The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

All the Water in the World

All the Water in the World
Written by George Ella Lyon and Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson
Published by Atheneum in 2011
ISBN # 978-1416971306
All grades
All the water in the world… is all the water in the world.” This familiar curriculum concept is beautifully reinforced in this picture book collaboration by poet George Ella Lyon and artist Katherine Tillotson. “Water doesn’t come. / It goes. / Around.” – as do the intricately coordinated words and pictures that flow throughout this book in tribute to this life-sustaining resource. This picture book poem presents the sequences and relationships of the water cycle, emphasizing the vital role that water plays for animals, plants, and humans. Tillotson’s digitally rendered illustrations are saturated with color and movement; her use of the page turn is simply brilliant. Images spill from page to page, creating a sense of continual flow, which leads to a final clarion call to action. “All so precious – do not waste it… Keep it clear, keep it clean…
Teaching Invitations
All Grades
  • Written Responses. Invite students to think further about the role that water plays in our lives and the importance of conservation. The youngest students could respond to the book by illustrating and writing a single page describing water and its role in their own lives. These pages could be bound into a class book. Older students may want to experiment with the poetic forms to compose and illustrate a poem in response to the book (see the Writing Concrete Poetry section below) – their poems could also be bound as a book or posted in the school hallways for all to enjoy.
  • Dramatic Presentation. The poem in this text lends itself to dramatic interpretation, either as on oral reading, or a reading with visual accompaniment in the form of a play or with a backdrop of student created art or photographs. Work with students to practice a dramatic reading of this poem. Consider a public performance for families or the school community.
  • Alliteration in Writing. In a wonderful wordstream, Lyon employs a collection of clever alliteration: “That rain / that cascaded from clouds / and meandered down mountains / that wavered over waterfalls / then slipped into rivers / and opened into oceans, / that ran has been here before.” Take a close look at this passage with your students. Notice the break in the pattern (“slipped into rivers”), and speculate as to why Lyon made this careful word choice – why didn’t she say ‘rolled into rivers,’ for example? Notice, too, the contrast between the flowing alliteration that comprises most of the sentence and the short words that end the sentence, creating a choppy feel. What effect does this contrast create? Invite your students to revisit a piece of writing that they are working on in order to add some alliteration to their text. As you read other texts in the course of your classroom work in the weeks that follow, note how other authors have employed alliteration in their writing. Keep a running list of effective examples.
  • Illustrations. Tillotson’s illustrations in All the Water in the World are well worth concentrated study. They are digitally rendered, but have the look of collage. Work with your art teacher to experiment with a digital art toolkit. Invite your students to create their own water-themed images. You may find useful William Low’s videos depicting his process of creating digital illustrations (see link below).
  • Concrete Poetry. Throughout the book, the text of the poem often appears in the form of “concrete poetry.” Take some time to explore this fun poetic form with your students. Wonderful examples of concrete poems can be found in Paul Janeczko’s A Poke in the Eye. Invite your students to write their own concrete poems.
  • Cycles and Relationships in Nature. This text provides an introduction to the water cycle through art and poetry. You can extend students’ understanding of cycles and relationships by introducing other picture book titles that highlight these concepts. Trout are Made of Trees is another lyrical picture book poem that describes the relationships in a stream ecosystem. The Wolves are Back written by Jean Craighead George and illustrated by Wendell Minor is picture book that describes the intricate balance of the ecosystem of Yellowstone Park and the effects of the elimination and subsequent reintroduction of wolves to this area.
  • Nonfiction Poetry. Study the genre of nonfiction poetry. Explore the works of poet April Pulley Sayre (see our Rah, Rah, Radishes entry at, Douglas Florian (see our Poetrees entry at, and Joyce Sidman (see our Swirl by Swirl entry at Discuss the techniques used by these poets to convey their nonfiction content. Invite your students to try their hand at writing nonfiction poetry.
  • Author Study. George Ella Lyon is a prolific writer (who describes herself as “first of all a poet”) with a wide range of published material for audiences across the age spectrum. Read selections from her work as part of an author study. Identify patterns in her writing themes and style. You can find a wealth of information about George Ella Lyon and her work on her website linked below.

Critical Literacy

Grades 3-8
  • Art as Advocacy. This picture book is clearly a call for action. Discuss with your students the author’s intent to highlight the value of water conservation. How does she use words to convey this message? How do the illustration create affect to enhance the message? Engage your students in some research to identify ways that art is used for advocacy in our society. Collect and display some examples and then invite students to explore the arts as a tool to express their own positions on an issue that is currently of interest in their lives.

Further Explorations
Online Resources
George Ella Lyon: Teacher and Writer
Katherine Tillotson’s Website
William Low: Digital Illustration
US Geological Survey: Water Cycle Resources
US Environmental Protection Agency Water Cycle for Kids
Scholastic Water Cycle Resources for Classroom Use
NASA: Droplet and the Water Cycle
National Geographic Education: Water Cycle Encylopedia Entry
National Geographic Freshwater Initiative
National Geographic Water Cycle Video
Bill Nye the Science Guy: Water Cycle Hip Hop Video

Branley, F. (1997). Down comes the rain. Let’s Read and Find Out. Ill. by G. H. Hale. New York: Harper Collins.
  • This reliable series continues to provide excellent, clear information and illustrations for readers.
George, J.C. (2008). The wolves are back. Ill. by W. Minor. New York. Dutton.
  • A beautifully illustrated description of the effects of the removal and reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone Park.
Janeczko, P. (2001). A Poke in the I: A collection of concrete poetry. Ill. by C. Raschka. Cambridge, MA.: Candlewick Press.
  • A cleverly illustrated anthology of concrete poems collection by poet Paul B. Janeczko.
Morrision, G. (2006). A drop of water. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • The author traces the path one drop of water could have taken through a variety of ecosystems to arrive on a boy’s hand.
Sayre, A.P. (2008). Trout are made of trees. Ill. by K. Endle. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.
  • Building from its intriguing title, this book explores the life cycle of the trout and the interrelationships of an ecosystem through free verse poetry.
Shaefer, L. (2001). This is the rain. Ill. by J. Wattenberg. New York: Greenwillow Books.
  • This cumulative verse fiction portrays the water cycle through mixed-media illustrations.
Waldman, N. (2003). The snowflake: A water cycle story. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.
  • The author-illustrator takes readers through the calendar year and the many manifestations of a single drop of water, turned snowflake, turned drop of water, and back again.
Wells, R. (2006). Did a dinosaur drink this water? Park Ridge, IL: Whitman.
  • This text explores the water cycle and the ways in which water has recycled itself over billions of years.
Wick, W. (1997). A drop of water: A book of science and wonder. New York: Scholastic.
  • The author’s amazing photography illuminates water in all of its states.
See a list of titles by George Ella Lyon on her website at:
See the Nonfiction Poetry titles in our Swirl by Swirl entry at:
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.