Out on the Prairie, by Donna M. Bateman (Charlesbridge, 2012)
I love rhyming nonfiction, and the subgenre of song parodies especially. Parodies isn’t the right word, because this book isn’t a spoof, but it’s where you take a copyright-free song and write totally new lyrics that share loads of info on a specific topic. I did a set of 8 of these, including Eight Great Planets, and the books were both really exciting and very challenging to write.
Bateman’s book is a take-off on the song “Over in the Meadow,” and it teaches all sorts of great information about the prairie ecosystem. We learn about the plants, the animals, and the weather–in addition to practicing counting 1 to 10.
Trying to fit in content, match the meter of the original song, and find words to rhyme with specific numbers can be incredibly tough, and hats of to Bateman for handling that so well.
Here’s one that works really well:
Out on the prairie where the silver stars shine,
Lived a mother coyote and her little pups Nine.
“Howl!” said the mother. “We howl,” said the Nine.
So they howled and they whined where the silver stars shine.
My one nit-pick: There were some verses where I felt too much info was packed in, and it affected the meter. For instance:
Out on the prairie where the constant wind blows free,
Lived a mother meadowlark and her little chicks Three.
“Chupp, chupp!” called the mother. “Chupp, chupp,” called the Three.
So they called all morning where the constant wind blows free.
To me, the word “constant” blows (hehe) the meter in that verse. I think kids would have a much easier time singing it without “constant” in there. And repeated singing is what’s going to help kids really remember these facts.
Still, this is a terrific book! I think teachers would have a great time using it to teach kids about this ecosystem. Each time the class sings or chants Out on the Prairie, the teacher could read one of the excellent backmatter entries, which give even more detail about the animals discussed and their parenting styles. And it would be fun to have small groups within the class each sing one verse and perhaps act it out, howling like coyotes or huffing like the wind. Fun!
Simply Science has the Nonfiction Monday roundup today. Go learn something great!