Friday, September 14, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Traces

Author/Illustrator: Paula Fox / Karla Kuskin

Publisher/Date: Front Street / 2008

Genre/Audience: poetry / Age 7+

Themes: poetry, senses, nature, fossils, tracks, discovery, science

Opening: Something, someone was just here.  Now there's barely a trace of it in the lily pond, only bubbles of water and air.  Plump, wattled, warty, croaking... [next page] is the bullfrog that left traces in the lily pond.

Synopsis: From This lyric poem by one of our most revered writers captures those faint glimpses of things that you see but don't quite recognize, sounds you can almost hear, smells, tastes, feelings that can't quite name. Each line of the poem and each picture in the book depicts the sensual essence of a child's day, each of which are totally typical and thoroughly unique.

Why I Love This Book: This book encourages close observation and deductive reasoning.  It would pair nicely with early science units that teach the scientific method, the use of a magnifying glass, and keeping a science notebook.  As a third grade teacher, I would have used this again and again throughout the school year before our trips out on the nature trail.  The repetition of "Something, someone was just here.  Now there's barely a trace of it..." keeps the mystery alive, the curiosity peaked, and it makes for a great science writing prompt! 

Take a notebook out in the woods.  List all the clues you find that suggest certain animals, plants, weather... Hypothesize what could have caused that scratch mark on the tree trunk, that nibbled acorn, that blown-over tree. 

Writing prompt: Use the book's repetitive phrase: "Something, someone was just here.  Now there's barely a trace of it..." after a nature walk.

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.


  1. Great recommendation! I'll have to find this one as a pre-hiking read. Thanks!

  2. I love her poetry. I'll have to look for this one at the library. Great review!

  3. I'll have to tell my teacher friends about this one. I sounds great!

  4. What a great idea: sense, observation, results, hypotheses... so much learning potential here.

  5. Like that you're sharing a book that you use frequently in your class on nature walks. There is so much for kids to learn. Wonderful recommendation! Love books about natural world andall the sounds, sights and smells.

  6. Love that you shared this with your students and how you used it. Great review! Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. Ooh, this sounds fantastic, Laura! I love the poetry and the mystery, and how kids would get to discover everything as they read. Great activity suggestions too - fun and educational. Thanks so much for adding this one to our list!

  8. I've read this one with our preschool class many times. The first time they intently listen and by the second or third time you can feel their little minds working as they catch on. The sensual lyrics are always a good reminder of how a young child experiences the world - through all their senses!

  9. Sounds like a wonderful adventure in the woods with this book. I love your activity.