Florian, Douglas. 2001. In the swim. Orlando, FL: First Voyager Books. ISBN – 9780152024376.
Critical Review –
This anthology of poems contains twenty-one Florian poems about salt water and fresh water sea creatures with each poem having an accompanying illustration also created by Florian. He crafts a wonderfully witty poetry anthology where his illustrations marvelously match his humorous poems that naturally prompt the reader to investigate if the curious facts stated in the poems are true. In the case of the poem, “Starfish,” Starfish truly do not have a brain, or at least not in the sense that we do. Florian is as creative with his structure as he is with his wittiness. For example in his poem, “Sawfish,” he writes the poem in a zigzag manner resembling a saw cutting.
Florian is just as clever with his word play; he is downright “punny.” In his poem, “Catfish,” he uses the premise of explaining why a fish would not want to be a cat. In other instances, he is inventive with his words like “eel-ementary” in the poem, “The Eel.” His illustrations also perfectly complement the poems and add to his clever use of humor. In his poem, “The Piranhas” he makes the point that Piranhas have bad manners, and his illustration shows a piranha with his tongue sticking out which is the perfect image for lacking in manners. For his illustrations, Florian uses watercolor on rough French watercolor paper to create his child appealing images.
In the poem below, Florian not only gives interesting facts about the sea creature, he also uses language in a very interesting way. As with most of the poems in this anthology, he has a clever rhyme. Additionally, his imaginative use of words begs for a contest on naming words that mean small. Children will be reeled into this entertaining anthology on sea creatures.
The itty-bitty, pretty tetra
Is small, minute, petite, et cetra.
Kid Connection –
Before reading the above poem, discuss with the children heteronyms. Be sure to use “minute” (time) and “minute” (size) as an example. Then, read the poem to the children. As you are reading, decrease your volume with the decrease in font. As a follow-up, have students write their own two line poems using a heteronym.