Cover of A Mirror to Nature by Jane Yolen and Jason Stemple

A Mirror to Nature

Photographs by Jason Stemple
Wordsong 2009
ISBN# 1590786246

When going through Jason’s backlog of photographs—never an onerous task but rather a real joy—I realized how many pictures of animals and birds reflected in water that he had. Almost enough for a book. So I wrote some poems for the best of the pictures and started trying to sell it. Boyds Mills turned it down once, then other publisher got interested but never bought the book. At last we took the Boyds Mill editor’s suggestions recasting the book a bit—and this time they bought it proving once again that the publishing world constantly changes and authors who want to succeed need to find ways to change as well. I think the end result is exceptionally beautiful, from the mirrored images of the designed pages to some of Jason’s best work ever. Oh yes, there are poems there, too!


  • The book received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, the John Burroughs Society Award, and lots of other praise as well.

Around the web:

What reviewers have said:

  • “Pairing lyrical poems and crisp photography to great effect, this collection is a gem…The images and words resonate—readers will find themselves responding to Yolen’s introductory invitation to ‘linger over these photos, contemplate the poems, see if together or separately they make you think again, make you reflect.’”—* starred review Publishers Weekly
  • “A beautiful photo/poetry book from a mother-and-son team that seems designed for families to share together. Children will love gazing at Jason Stemple’s portraits of living things reflected in water, while their parents read Jane Yolen’s accompanying poems. Wood storks, frogs, and less cuddly beasts get their own odes, which are by turns whimsical or wry.”—Christian Science Monitor
  • “The pages and photographs are vibrant and lively, the poems best for reading aloud. [A] good volume—along with other titles by this mother-son team—for teachers wanting to connect science and poetry.”
    —Kirkus Reviews
  • “Focused on nature and water, the photographs are visual poetry in themselves and lend themselves readily to discussion with children about reflections, water, nature and animals. Yolen’s poetry reflects (pun intended) the images in the photographs, in tones varying from somber and thoughtful to light and humorous. I’ve enjoyed showing the photographs to Z, reading her the poems, and watching her discover which part is the animal and which part is the reflection. I didn’t realize before reading this book that Z wasn’t really literate in reflections and she surprised me when she pointed out what she thought were two animals in a photo of a solitary animal and its reflection. I explained to her the reflection and she was thrilled to find the reflections in the other photos.”—Punnybop Blog
  • “The photographs in the book are absolutely stunning and are taken by Yolen’s son, Jason Stemple.Each poem is based on a picture taken by Stemple and each picture is of a reflection in nature: seven wood storks with seven reflections, a frog sitting atop a floating bottle, a solitary cockle made less alone by its reflection. The poems are brief but powerful, describing the scene in each picture and digging deeper…This is a gorgeous book…I shared it with my class today as a mentor for our observation door poetry and it was a big hit. The pictures drew a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” and the poems brought out laughs and sighs of agreement. A great book to share with students of all ages, this is a must-have for your poetry collection! It is also a great book to use for science/language arts connections, as each photograph is accompanied by a brief caption giving more information.”—The Reading Zone blog
  • “Stemple’s stunning pictures find a mirror everywhere they look. “The first mirror was water,” as Yolen writes. “Puddles, pools, lakes, quiet rivers.” So in “Swimming With Raccoons,” the animal is pictured in a still blue pond, two ears up mirrored by two ears down, “doubled, wet, worried.” A buck standing in reeds in shallow water really has something to be worried about: “A deer that stays / too long / reflecting / is a deer called / meat.”—NY Times
  • “Water acts as a mirror in this picture book that combines short poems with full-page color photos of animals in the wild. As Yolen points out in a brief note, her son’s photos show double images that will make readers see things in new ways. An alligator poised above its reflection in the water looks as if it has two heads. A gorgeous mirror image shows a solitary cockle in its shell. The poetic forms are well matched to the mood in the pictures. Accompanying a blurry, liquid image of a roseate spoonbill is a stirring, spare haiku: “Her only competition / Is her reflection.” A photo catches a coyote standing “statue still,” but both the poem and the image give the sense of the animal’s leap into action that will follow the scene. Drawn by the rich play in words and pictures, kids will see reflections, strange and beautiful, in the natural world.” –Hazel Rochman, Booklist
  • “The mother-son duo offers another book of concept poetry, this time focusing on reflections found in nature. Yolen’s dozen short verses are paired with Stemple’s arresting photographs of raccoons, alligators, coyotes, and a number of water birds. As with Color Me a Rhyme (2000), Count Me a Rhyme (2006), and Shape Me a Rhyme (2007, all Boyds Mills), this book is an excellent complement to nature studies. As the author notes in her introduction, to reflect on something is to give it a second look and, perhaps, to see it in a new light. The final poem, “Crazy Legs,” finds a snowy egret against a background of blue, its stick legs distorted in its watery reflection: “The egret’s/Stark perfection/Now marked/By strange bisection./So bent, this odd/Direction/Demands a new/Inspection.” Teachers and students should find this thoughtful combination of wordplay, nature factoids, and photographs worthwhile.”—SLJ