Elementary Poetry Book: Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs


Florian, D. (2001). Lizards, frogs and polliwogs. New York: Scholastic.

Plot: Contained in this whimsical book are Douglas Florian’s 21 poems about various reptiles and amphibians.  Children will discover some interesting facts about these creatures. They will also have their funny bones tickled.  The author’s  wit shines through the poems and illustrations alike. For example, in one poem about a newt, the newt is pictured wearing an orange suit while he is drinking coffee and reading the “Newt News”. Another poem about crocodiles and alligators states: The crocodile’s smile is wide/Enough to stuff a pig inside./But did you know that alligators/Sometimes swallow second graders? Florian’s collection of poems will not disappoint. It will keep kids entertained, while learning something new.

Recommendation: I recommend this book for students in grades K-5. It is a great book to use for a wide range of readers. Younger readers could focus on the use of rhyme whereas older readers could focus on word choice and the element of humor.

Topics: ELA-poetry, Science-biology, Art-painting, collage

Awards:  Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book; Gryphon Award-winner

Quantitative Reading Level: 

Lexile Measure: NA;  ATOS Reading Level: 2.8; Pages: 47

Qualitative Reading Analysis:

Organization/Format: This 45 page book includes a table of contents. There are 21 poems in the collection. Each page spread has a picture of an amphibian on one side and the poem on the other side. Illustrations are a mixture of watercolors and collage. Each poems has a bolded title. The font for the titles are “artsy” and not standard. The font for the poems is standard. However, some of the text is typed in the shape of a square, circle or wavy lines.

Language Demands: The language demands for this book are fairly simple. Younger students may need teacher guidance though. There are some words in the text that younger readers may not be familiar with such as chameleon, turquoise, mortise and composition.  Furthermore, Florian is creative with his words and invents such words as Octobra, frogsicle and bogsicle.

Knowledge Demands: Knowledge of amphibians and reptiles would be helpful, but not necessary. I believe the children would understand the humor in the poems more if they had some background knowledge of these creatures.

Meaning/Purpose: Reptiles and amphibans are the obvious themes of this book, but I also think young children will learn that informational texts can be silly and fun. The author does a wonderful job of getting this message across.

Content/Subject Area & Standards:

Third Grade ELA (Missouri Learning Standards)

Develop and demonstrate reading skills in response to text by: a. explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story b. draw conclusions and support with textual evidence c. summarizing a story’s beginning, middle, and determining their central message, lesson or moral d. monitoring comprehension and making corrections and adjustments when understanding breaks down

Third Grade Science(Missouri Learning Standards)

3.LS3.B Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving and finding mates. [Clarification Statement: Examples of cause and effect relationships could be plants that have larger thorns than other plants may be less likely to be eaten by predators; and, animals that have better camouflage coloration than other animals may be more likely to survive and therefore more likely to leave offspring.]

3.LS3.C Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular ecosystem some organisms — based on structural adaptations or behaviors — can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot. [Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence could include needs and characteristics of the organisms and habitats involved. The organisms and their habitat make up a system in which the parts depend on each other.

Third Grade Visual Arts: (Show-Me Standards)

1. Investigate the nature of art and discuss responses to artworks. Grade 3: Compare different responses students may have to the same artwork.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students compare and contrast the illustrations in the book to actual photographs of the animals. What characteristics of the animals are stressed in the illustrations?  Which are not? Do some more research to determine how these characteristics such as camouflage or scaly skin may help an animal to survive in its habitat. Study how collage is used to make the illustrations. Study other children’s picture book illustrators, such as Eric Carle, who use collage in their illustrations. Wrap up the collage analysis by having the students  make their own collages.

Links to Supporting Content:

National Geographic Kids: Amphibians

National Geographic Kids:Reptiles

Poems Kids Like

Collage Art Projects

Douglas Florian Interview



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