Tag Archives: Peter Rabbit

Writing Poems about Nature

In my posts this summer, I’ve introduced or reminded you of several naturalists:

 

Maria Sibylla Merian and Titian Ramsay Peale II whose rediscovered nature illustrations have perhaps inspired you to go exploring with a sketchbook in hand.

Beatrix Potter, whose children’s books are familiar to us all, but perhaps not her lifelong interest in nature, and who may be inspiring you to write stories about the creatures you’ve seen and studied this summer.

All three of these naturalists studied plants and creatures right where they lived.

And so did poet, Aileen Fisher (1906-2002),  who wrote books of poetry for children, mostly about the nature all around us. Fisher grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, received a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and received many awards for her poetry. Eventually she settled in Colorado.

You can find some of her books at libraries, and lots of them are available from second hand suppliers through Amazon. Fisher’s poetry is in many anthologies, and some of her books have been re-released in recent years with new illustrations.

Here’s a poem by Aileen Fisher from her book, Out in the Dark and Daylight, published in 1980.

20180614_095016Bumblebee

I sat as still

as a playing-dead possum

and watched a bee

on a clover blossom,

Watched him poking

his long thin tongue

into the blossoms

pink and young,

Heard him bumble

and sort of sneeze

as pollen stuck

to his two hind knees.

I held my breath

as the bee buzzed over,

and hoped I didn’t

look sweet as clover.

Can you find two comparisons in the poem?

Yes, “still as a playing-dead possum” and “sweet as clover.” Comparisons help to create pictures for the reader. A comparison of two things using the words like or as is called a simile.

In the same poem are two examples of another type of figurative language. These are words that imitate sounds, such as clunk, thud, boom, cheep. Even the name of this type of word sounds wonderful!  Onomatopoeia.

What 2 words does Fisher use in this poem that imitate sounds? Yes, bumble and buzzed.

Poetry also often rhymes and has some rhythm. Aileen Fisher is a master at both of these. Here’s another poem from the same book.

IM000034Cricket Song

Did you ever see

a cricket’s ears

stick out upon his head?

You certainly didn’t

since they grow

below his knees instead.

It’s good he doesn’t

put stockings on

and cover his knees up tight,

or how could he hear

the songs he sings

night after autumn night?

 

Now it’s your turn to write some nature poems.

Choose a plant, a place, weather, or a creature or two that you’d like to write about

  1. Brainstorm all the ways you’d describe your subject. Include how they look—furry, scaly, feathery, colors, etc. How they move (even plants move as they follow the sun or blow in the wind). Where they live and what that looks like. What they eat and how they catch it. What is dangerous for them. Anything you learned from your research. Remember to think of sounds and smells, and how something might feel
  2. Think of how you could turn some of these descriptive words into rhymes, similes, or onomatopoeia.
  3. If you’re familiar with other forms of figurative language, such as alliteration, metaphors, or personification, you can try those, too, but it’s probably best to stick to just a few types of figurative language in any one poem. And your poem doesn’t even have to rhyme. Lots don’t!
  4. Here are some of my brainstorming thoughts organized into a couple poems. These two poetry forms might help you organize your thoughts also.

Concrete Poem

A concrete poem follows the shape of your subject or an action. Draw your shape on one piece of paper and darken it so it can be seen through another paper. Lay the second sheet over the drawing, and write your poem along those lines. When you remove the paper, you’ll have a poem in the shape you originally drew. Mine follows Molly’s lying-down shape!

 

20180824_145902

Name Poem

In a “name” poem, each letter of your subject, such as sunflower, is used as the beginning letter of each line of your poem.  Each line tells something about the subject.

20180821_100217         SUNFLOWER

Sunshine on my shelf

blUe delft dishes shining

Now filling every field

Fuzzy brown centers

Lining dusty roadsides

gOlden pollen grains raining down20180821_092645

Windblown but still blazing

Everyone snapping photos

biRds feasting on sunflower seeds

SUNFLOWER

I bet you can do a lot better, and I hope you’ll send in a poem so I can post some on this blog.

 

Here’s Molly getting up close with a painted butterfly last autumn. That butterfly didn’t stick around long!!20171003_132816

 

You don’t want to miss the next Picture Lady post, which will help connect our summer nature studies with some thoughts from God’s Word. So be sure to sign up.

For those of you who follow the Picture Lady on Facebook, Facebook is changing many policies, and will no longer automatically post from WordPress. I will continue to do it manually, but you might want to just find and start following Molly and me on WordPress. kathythepicturelady@wordpress.com

 

 

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Writing Creatively about Nature

We can divide creative writing into two broad categories – prose (stories) and poetry. This post will give you some ideas for how to write a story.

Don’t miss the answer at the end of this post about why Molly’s hiding. 20170714_150506But no peeking! Because you’d miss some interesting facts about Beatrix Potter and how to use her Tale of Peter Rabbit

Peter_Rabbit_first_edition_1902a

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to help you write a story.

You’ll also want to learn how Garth Williams, who illustrated the Little House books, struggled with the illustrations for Charlotte’s Web!

Prose

Even if you’ve read The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other books by Beatrix Potter, you may not know that as children, Beatrix and her brother collected all kinds of wild animals to keep as pets. Using paper bags, they smuggled frogs, salamanders, mice, hedgehogs, rabbits, and even a bat in to share their schoolroom.

Beatrix_Potter_and_Kep_in_1915

Beatrix Potter and her dog Kep, wikimedia commons

Beatrix became a talented naturalist and even learned to draw using a microscope. She filled homemade sketchbooks with drawings of animals and plants that she and her brother found on their rambles in the English countryside. Later Beatrix began to sell some of her drawings and watercolors for greeting cards and to illustrate letters she wrote. Peter Rabbit began as a letter for the son of Beatrix’s former governess.

An interesting biography of Beatrix Potter for adults is, Beatrix Potter, A Life in Nature, by Linda Lear.

If you’d like to create stories about some of the creatures you’ve seen on your rambles this summer, read some of Beatrix Potter’s stories—first to enjoy and then as examples to help you learn to write.

Notice that although Beatrix puts clothes on her animals, her illustrations show them true to what they really look like. And aside from their talking, the animals mostly do things within their nature; for example, Peter runs to Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat veggies, and he’s afraid of humans and the cat.

Let’s use the story of Peter Rabbit as an example of how we set up a story in 3 parts.

Beginning 

 

  • Introduce your main characters. In Peter Rabbit there’s Mother Rabbit, Peter, and 3 sisters.
  • Tell where your story takes place.  The rabbit family lives in a burrow
  • Introduce a problem or challenge for your character to survive or solve.  When Mother Rabbit goes out she warns her rabbit children not to go near Mr. McGregor’s garden because Father Rabbit had an accident there and was put in a pie, but Peter ignores her and goes right to the garden.
  • Notice how quickly Potter moves you on to the…

Middle

 

Excitement and tension build as the main character tries to survive or solve their problem. He or she tends to get in more and more trouble as their first efforts fail. As Mr. McGregor chases Peter, the rabbit loses his little jacket and shoes, hides in a watering can, has to sneak by a cat, and gets lost.

A Climax ends the middle of a story and is the point when we’re not sure if our character will make it or not.  

PeterRabbit22

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 In Peter Rabbit, that’s when Peter finally spies the gate and his way out, but Mr. McGregor sees Peter as he makes his dash for safety. For suspenseful moments, as Peter wriggles under the gate, we don’t know if he will escape or end up in a pie!

Ending

 

All the loose ends are tied up and we see how things turn out for our characters.  Peter gets home, and is safe, Whew!! But he’s put to bed with a dose of chamomile tea, while his sisters have a supper of blackberries and milk.

Now you try:

  • Think of some animal characters you’ve seen this summer
  • Use your own observations and research where and how they live—type of home or nest, type of food and how they find it, etc.
  • Think of some possible problems or dangers they could get into—too little rain, too much rain, predators, living in a dangerous place, etc.
  1. Put your characters in your setting, give them your problem, and have them try to solve it several ways.
  2. Build suspense toward an exciting climax
  3. End by letting your readers know how everyone and everything turns out. 
  4. Have some fun, and illustrate your story from your drawings and and photos!

Two books for older elementary readers and great read alouds for the whole family are:

  1. Rabbit Hill and its sequel, The Tough Winter, by Robert Lawson. Lawson’s 20180811_161418illustrations also show a keen observation of animals and plant life.
  2. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams. As Williams worked on his illustrations, he and White exchanged letters about what Charlotte should look 20180813_132605like, because Williams didn’t want to scare children. White had a particular kind of spider in mind and sent Williams many photos!! So we know they were also concerned to make the animal characters true to life, at least in looks.

All three of these stories have such great messages of family and friendship and love for others. Don’t let your children or grandchildren grow up without them!

Next post will be about poetry, so be sure and sign up for the Picture Lady’s posts.

Oh and here’s the answer to the mystery of why Molly is hiding. No, she’s not camera shy! But I bet you already peeked and know!!

Molly is terrified of thunderstorms!!

Here in Colorado, clouds begin to pop up over the mountains in the morning, and by afternoon many build and billow towards us, bringing rain and thunder and often hail. Molly has learned this pattern and begins to get nervous about noon.

So we got her something to help her feel less anxious. Here she is modeling her new thundershirt.  It seems to help her. Maybe she feels like her mom is holding her tight!!