Citation: Florian, D. (2007). Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Inc.
Overall Review: Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars is an excellent collection of poetry by Douglas Florian about space. Each poem covers one topic; the poems describe galaxies, the solar system, the sun, the moon, the minor planets, each planet, Pluto, comets, constellations, black holes, and more. There is a table of contents with each poem listed for ease of use as well as a glossary for unfamiliar words and a bibliography for further reading at the end of the book.
Each poem is accompanied by an illustration. Often these illustrations are rather abstract and add to the educational and whimsical feel of the book itself. For example, the illustration accompanying the poem “Pluto” depicts an orange circle with words written in it that come to mind when one hears the word “Pluto.” These include “Planet?” “Dog?” and “Planetoid?”
The poems included in this book each have facts about their subject woven into the poems and can easily be tied into a science curriculum, but the condensed lessons on the planets are enhanced by the childlike view of each topic. For example, we learn that Mercury orbits the sun quite quickly in its poem and we’re told “You’d run too, so near the sun.” By relating us to the planet, the poet makes this lesson feel more personal and uses personification to drive that point home.
While each poem has its own style and uses different poetic elements, they all fit the same theme of the book—space. Each is educational and passes on information about the topic. The included poems also are highly relatable to children in their use of personification, humor, and common experiences like looking up at the stars.
Spotlight Poem: “The Universe”
“The universe is every place,
Including all the e m p t y space.
It’s every star and galaxy,
All objects of astronomy,
(Each cat and dog and bumblebee),
All persons throughout history—
The first thing that occurred to me when reading this poem was that it reminded me of the theme song to “The Big Bang Theory.” It was written for a different audience by listing things that children can relate to (bumblebees, cats, dogs, and things they learn about in school) instead of more advanced topics from the song, but its similarity was what drew me in at first.
I also liked the formatting used to show “empty space” on the page. By spacing out the letters, it not only visually represents the vastness of the empty space, but it also shows that the space being discussed isn’t exactly empty. Spaces have been put there, therefore, there is something there, just like in space. It seems empty, but science is beginning to understand that there is actually energy or matter that we cannot perceive everywhere, so the chances are that no space is actually empty, just like in this line.
The poem is written in couplets which show the connectedness of everything in the universe. We all exist together in the same universe and are made of the same stuff that has been present since its beginning, therefore, we are all tied together, just like the rhyme scheme ties the poem together.
Overall, this poem is simple enough for young, school-age children to comprehend right away (especially with the poet’s definition of zoology included), but with some discussion and examination, more information can be revealed to enhance their understanding of the poem and the universe.
Take 5 Activity:
- Read the poem and talk about how big the universe is.
- Read selections from The Universe by Seymour Simon to broaden the lesson on the vastness of the universe, its beginning, and what it contains.
- Listen to “Big Bang Theory Theme” (edited version) from the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” and discuss how everything we know came from the Big Bang.
- Have students read the poem aloud once more.
- Brainstorm a list of words we associate with the universe, and have students begin to write their own poems on the topic.