LS 5663 Hopkins Award Poetry

Coombs, Kate. Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems. Illustrated by Meilo So. San Francisco, Chronicle Books. 2012. ISBN 9780811872843

Coombs’s Water Sings Blue covers every inch of the ocean, from the shipwrecks and coral on the sea floor, to the tide line and tidal pools.  Even the seagulls have their place in this collection.  Just as Coombs gives voice to each thing through poetry (most of which are told from the point of view of the subject matter), So brings the poetry to life with vivid watercolor images.

The poems have various forms, couplets and quatrains being the most common, yet each have some type of rhyme to them.  Some, such as “What the Wave Say” contain the rhyme scheme in the individual line, as opposed to in a couplet. Many rhyme on alternating lines (the abcb scheme you may remember from middle school and beyond).  Some of the poems are quirky, in “Sea Urchin” the urchin falls in love with a fork. Some invoke images of old fisherman talking to children, as in “Old Driftwood” where the driftwood is telling tales of whales “thi-i-i-s big” to twigs. However others, such as “Shipwreck” and “Shark” have a darker tone.  They remind the reader that as wonderful and fun the ocean is, there is still danger.

So’s watercolor images are beautiful.  Some are slightly cartoonish, others could be photographs, one in particular (the one on the page with both “Blue Whale” and “Shipwreck”) uses a technique called “wet-on-wet” (which involves putting wet watercolor onto already wet paper) to create fuzzy organic lines in the deep water that contrast from the hard edges of the waves on the top of the page.  However, So invokes images of Japanese woodblock printings, specifically Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa, around the poem “What the Waves Say.”

This collection seems to be geared towards independent readers (if only because many of the poems beg for multiple readings and extensive studying of their accompanying images).  However, a young child would likely enjoy some of the poems, such as the poem about the tide line. While at first glance, it may not seem to be something high school students would enjoy, the depth of the poems and the interesting perspectives may interest them.

Spotlight Poem

Sand’s Story by Kate Coombs

We used to be rocks,
we used to be  stones.
We stood proud as castles,
alters, and thrones.

Once we were massive,
looming in rings,
holding up temples
and posing as kings.

Now we grind and we grumble,
humbled and grave,
at the touch of our breaker
and maker, the wave.

This is another one of the darker poems in the collection.  If the library is near a beach, it would be interesting to encourage the children to go look at the sand and the rocks around the beach and image what they once looked like or what they could have been.  This poem could connect to erosion or time.  It would be an interesting introductions to some of the great structures of the world (both ancient such as Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids and modern) as a reminder that over time, things are lost, whether it be knowledge or form.


Lee Bennett Hopkins Award 2013


Booklist Starred Review- “Varied in form and tone as well as subject, these short, precisely worded poems offer new takes on seemingly familiar subjects and subtly shift the reader’s way of seeing. So’s watercolor illustrations work in tandem with the playful, evocative verse, taking key words and ideas as inspiration for brilliantly watery scenes that are sometimes brightly colored, sometimes barely tinted, but consistently well balanced and well executed.”

Phelan, Carolyn. Booklist. 2012. (Vol. 108, No. 16) Accessed via CLCD at


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