Welcome to the final stop on the blog tour celebrating the publication of After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals, David L. Harrison’s 97th book! Congratulations, David! I am honored to be part of the festivities. Be sure to visit the previous stops (links below) on the tour for interviews with David about where he gets his ideas, his creative process, and more.
Over at No Water River, David told Renée LaTulippe that “being fascinated with the universe” is one of the major influences on his poetry. This fascination is contagious and shines brightly on every page of this gorgeous book.
One sure-fire way to build students’ curiosity is to introduce topics through poetry. Which is why I was so excited to share After Dark with my students. Each of the 21 poems highlights the nocturnal comings and goings of familiar animals. The beauty of sharing these poems is that they are about animals children will recognize, but will extend their knowledge in playful and engaging ways.
David’s masterful poetry builds vocabulary and will foster a love of language in readers of all ages. First graders loved “Owl Rules,” a perfect mentor text for young writers. They will use this poem to organize what they have learned about animals they are studying. David’s categories are full of humor: “Never work for food,” “Eat whatever,” “Who needs a nest?” and “Tease campers.” Children will be able to adapt these categories or create their own.
Eighth grade students I work with are currently reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They quickly recognized similarities between Shakespeare’s play and “The Queen,” which is filled with rich and royal vocabulary: regal, ermine, suitors, serene.
Like regal monarch of the night
or fairy in the airy light,
richly robed in ermine white,
winged in velvet royal green.
Suitors you have never seen
find you here in woods serene.
You’ve much to do before the dawn
so when your fleeting life is gone,
future queens can carry on.
© David L. Harrison, 2020
Examples of poetic techniques also abound in After Dark. The rambunctious “growly, pouncy, bitey games” played by wolf pups in “The Rehearsal” is a great example of creating adjectives and making words rhyme. My students are excited to try this themselves! Other favorites, “Toothy Grin,” “The King,” and “Hear This! Hear This” focus on prominent features of the kit fox, the Mexican red-knee tarantula, and spring peepers, then emphasize them through repetition. This poetic technique is one that young writers can easily imitate. The possibilities are truly endless!
Observation is the best way to learn about an animal’s behavior and get ideas about a behavior to focus on in their poem. If heading outside to explore isn’t an option, critter cams are a great way to bring the hidden world of animals into your classroom and spark student writing.
Stephanie Laberis’s expressive digital illustrations are filled with details that are perfectly suited to the personality David emphasizes in each poem. There are two pages of additional facts about each animal at the end of the book. Students could use these fascinating facts in their own poems.
Boyds Mills & Kane has generously donated a copy of After Dark to one lucky reader of today’s post. Thank you! To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment by Saturday, March 7th. If I pick your name at random, a copy of this delightful book will soon be on its way to you. Thank you, David, for inviting me to join in the fun, and for all your wonderful poetry!
Previous stops on the After Dark Blog Tour: