwork.
Yolen, J. (2003). Least things: poems about small natures. Photos by J. Stemple. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.
  • A collection of poems about tiny creatures in nature illustrated with photographs.
Yolen, J. (1996). Mother Earth, Father Sky: Poems of our planet. Ill by. J. Hewitson. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.
  • An edited collection of poems about the beauty of nature and the importance of preservation and conservation.
Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.

Comments

  1. This looks like a fantastic book. I may have to review it for an upcoming “Perfect Picture Book Friday” (Susanna Leonard Hill). Thanks for the recommendation and resources.