Monday, September 9, 2019

Review: The Day the Universe Exploded My Head by Allan Wolf and Anna Raff


The universe poured into me. 
My brain was overloaded. 
It smoked and glowed red-hot. 
And then 
it actually exploded. 

Ever wonder what the sun has to say about being the closest star to Earth? Or what Pluto has gotten up to since being demoted to a dwarf planet? Or where rocket ships go when they retire? Listen closely, because maybe, just maybe, your head will explode, too. With poetry that is equal parts accurate and entertaining — and illustrations that are positively out of this world — this book will enthrall amateur stargazers and budding astrophysicists as it reveals many of the wonders our universe holds. Space travelers in search of more information will find notes about the poems, a glossary, and a list of resources at the end.

While the facts contained are interesting, it would have done better as prose - or, at least, as non-rhyming poetry. Wolf frequently makes use of questionable grammar to make things 'fit' "I'll tell you what the real facts is", and it doesn't really work - the rhythm is 'off' too often to make it a manageable read-aloud ("Mercury" was a notable exception.)

If you can find a way to read them without getting tripped up, though, some like "A Moon Buffet" might be useful for learning the names of other moons, while several poems-in-parts, beginning with "Shooting Stars," could be used as an introduction to reader's theatre or performance poetry.

"Black Hole" gives an example of concrete poetry. Each planet has its own poem, with equal parts facts and personification. These could be used to teach fact vs. opinion, something I noticed my son's third grade class is working on right now.

In short, I see this being quite useful in a classroom setting, although not as a read-aloud, and I am not sure if individual readers would be thrown off by the changes in rhythm. My own kids were a bit noncommittal about it. (Sheridan (9) in particular was intrigued by the multi-part poems, but I saw her skipping through the others.) If you are planning a unit on space, I would pick it up, but I wouldn't call it a must-have otherwise.

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