The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf



Written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

Published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

ISBN 978-0-544-38761-4

Grades PreK – 6

Book Review

In Joyce Sidman’s latest nonfiction picture book, a young girl professes, “I love round things,” and so launches a poetic exploration of all things round. Immersive mixed media illustrations crafted by Taeeun Yoo’s offer texture and context to a deceptively simple text. As the girl and her male caregiver explore the great outdoors, their investigation of roundness includes attention to physical form and function (e.g., a dung beetle rolling a ball of manure), processes of change over time (e.g., the erosion of beach stones), and natural cycles (e.g., the waxing and waning of the moon). The final pages focus on human connection: “I can be round too… in a circle of friends with no one left out” and conclude with a circle of arms in a hug.  As is the case with her many books that explore the science and the beauty of the natural world, Sidman inspires readers to sharpen their powers of observation and their abilities to recognize patterns.  Two pages of back matter further explore the important question: “Why are so many things in nature round?” With its many cross-curricular connections, this beautiful book will prompt wonderful conversations about aesthetics, function, pattern, and connections.

Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom

Grades PreK – 6

What are Your Favorite Round Things? The dust jacket of Round includes biographical information on the author and illustrator in which they each name two favorite round things. Invite your students to do the same, providing time for students to share their responses (and rationales) orally. As an extension to this activity, students could write poetry about their favorite things. Poems could be displayed in the classroom along with student created illustrations. If possible, collaborate with an art specialist to offer your students an experience creating linoleum prints (for more about Yoo’s illustration process see her Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast interview).

A Circle of Inclusion. The last three lines of the text are likely to resonate with your students; if you use Open Circle or Responsive Classroom meeting strategies in the classroom, their connections may be both concrete and abstract.  Discuss the idea of connection with others as a circle – how does what we give come back to us (what do we gain by giving? Acknowledge, too, Sidman’s reminder that we sometimes need to be alone and we sometimes need the roundness of a hug. Following this discussion, consider creating an artistic response: have your students create a large mural that represents a circle of inclusion in your classroom.

More About…. Expert Groups. Invite your readers to learn more about the natural world through further investigation of the animals, plants, and phenomenon featured in Round. Divide students into small groups and guide them to conduct further research on the animals, plants, and natural phenomenon that are referenced in the text and illustrations (these include seeds and fruit, eggs, tree rings, the erosion of stones, dung beetles, water drops, bubbles, the universe, and the moon. Ask them to consider – why is it round? Student can present their learning orally, through an artistic project, or with a digital presentation tool.

Shapes Text Set. Read Round in a text set that focuses on shapes. Suggested texts include: Mac Barnett’s Triangle, Diana Murray’s City Shapes, Joyce Sidman’s Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, Jane Yolen’s Shape Me a Rhyme, Steve Light’s Have You Seen My Monster?, Roseanne Thong’s Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes, Dayle Ann Dodd’s The Shape of Things, Dana Meachen Rau’s A Star in My Orange: Looking for Nature’s Shapes, Sarah Campbell’s Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature and Christy Hale’s Dreaming Up: A Child’s Celebration of Building.  Be sure to consult with your school or public librarian for additional titles. Read the books as whole class or, if you are teaching the intermediate grades, have students read in small groups. For each book, ask students to think about text, illustration, setting, what they learn about shapes, and format and genre. Following this study, invite students to write their own shape texts, offering a choice of genre, media, and format. The teaching idea that follows may also serve as inspiration for their compositions.

Going on a Shape Hunt. Take a field trip with digital cameras, smart phones, or iPads in hand. Ask students to collect photos of common shapes or interesting patterns  in the natural world. You may want to explore the National Geographic photo gallery, Patterns in Nature, prior to your outing to give students ideas about what to look for. Use enlarged prints of the photos to create a class big book (or Voice Thread or Prezi presentation). Accompanying text for the photos could be class composed poetry or nonfiction text about the objects depicted. For a mentor text, consider Frank Serafini’s Looking Closely series or Jane Yolen’s Shape Me a Rhyme: Nature’s Forms in Poetry. (A variation of this teaching idea originally appeared in our entry for Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature.)

The Physics of Round: A Makerspace Exploration. Offer students a hands-on opportunity to explore the question posed in the back matter: “What are so many things in nature round?” Collect a variety of recycled or repurposed materials (many round and some not) such as balls, wheels, cardboard tubes, wooden dowels, aluminum foil balls, balls of string, etc. and offer your students time to work with these materials. Ask them to explore the principles and functions that Sidman describes, designing an experiment or a structure or a tools that demonstrates these ideas. Take photographs to document their discoveries and their creations. Create an e-book using the photographs and student composed text that describes their processes.

Grades 2 – 6

Cycles. The text of Round references several natural cycles: the waxing and waning of the moon, the earth’s place in a revolving solar system, the life cycles of plants and animals, and  the food chain. With these references, it is an excellent addition to a text set that explores cycles in the natural world. Additional Classroom Bookshelf entries that can support your exploration of cycles in nature are: A Full Moon is Rising, All the Water in the World, Water is Water,  A couple additional favorite titles that explore cycles in nature are: Trout are Made of Trees, a lyrical picture book poem that describes the relationships in a stream ecosystem and The Wolves are Back written by Jean Craighead George and illustrated by Wendell Minor, a 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.

Duet Model Reading. To engage students in a study of the genre of nonfiction poetry, read Round in a duet model reading exercise with Sidman’s Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature. How does Sidman use language in each text to both inform readers and to create an aesthetic experience. Retype the text of each book into single poem format so that your student can more easily examine the similarities and differences in each poem. How does Sidman use form and line breaks in each? What figurative language is used? Is the text patterned in any way? Then go back to the books and consider the role of the illustrations. How do the images relate to the text on each page. Be sure to discuss the back matter – what is included? How does this information enhance the reader’s experience with the text? Following this close study, ask your students to select a shape and to play with creating the text for a nonfiction poetry picture book.

Joyce Sidman Author Study. Joyce Sidman is a prolific and inspiring poet whose works have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Newbery medal and the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry. Conduct an author study of Sidman’s work, exploring the range and variety of her work, paying particular attention to patterns in the topics, themes, forms, and style of her poetry. A listing of Sidman’s books can be found on her informative website. Classroom Bookshelf entries are available for the following titles: Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold, Before Morning, and Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature.

Further Explorations

Online Resources

Joyce Sidman: Author Website

NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry

Taeeun Yoo: Illustrator’s Website

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Interview with Taeeun Yoo

National Geographic’s Photo Galleries: Patterns in Nature

National Geographic: Pi Day Pictures


Barnett, M. (2017). Triangle. Somerville, MA. Candlewick.

Campbell, C. (2014). Mysterious patterns: Finding fractals in nature. Honesdale, PA: Boyd Mills Press.

Dodds, D.A. (1994). The shape of things. Ill. by J. Lacome. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

George, J.C. (2008). The wolves are back. Ill. by W. Minor. New York. Dutton.

Hale, (2012). Dreaming up: A child’s celebration of building. New York: Lee & Low.

Light, S. (2015). Have you seen my monster? Somerville, MA. Candlewick.

Lyon, G.E. (2011). All the water in the world. Ill. by K. Tillotson. New York: Atheneum.

Murray, D. (2016). City shapes. Ill. by Bryan Collier. New York: Little Brown.

Educator’s Guide written by G. Enriquez.

Paul, M. (2015). Water is water: A book about the water cycle. Ill by J. Chin. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

Rau, D.M. (2002). A star in my orange: Looking for nature’s shapes. Millbrook Press.

Sayre, A.P. (2008). Trout are made of trees. Ill. by K. Endle. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.

Serafini, F. (2010). Looking closely in the rain forest. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.

Sidman, J. (2016). Before morning. Ill. by B. Krommes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Sidman, J. (2014). Winter bees and other poems of the cold. Ill. by R. Allen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Sidman, J. (2011). Swirl by swirl: Spirals in nature. Ill. by B. Krommes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Singer, M. (2011). A full moon is rising: Poems. Ill. by J. Cairns. New York: Lee & Low.

Thong, R. (2002) Round is a mooncake: A book of shapes. Ill. by G. Lin. Chronicle Books.
Yolen, J. (2007). Shape me a rhyme: Nature’s forms in poetry. Photos by J. Stemple. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.

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.