May 06, 2024

A Planet is a Poem

Written by Amanda West Lewis
Illustrated by Oliver Averill
Kids Can Press
56 pp.
Ages 8-12
May 2024
It isn't always easy to blend science with art in a meaningful way. But Amanda West Lewis has elegantly and effectively used poetry to intertwine the teaching of different poetic forms with the teaching of the solar system and all its components in her latest book, A Planet is a Poem.
From A Planet is a Poem, written by Amanda West Lewis, illus. by Oliver Averill
In fold-out double spreads, Amanda West Lewis gives us a poem, a description of the type of poem it is, and an information page about the concept upon which it focuses. For example, the first poem, "Our Family: A Sonnet for the Solar System" opens onto a fold-out about the form of a sonnet called "Sonnet Sing" and "We're All Spinning Around the Sun" information page.
From A Planet is a Poem, written by Amanda West Lewis, illus. by Oliver Averill
This format continues to include an ode, a villanelle, a ballad, a persona poem, a sestina, a concrete poem, free verse, an acrostic, a companion poem, a prose poem, a cinquain, and hip-hop. Amanda West Lewis discusses rhyme and beats, sounds and imagery and metaphors, and patterns. Her exploration of all facets of poetry is comprehensive and well-illustrated in her own poems. Accompanying these poems and poetry teaching are concepts in astronomy that include everything from the solar system to each planet, and unusual celestial entities like Pluto and its moon Charon, the Kuiper Belt, and the asteroid Arrokoth.
But A Planet is a Poem is more than an anthology of poetry to teach forms and astronomy. It is an opportunity for young readers to become young writers themselves with Amanda West Lewis asking them to look within, and to the stars and planets, to write their own poems and investigate space. 
The content of poetry and astronomy is thorough and will surely become an exceptional teaching resource for both areas of study. But beyond content is the art of the writing, particularly in Amanda West Lewis's poems. Take, for example, the concrete poem for Jupiter, "Jupiter the Giant," that includes this reference to its Great Red Spot.
The Giant Red Spot 
Is Shrinking,
Tearing Off, Vanishing,
Into Spinning Clouds.
From A Planet is a Poem, written by Amanda West Lewis, illus. by Oliver Averill
Her poems are laden with information but also perspective and sensitivity. Whether it's through point of view or poetic devices, there is a sense of awareness and appreciation for something great and mysterious. UK illustrator Oliver Averill depicts that vastness of scope through digital images that show grandeur of space and the subtlety of its elements. They are large and complex, secretive, and yet celebrated. And though many illustrations are set in gorgeous midnight blue backgrounds, Oliver Averill gives us colour in the planets, rockets, and sunlight.
I pity the library technicians who will need to decide whether to catalogue A Planet is a Poem as a picture book (E), as a book about writing poetry (808.1), as Canadian poetry (819.11) or about the science of astronomy (520). It's a book that can be enjoyed from different perspectives and as a resource for teaching and learning across both science and language. Regardless of where it finds its shelf, A Planet is a Poem is as expansive and substantial as the premise upon which it is based, and sure to be checked out by both young readers and their teachers.

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