Thursday, April 26, 2012

5Q Poet Interview Series: Amy Sklansky

Our 5Q Poet Interview series for National Poetry Month continues with this interview with Amy Sklansky about her new book, Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space. Graduate student Garra Ballinger offers this interview (plus) with Amy.

All About the Author Amy E. Sklansky
Greetings Earthlings! My latest mission took me high into the sky, straight into Outer Space, where I met up with a wonderful children’s book author, Amy E. Sklansky. Amy has always enjoyed reading and books and began her career working as an editor at HarperCollins. She spent many years editing other people’s books and one day decided to take a try at writing some of her own. Her first book in the genre of poetry explored those four legged creatures some call man’s best friend. Written from a dog’s perspective, From the Doghouse: Poems to Chew On was a huge success, so Amy continued writing and has since published a poetry book about Halloween, several fiction books, and a nonfiction book about the life cycle of a chick. Her success has continued with her latest publication, Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space, which I will be spotlighting for you. For more information about Amy and to check out her books visit her website. Here you can get a sneak peek inside all of her books and also find some great information on ways to use the books in the classroom with her “Teacher Features.”
Amy Sklansky’s website:

Summary of Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space
If you are ready to blast off with some incredible space themed poetry you need to check out what Amy Sklansky has created for readers in her newest collection, Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space. This book seems to bring out the astronaut in us all, as readers embark on their own space mission of both poetry and facts all about space. There is so much to explore in this grand book about space; planets, stars, rockets, the moon, satellites, and there is even a poem about a space suit…you can’t get to space without one of these! Sklansky really brings science to life with this collection of poems and coupled with the facts children are sure to be engaged and learning the whole time they are reading. Readers everywhere agree, this book is truly out of this world!

Check out these reviews:
Publisher’s Weekly says, “Sklansky contrasts light verse about the universe with facts about outer space in this gentle collection. An evocative mix of the whimsical and the scientific.”

St. Louis Examiner says, “Color-soaked pages carry twenty simple poems with sidebars of interesting tidbits about the mysteries and science of space.”

School Library Journal says, ”The picture-book blend of poetry, nonfiction, and vivid extraterrestrial views is an inviting browsing item and an attractive introduction to space travel."

Jo Ann Hakola, The Book Faerie says, “It's done with poems that are cute and make absorbing facts much more palatable. This is the kind of science I would have preferred during school!”

Interview with Amy Sklansky
Recently I got an opportunity to ask Amy about her new book Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space. She shared some interesting insight on the making of the book as well as what she likes most about the book herself. Check out what she had to say:

1. From the preview on your website I noticed that the poems are arranged in a specific order; blastoff, takeoff, entering space, etc. It seems to me that you wanted readers to experience space as a journey from the beginning to the end. Did you put the poems in this order for a specific reason?

“I do give careful consideration to how my poems are ordered. I do this after they are all written, rather than mapping it out beforehand so I know exactly what poems I have to work with. (My editor and I both work on this and come to an agreement.) And yes, I think of the ordering at the beginning part of the book as a sort of journey into space. Elsewhere in the book, I tried to group related topics, the "Sun" poem next to "Twinkle," for instance.”

2. I was ecstatic to see the out of this world space facts that you included with each poem in this book. Which came first, the poem or the fact? Did you have facts in mind that you wanted to share or did you find facts to match your poems?

“Sometimes the poem comes first and sometimes the fact. Doing the research for the facts in my book definitely inspired me to write poems or incorporate different details. Most times, I wrote the poem first and the fact second. However, I was researching and writing simultaneously.”

3. Space is such a fun subject for kids, and no matter what, they can relate to the subject matter. Have you always been a fan of space, and if so, how and when did you become fascinated with this subject?

“I have always been interested in space. As a child, I had a real fascination with martians (as they used to be called). Martians showed up in my school artwork and stories. They captured my imagination. As an adult I think I (and most kids) am compelled by an interest in understanding and exploring that which is just out of our reach. Space is the last great frontier!”

4. Unfortunately, I have not read the entire book yet, but I was wondering if you have a favorite poem. Would you share with me your favorite poem in this collection and why it is so special to you?

“My favorite poem is "Space Suit." I enjoyed writing a poem with this form or pattern. I like the rhythm of it. The form was inspired by Douglas Florian's poem, "The Age of Dinosaurs" in this book DINOTHESAURUS. Also, I learned quite a few interesting facts in the writing of it. How amazing is it that humans have figured out a way to journey to and experience space?!”

5. You have written poems from a dog’s perspective, poems about Halloween, and now this amazing space themed poetry collection. Any ideas for a new book? What other themes would you like to write about in the future?

“I am always thinking of (and working on) future books. Currently, I am trying my hand at writing a chapter book. I've not written in this genre before. I am also starting to work on what I hope will be a follow-up to OUT OF THIS WORLD (though I'm not sure if the publisher will want to buy it or not). Anyhow, I thought I would bring my next poetry collection back down to Earth and write about EVERYTHING ON EARTH. Topics might include earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, Earth atmosphere, different types of rocks, earth scienc-y stuff -- you get the idea.”

Poem Sneak Peak
This book truly evokes imagination and readers young and old will enjoy their own unique “space” experience as they read from this collection. One of my favorites however has to be the poem that Sklansky enjoys most herself, "Spacesuit." In this creative poem readers experience firsthand how the mission an astronaut takes on is an adventure from the beginning, even as they put on their space suit! Sklansky’s rhyme and rhythm inform readers of the realistic reasons behind such a “special suit”, but the fact found on the opposite page is truly eye opening as it shares information that is down right out of this world. Whether it be the extreme temperatures ranging from thousands of degrees above freezing or thousands below, or the mere fact that one suit costs more than 10 million dollars, readers will be mystified by this dynamic duo.

Space Suit

No astronaut
is ever caught
without a suit in space.

The temperatures,
extreme for sure,
make it a hostile place.

Lack of air
to breathe out there
means oxygen is key.

The suit deflects
as it protects
from any injury.

Good work is done
in shade or sun,
though movement does lack grace.

No astronaut
is ever caught
without a suit in space.

Fun Activities
What kid will not enjoy learning all about a “space suit ? This poem serves as a great resource to help teachers bring space into every subject area, not just science. Space is such a fun unit, and this poem could be used to help students learn about space all day long! The powerful message of this poem is a perfect tool to ignite lessons in reading with immense vocabulary it presents in words such as deflects, lack, hostile, and extreme. Students could work together to define and present these words to the class in dramatic representations. A class discussion on synonyms for these words would be a great addition to the students own writing practice, as well as discussing why they think the author chose these words instead of other synonyms. This would be a great way for the teacher to begin a lesson on worn out words, and have the students take one of their own writings and look for words that they could have used a better word in place of.

I think students in elementary school, especially grades 3-5, will enjoy the creative use of number related facts that this poem teaches them about space. The teacher could help students grasp and understand just how extreme and hostile the temperature can be in space. Whether it is freezing or boiling, the students could research other places that have temperatures similar to the harsh ones presented in space. Money is always a topic students can relate to, and the author wants students to understand that a suit that serves such important purposes doesn’t come cheap! The teacher and students could take everyday purchases such as a tank of gas, a meal at a fast food restaurant, or the cost of a new video and relate them to the cost of the 10 million dollar suit. By comparing the cost, the class could work together with the teacher to calculate how many fast food meals are equivalent to the cost of one space suit. These comparisons could be displayed pictorially for other students in the building in bulletin board format. What a surprise this would be for the school community!

Biographical Information and Book cover image retrieved from

Sklansky, Amy E. Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Image credit:;

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2012. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Robyn Hood Black said...

Thank you all for another great interview! Amy's new book looks/sounds terrific. Way back when, as a kid growing up in central Florida, I'd watch the rocket launches from our back yard. I'm glad kids today at least can nurture their interest in space through books like these, as we transition out of the space shuttle era and into some new frontier.