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Blue Floats Away

Book Review + Water Cycle Activities




In Blue Floats Away, an iceberg called Little Blue finds himself on an unexpected journey when he suddenly breaks away from his parents in the Arctic. He floats in the currents and believes he is all alone until he begins to notice new things, shapes that readers will recognize as sharks and ships, planes and birds. Little Blue learns from his new friends. Loneliness gone, he faces other challenges as he tries to find his way home; challenges that end up transforming him. This book, a work of fiction, leaves room for imagination and heart while also being a story about the water cycle.


Travis Jonker's gentle text is well crafted for young readers. It has a timeless feel, one that (like the water cycle itself) will withstand the rise and fall of current trends. He has thoughtfully left space for illustrations to tell parts of the story.


Much like an iceberg bobbing along gently at the surface, Grant Snider has done a careful job of keeping the pace of the book smooth and gentle, to match the text, with plenty of room for readers to breathe. Grant’s accessible illustrations, a nod to the great Leo Lionni, are an invitation for the readers to grab some paper, a glue stick, color pencils and crayons and create images of their own.


Image Credit: Grant Snider/Abrams Books for Young Readers


Ocean Literacy Principles

The water cycle, because of its far reaching influence of life on Earth, falls under 3 different Ocean Literacy Principles within the K-2 grade framework, but fits most notably within Principle 3.

  1. Principle 1C: Water travels between the ocean, the sky and the land, (e.g., most rivers flow into the ocean and most rain that falls on land comes from the ocean).

  2. Principle 3: The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate.

  3. Principle 6 A3: The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected. The ocean is a major source of water in the water cycle, which provides precipitation for plants and animals, including people.



Water Cycle Art Project

Materials:

  • A large piece of white paper for each student or group of students

  • Drawing tools, such as a pencil, markers and crayons

  • Construction and/or tissue paper in shades of blue, gray, white and other colors too.*

  • Glue sticks

*Depending on the age and abilities of the children you are collaborating with, you may want to cut the colored paper into narrow strips to make it easier for small hands to tear.

  1. Read Blue Floats Away; don't forget the back matter!

  2. Ask students if they heard any new science words they would like to try to define.

  3. Work together with students to define evaporation, condensation and precipitation, as well as the scientific terms liquid, solid and gas.

  4. Ask students to brainstorm examples of the new vocabulary words from their own life experience.

  5. Using ripped paper, crayons and color pencils, have students create images, either individually or in groups that represent the different phases of the water cycle.

  6. Assemble a water cycle from the finished pieces.



Music & Movement
  1. Read Blue Floats Away; don't forget the back matter!

  2. Ask students if they heard any new science words they would like to try to define.

  3. Work together with students to define evaporation, condensation and precipitation, as well as the scientific terms liquid, solid and gas.

  4. Ask students to brainstorm movements they could do to represent the different phases of matter Little Blue transforms through.

  5. Choose an instrumental song, I recommend Morning Paddle by Boundarywater Trio for this activity, to lead the students in a dance that represents the water cycle


More Water Cycle Books and Resources

The USGS has recently released an updated diagram of the water cycle, including anthropogenic influences. The free printable images are available in both English and Spanish from the USGS Water Science School website. There are also interactive diagrams designed for K-5 learners for students to explore on the page.






Water is Water by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin deserves its own review. Stay tuned. The non-fiction picture book is a carefully metered, well written, read aloud poem, brought to life by Chin's masterful watercolor illustrations. The book tends to captivate kids with lovely lines like "Misty, twisty, where is the town?" and storylines that play out in the artwork independent of the text.








Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis is another non-fiction text that invites young readers to creatively investigate the water cycle. Simple (yet profound!) graphic images enhance the readability and encourage the readers to make concept connections. This book also deserves a review all of its own.







About the Author & Illustrator

Travis Jonker is a school librarian and picture book creator from Zeeland, Michigan. He served on the 2014 Caldecott Committee, writes a bookish blog hosted by School Library Journal called 100 Scope Notes, and helps make a children’s literature podcast called The Yarn with fellow librarian friend, Colby Sharp. His picture book Blue Floats Away, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers received starred reviews from both Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. For more about Travis, Blue Floats Away and other books, visit his website, or follow him on Instagram or Twitter.


Grant Snider is an orthodontist, cartoonist and author/illustrator from Wichita, Kansas. He is the creator of numerous books, including a picture book One Boy Watching (Chronicle Books) and a collection of comics, The Art of Living (Abrams Books), both out in 2022. His work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Kansas City Star, The Best American Comics 2013 and you can also find his comics online. His work is refreshingly honest and varied in illustration style. If you only gave yourself 5 minutes per day to browse the net, checking out his work on www.incidentalcomics.com on would be well worth your time and brain space. For more about Grant, Blue Floats Away and other books, visit his website, or follow him on Instagram or Twitter.






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