At the Sea Floor Cafe

Another author I saw at the SCBWI conference was Leslie Bulion. Leslie and I met once before at a publisher's open house. We connected again through the KidLit for Japan auction when I "won" the bid for a two copies of her latest book, plus a Skype visit. I already owned and loved her book, Hey There Stink Bug, so I was happy to get a copy of her second book of poetry, At the Sea Floor Cafe: Odd Ocean Critter Poems.

 At the Seafloor Cafe, illustrated by Leslie Evans (same illustrator as Hey There, Stink Bug) offers up a variety of interesting poems and illustrations about ocean critters.  For each organism, there' s a poem plus additional scientific information. At the back of the book, there's a glossary of terms, notes on the specific forms of poetry used, and additional websites kids can explore to learn more.

During the Skype visit with my son's class, Leslie focused on three poems: 'Walk Like Nut' (about the coconut octopus), 'The Invasion of the Bone Eaters' (the Osedax worm), and 'With Her Eggs Tucked Underneath Her Arms' (about the broody squid). Even though Leslie was basically a "talking head" projected on the wall, it felt like she was in the room with us. We simultaneously ran a brief Power Point presentation that Leslie had prepared to illustrate her points. She shared information about how scientific research in the deep ocean has changed over the last 20 years or so and then taught us about some of the odd and wonderful sea creatures in her book. Leslie's visit was content rich and engaging.

In an age of standards-based education and high-stakes testing, books and Skype visits such as Leslie Bulion's offer the perfect opportunity to address both science and English Language Arts standards. Many so-called integrated lessons fall short. They may involve reading a science book in an ELA class but no real science is learned. Or, the science may take a back seat to reading skills. Leslie's work, however, bridges the two areas flawlessly. After all, she's been writing poetry since she was a kid and she studied oceanography in college.

Have you Skyped with an author? How did it go? Can you suggest books that successfully bridge two or more content areas?