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Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle

Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle
Written by Miranda Paul and Illustrated by Jason Chin
Published by Roaring Brook Press in 2015
All Ages
Book Review
“Drip. / Sip. / Pour me a cup. / Water / is / water/ unless…. // it heats up.” In this simple, yet absorbing nonfiction picture book, Miranda Paul offers readers a liltingly lyrical poem, one that follows the journey of water through cyclical changes and across the seasons. Each double page spread explores a form water can take, all the while moving the reader toward the next change this life sustaining substance may undergo, which is featured after the page turn. The poem’s concluding stanzas highlight humans’ branch in water’s tree of life by connecting water to plant growth to apples to sustenance. “Swig. / Grow big. / Reach for the best. / Apples are apples unless… // they get pressed.” Master illustrator Jason Chin offers a visual narrative to accompany Paul’s poem. Rendered in realistic watercolor and gouache, two children from a bi-racial family play throughout the seasonal changes and across the settings of the natural world, their home, and school, accompanied at times by a multicultural group of friends. A section titled “More About Water” offers an accessible expository presentation of the hydrologic cycle; here, cameo images provide a link between the poem and explanatory text. Gushing with possibilities for classroom exploration, this beautiful picture book is equally strong as an engaging and informative read aloud, as a science text for small group exploration, and as a mentor text for poetry writing.
Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom
Grades PreK –  and Up
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 different poetic forms to compose and illustrate a poem in response to the book; their poems could also be bound as a book or posted in the school hallways for all to enjoy.
Storytelling: A Visual Narrative. Invite your students to closely study Jason Chin’s illustrations, which create a visual narrative parallel to Miranda Paul’s poem. Invite younger students to orally narrate the events depicted on the pages. Students in the intermediate grades could dig deeper into the science behind the phase of the water cycle described and depicted, including specific vocabulary in their retelling of the visual image that connects the children of the images with the sensory experiences of their environment. Intermediate and middle grade students could be engaged with a more explicit discussion of story elements, exploring how Chin uses visual information to create narrative elements such a plot, character, and setting.
Finding the Rhymes. Rewrite the poem on a large piece of chart paper or using sentence strips on a pocket chart (see Miranda Paul’s website for the formatting of the poem). Younger students can be invited to identify the rhyming pairs found throughout the poem. The spellings of the words can then be compared in a look at onset and rime.  Older student could be engaged in a conversation about word choice and rhythm, and rhyme in poetry.
The Hydrologic Cycle in Poetry.  Pair a reading of Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle with George Ella Lyon’s All the Water in the World in a Duet Model (see our Teaching with Text Sets entry). Engage students in a discussion of the poetic forms used by each of these authors. Compare the information presented in each poem. Discuss the effects of the illustrations and their differences in style and media. How has each of these author/illustrator teams sought to convey scientific understanding in the form of a poem?  
Illustrator Study. Jason Chin’s body of work is fascinating. Gather a collection of books that he has written and illustrated (including CoralReefs, which we featured in a Classroom Bookshelf entry). Create a chart to record students’ observations about his work. Students will immediately note that he sometimes mixes fantasy and nonfiction, creating hybrid texts.
Rain and Water Text Set.  The topics of rain and water are central to an understanding of environmental sustainability. Create an anchor chart with the class that gathers what students know and want to know about water and rain. Read-aloud other texts across genre that explore these topics in a variety of ways including Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre, All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon, Rain School by James Rumford, One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss, Water Dance by Thomas Locker, A Drop Around the World by Barbara McKinney, A Cool Drink of Water by Barbara Kerley, A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder by Walter Wick. After each read-aloud, return to your class anchor chart to have students add what they learned. View our Teaching with Text Sets entry for more ideas on how to create powerful text sets using a variety of models.
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.
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. Shawn Sheehy’s Welcome to the Neighborwood describes the relationships in a woodland habitat, and Melissa Stewart’s No Monkeys,No Chocolate explores the roles played by various animals in the production of cacao. George Ella Lyon’s All the Water in the World and April Pulley Sayre’s Raindrops Roll both also explore the water cycle.
Grades 3 and Up
Nonfiction Poetry. Study the genre of nonfiction poetry. Explore the works of poet April Pulley Sayre (see our Rah, Rah, Radishes and Raindrops Roll entry), Douglas Florian (see our Poetrees entry), and Joyce Sidman (see our Swirl by Swirl and Winter Bees entries). Discuss the techniques used by these poets to convey their nonfiction content. Invite your students to try their hand at writing nonfiction poetry.
Critical Literacy
Drought. Your students may be attuned to the focus on drought and water conservation that permeate our current news cycle. While this text is a joyous presentation of the role water plays in our lives, older students can be invited to consider the more serious side, the effects of water shortages. Invite a guest speaker from your local water department to discuss local and global patterns in water availability and conservation efforts. What measures, small and large, can people take to alleviate the effects of drought?
Further Exploration
Online Resources
Miranda Paul: Author Website
Jason Chin: Illustrator Website
Politics and Prose Interview: Jason Chin
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. Harper Collins.
Kerley, B. (2006). A cool drink of water. National Geographic Children’s Books.
Locker, T. (2002). Water dance. HMH Books for Young Readers.
Lyon, G.E. (2011). All the water in the world. Ill. by L. Tillotson. Atheneum.
McKinney, B. (1998). A drop around the world. Dawn Publications.
Morrison, G. (2006). A drop of water.Houghton Mifflin.
Rumford, J. (2010). Rain school. HMH Books for Young Readers.
Sayre, A.P. (2008). Trout are made of trees. Ill. by K. Endle. Charlesbridge.
Sayre, A.P. (2015). Raindrops roll. Beach Lane Books
Shaefer, L. (2001). This is the rain. Ill. by J. Wattenberg. Greenwillow Books.
Strauss, R. (2007). One well: The story of water on Earth. Kids Can Press.
Waldman, N. (2003). The snowflake: A water cycle story. Millbrook Press.
Wells, R. (2006). Did a dinosaur drink this water? Whitman.
Wick, W. (1997). A drop of water: A book of science and wonder. Scholastic.

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.


  1. Another resourceful article here at this site, with gre8t H2O titles & links that we should all drink up.

    I especially like being reminded about George Ella Lyon's book, while learning about Miranda Paul's lyrical liquid lines.
    What a tasty ending she leaves us with, thinking about pressed apples…