Poetry Friday: An Interview with Georgia Heard

Poetry Friday is hosted by  
Amy at The Poem Farm

Lately, I have been having great fun sharing BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT! by Georgia Heard with classes when I sub. It’s such a fabulous mentor text. Georgia graciously answered my questions as well as a second and third grade grade class.

ST: Why did you think of animals to write this book? What made you write about this?

GH: I love listening to animal songs. It makes me happy when I’m outside and I hear a bird singing in a tree, or I listen to spring peepers peeping a spring chorus, or crickets chirping their summer concert. We have an animal orchestra all around us and, even those animals that we can’t hear or see, have a song or a call and a way to communicate just like humans do.

ST: How did you think to create this book?

GH: I grew up with 100 acres of woods behind my house and I listened every day and night to the sounds of the forest. I saw a video once of a forest where all the trees had been cut down and it was completely silent – no bird songs, or insects buzzing.  I kept thinking that if the world were silent, and we couldn’t hear birds’ singing, frogs calling, and other animal sounds, we would miss one of the amazing ways animals make our world beautiful with their songs.  I wanted readers to listen, and read the animal sounds in Boom! Bellow! Bleat!and be delighted by the poems and songs. Maybe then when we talk a walk outside we’ll notice all the sounds around us. 

ST: Why did you choose those animals? Why did you decide to include facts in the book?

GH: I chose some of my favorite animal sounds but I also wanted to include animals that I didn’t know much about. For example, I was surprised to learn that fish are very noisy creatures, and I was amazed to discover that the tiny snapping shrimp is one of the loudest creatures on the planet.

I included facts in the back of the book so readers could learn more about the animals such as how and why they make their sounds.

ST: How did you study the animals?

GH: I did quite a bit of research mainly from books, and scientific articles I found on the internet. I also listened to videos of animals making sounds so I could try to find the right words to describe their sounds. 

ST: What animals do you wish you had in the book?

GH: One of my favorite animal sounds is the hoo-hoo-hooof a barred owl. When I visit my family in New Hampshire a barred owl always serenades us at night as we sleep. I tried writing a poem about a barred owl, and I worked on it for months, but it never come out like I wanted. So, sadly, I had to leave the barred owl out of the book.

ST: How long did it take?

It took about three years to write and revise all the poems. I had many wise revision suggestions from my editor, and I also had a science editor read the poems, and the Nature’s Notes in the back of the book, to make sure that all the information and facts about the animals were 100% correct.

ST:  Could the sound of the snap of the Bigclaw Snapping Shrimp make you deaf?

GH: I sound of a snapping shrimp could harm your hearing if the snapping shrimp snapped its claw right next to your ear. But because water absorbs sound I believe that some of the loudness would be absorbed and the damage to your ears wouldn’t be as severe.

JRM: Were there some animals that you wrote about but they didn’t make it into the book?

GH: (repeat from above) One of my favorite animal sounds is the hoo-hoo-hooof a barred owl. When I visit my family in New Hampshire a barred owl always serenades us at night as we sleep. I tried writing a poem about a barred owl, and I worked on it for months, but it never come out like I wanted. So, sadly, I had to leave the barred owl out of the book.

JRM: What surprised you the most about the book?

GH: The more I researched animals, and their sounds, the more I was amazed by the variety and beauty of their songs. I was surprised every day as I was writing the book!

For example, I never knew that most of what elephants say to one another is infrasonicmeaning humans can’t hear their sounds, and that scientists in Africa are working on an elephant listening project to create an elephant dictionary of their complex sounds.  Since scientists can’t hear most of their sounds, they record the elephants, then play back the recording slowly so they can hear what the elephants are saying. 

I was also surprised that animals in a forest have adapted different tones so they don’t drown each other out when they sing together – birds sing with the highest voice, insects with a middle tone, and mammals with the lowest sound. When you listen to the animal sounds in a forest it truly is a “Forest Orchestra.”

JRM: How did you decide the order of the book?

GH: I knew I wanted to begin the book with “Animal Songs” which describes a bunch of different animal sounds and makes the connection that humans make sounds for similar reasons as animals because, after all, we’re animals too. And I knew I wanted to end the book with “Forest Orchestra” which is about the forest sounds I listened to when I was a girl growing up with the woods behind my house. Plus, it kind of makes a BIG ending with a lot of different animals singing together. I also wanted to vary animal sounds across the book so, for example, I placed the snapping shrimp’s loud but short snap… BANG! next to the melodic WOOOOO’s of the Humpback Whale, and so on.


Poetry Friday: Working with Third Graders On Animal Sound Poems

Welcome to Poetry Friday. Thank you goes to Rebecca at Sloth Read for hosting everyone.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to sub in Mrs. Martin’s room. I shared the “I Come From” poems in January.

I love teaching poetry when I sub. The tricky part is being able to get it down in the amount of time I’m given. Yesterday I had an hour which I could work with the class.

Georgia Heard’s book BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT! has been a great mentor text.

We discussed some of the poems in the book. I really like “Rattlesnake Warning” and “You Can’t See Us, But You Can Hear. Us” for whole group participation. Then I shared my poem and asked what they noticed.

This lead to a discussion about

Here’s a sneak peak of the third grade poems. What I notice with third grade is their variety of animal choices: cockatiel, blue whale, chinchilla, canines, pandas, and a giraffe to name a few. We talked about being more specific that just “dog” or “bird”.

I will be publishing them during April’s National Poetry Month. And in the near future, I will have an interview with Georgia Heard.

Poetry Friday: Working with Kinders, Part I

Welcome to Poetry Friday. There is a celebration of women happening at Reading to the Core, it’s International Women’s Day. I have a poem at Deowriter about strong women.

Last October, at the Writing Poetry for Children Workshop, I was gifted with a galley copy of BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT! By Georgia Heard (Its book birthday is next Tuesday).

I subbed in a kinder room on Monday and Tuesday this week. On Monday, I shared the galley with the TEN children (there was something going through the class). I gave them “homework” in that I wanted them to think of an animal to possibly write about on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, we had another day of TEN children (can you tell it was heaven? They are a busy group though and we had a bit of a cry fest after lunch). In the morning I read this book, SUPERHERO INSTRUCTION MANUAL. As I was reading, I realize that by having the class come up with superhero names (favorite color + animal) would help prime the pump for the animal sound poems they would write in the afternoon.

My mentor poem(to me, their sound reminds me of chk, chk, chk):

I shared it with the students. We noticed that I used Chk! Chk! Chk! three times for rhythm and we talked about using words starting with H. We made a chart of possible animals sounds next:

I gave the students a paper with the scaffolding and they went to work. I spent time conferencing with them. It’s so fun to see where they are with their writing and their confidence. Certainly, everyone has a poem. It was more of a challenge for some. Here’s some of their drafts.

I can tell that A. had thought about what she wanted to say. She walked into class telling me about which animal and kept asking when we would write.

L. wasn’t sure about what the sound of a red ladybug. We talked about it and she came up with “Fzzz”.

E. knew immediately he wanted a rainbow lamb. He also knew that it should say Meow-Baa and that they have have doggie ears.

K. wrote without needed me to make dots for the words. We conferred and he shared what he wrote.

E. is and ELL student. I love that she could read this to me.

I took their work and typed up the final copies. Each will have an additional sound line that didn’t fit on the page. On Monday, I’m subbing half day in the building and will meet with them to illustrate their final copy. You’ll get to see the final copies next week. At the request of the teacher, we are using initials for privacy.

So I am sad to report that student poetry postcards most likely won’t happen this year.  That said, I am creating a limited edition poetry postcard for those who are interested in receiving a poem for National Poetry Month.
If interested please sign up here: