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Professor at Texas Woman's University, editor of LIBRARIANS' CHOICES, avid reader, movie lover, and zealous traveller
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1. Something to celebrate

In my opinion, there is almost always something to celebrate! Just ask my kids who have enjoyed half-birthdays and even "sister of half-birthday boy" occasions! Any excuse for a special meal, cupcakes, song, or a party! Planned or spontaneous, big or little, let's have more fun together. And if you spend any time at all with young children, you know they revel in discovering and celebrating the fun, odd, interesting things they're learning about every day. So, it's no surprise that I have loved being part of producing the latest installment in our POETRY FRIDAY series of anthologies: The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations. It was so fun to research the various occasions that are featured in that book, to work with Janet (Wong, my partner in celebration) to curate the perfect poem for each day, week or month, and to think about how to engage kids in experiencing each poem.  

But you may not know that each of our books (in the Teacher/Librarian edition) also features some front and back matter that we hope will help the adult reader with tips, lists, and guidelines on selecting and sharing poetry with all kinds of kids. For example, we always include a bibliography of OTHER poetry books that are connected to the topic of the book, so we can get kids reading even MORE poetry!

In the back of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, you'll find a list of other poetry books full of occasional poems and poems for various holidays and celebrations. Here is that list just for you.

POETRY BOOKS ABOUT CELEBRATIONS
Whether it’s Christmas, Halloween, Mother’s Day, President’s Day, or another occasion, sharing a poem can make for a memorable moment. Here is a selection of books with poetry for children about a variety of celebrations. 

Ada, Alma Flor and Campoy, Isabel. 2015. Días y Días de Poesía: Developing Literacy through Poetry and Folklore
Andrews, Julie and Hamilton, Emma Walton. Eds. 2012. Julie Andrews’ Treasury for All Seasons: Poems and Songs to Celebrate the Year.
Brown, Calef. 2010. Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness
Carlstrom, Nancy White. 2002. Thanksgiving Day at Our House: Poems for the Very Young.
Farrar, Sid. 2012. The Year Comes Round: Haiku through the Seasons
Ghigna, Charles and Ghigna, Debra. 2000. Christmas Is Coming! 
Ghigna, Charles. 2003. Halloween Night: Twenty-One Spooktacular Poems. 
Grimes, Nikki. 2002. Under the Christmas Tree. 
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2004. Christmas Presents: Holiday Poetry
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2004. Hanukkah Lights: Holiday Poetry
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2005. Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2005. Valentine Hearts: Holiday Poetry.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2014. Manger. 
Hopkins, Lee. Bennett. Ed. 2010. Sharing the Seasons. 
Janeczko, Paul. Ed. 2014. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
Jules, Jacqueline. 2001. Clap and Count! Action Rhymes for the      Jewish Year
Lewis, J.  Patrick. 2007. Under the Kissletoe: Christmastime Poems
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009. Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of  of the School Year. 
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2013. World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You've Never Heard Of. 
Mak, Kam. 2001. My Chinatown: One Year in Poems
Mora, Pat. 2001. Ed. Love to Mamá: A Tribute to Mothers
Mora, Pat. 2008. Join Hands: The Ways We Celebrate Life
Muth, Jon. J. 2014. Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons
Nesbitt, Kenn & Linda Knaus. 2006. Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney.
Newman, Lesléa. 2014. Here Is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays. 
Orozco, José Luis. 2004. Fiestas: A Year of Latin American Songs and Celebrations
Prelutsky, Jack. 2007. It’s Thanksgiving!  
Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. It’s Christmas! 
Raczka, Bob. 2010. Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys. 
Raczka, Bob. 2014. Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole.  
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2008. Shrinking Days, Frosty Nights: Poems about Fall.
Sidman, Joyce. 2009. Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors.
Sidman, Joyce. 2013. What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings. 
Singer, Marilyn, 2012. Every Day's a Dog's Day: A Year in Poems.
Sklansky, Amy E. 2004. Skeleton Bones & Goblin Groans: Poems for Halloween
Swaim, Jessica. 2010. Scarum Fair
Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. Eds. 2011. Gift Tag
Whitehead, Jenny. 2007. Holiday Stew: A Kid’s Portion of Holiday and Seasonal Poems
Yolen, Jane and Peters, Andrew Fusek. Eds. 2007. Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry.
Yolen, Jane and Peters, Andrew Fusek. Eds. 2010. Switching on the Moon: A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems.  
Ziefert, Harriet. 2008. Hanukkah Haiku. 

For the month of April, I will be featuring short videos of children reading some of the poems from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations. These were produced by my amazing graduate students and shared with their permission. We even have one BLOOPER reel!  So stop by next week and throughout April for this fun celebration of National Poetry Month. 
In the mean time, if you need more information about the book (and you missed it in the 1000 places I've been tooting that horn), here you go:

It's the FOURTH book in the Poetry Friday Anthology series! It’s The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Teacher/Librarian Edition and Student/Children’s Edition). You’ll find poems for 156 holidays in English and Spanish, including: Random Acts of Kindness Week, Children’s Book Week, World Laughter Day, National Camping Month, International Literacy Day, Global Hand Washing Day, and more! 

Poets include: Jack Prelutsky, J. Patrick Lewis, Joyce Sidman, Margarita Engle, Marilyn Singer, Nikki Grimes, Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy, Ibtisam Barakat, Uma Krishnaswami, Francisco X. Alarcón, Linda Sue Park, Jane Yolen, Kenn Nesbitt, Jorge Argueta, Grace Lin, Joseph Bruchac, Douglas Florian, Laura Purdie Salas, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, and 95 others.

Get your copy of the Teacher/Librarian Edition (with mini-lessons) here:
Amazon
QEP Books

Get your copy of the Student/Children's Edition (poems only) here:
Student/Children's Edition
Amazon
QEP Books

You can find more info at:
PomeloBooks.com
PoetryCelebrations.com 

Plus, check out our new boards at Pinterest where we have poem visuals for each of our books. Just look for Pomelobooks (one word) at Pinterest.com.

Speaking of Poetry Friday, head on over to Jone's place for more poetry goodness!

Image credits: pomelobooks.com;churchgoers.com;shorpy.com


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2. PFA #4! The Poetry Friday for Celebrations

I’m excited to announce the publication of the FOURTH book in the Poetry Friday Anthology series! It’s The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations  (Teacher/Librarian Edition and Children’s Edition) compiled with the amazing Janet Wong. You’ll find poems for 156 holidays in English and Spanish, including: Random Acts of Kindness Week, Children’s Book Week, World Laughter Day, National Camping Month, International Literacy Day, Global Hand Washing Day, and more! 


Poets include: Jack Prelutsky, J. Patrick Lewis, Joyce Sidman, Margarita Engle, Marilyn Singer, Nikki Grimes, Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy, Ibtisam Barakat, Uma Krishnaswami, Francisco X. Alarcón, Linda Sue Park, Jane Yolen, Kenn Nesbitt, Jorge Argueta, Grace Lin, Joseph Bruchac, Douglas Florian, Laura Purdie Salas, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, and 95 others. 

And did I mention that every poem is presented in both English AND Spanish? We are so excited to offer this additional access point for even more future poetry lovers!

As usual, the Teacher/Librarian Edition contains "Take 5!" activities, but this time we include picture book pairings for every poem and extra tips for sharing, plus booklists, and (CCSS, TEKS, and NCSS) skills charts. We removed all that "adult stuff" from the Children's Edition and inserted illustrations. Both are available on Amazon and QEPBooks.com (best if you need to use a purchase order). 

Teacher/Librarian Edition
available from Amazon
available from QEP Books

Student Edition
available from Amazon
available from QEP Books

You can find more info at:

FYI: the Children's Book Council chose The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations as one of its "Hot Off the Press" titles for March! We are so excited about this honor. 

In honor of the first day of spring TODAY, here’s a poem from the Celebrations book along with the accompanying Take 5! activities. Thank you, Jane Lichtenberger Patton for sharing this gem. Enjoy!

I’ll be featuring student-made videos based on MANY of the poems in the Celebrations book throughout National Poetry Month in April, so please swing by again then. Plus, we’ll have more info about our other online resources too!

And for an opportunity to win a free copy of the Celebrations book, check out Janet Carey’s blog post here.

And just in case you missed them, the previous three installments in the Poetry Friday Anthology series include: 

Meanwhile, don’t forget to join the Poetry Friday gathering where Catherine is hosting at Reading to the Core.

Finally, this is my blog's 700th post since its beginning in 2006. Whoa! That feels good, too!



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3. Poet to Poet: Allan Wolf and Leslie Bulion


It's time for another installment of my Poet to Poet interview series. This time, Allan Wolf is asking Leslie Bulion some fun questions about her new book, Random Body Parts.


First, you may know Allan Wolf, author, poet, performer, and educator who lives in North Carolina and travels around the country (collecting hotel toiletries and) presenting poetry to audiences of all ages. He was the educational director for Poetry Alive for many years and is one of the driving forces behind that national Poetry Slam movement. He's the author of several books including the historical novels in verse, New Found Land and The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic, as well as More Than Friends: Poems from Him and Her (with Sara Holbrook) and Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet's Life. His book, The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems about Our Parts, is one of my favorites and the main reason I thought of pairing him with Leslie since both have books of poetry about the human body-- a rare and special treat! 


Leslie Bulion was born in New York City and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in biology and society and became a social worker. She has also attended the University of Rhode Island and received an M.S. in Oceanography and Southern Connecticut State University receiving a Masters in Social Work. Her first children’s book, Fatuma’s New Cloth was inspired by her family’s travels in Africa and received the 2003 Children’s Africana Book Award. Here books of poetry include Hey There, Stink Bug; At the Sea Floor Café; Odd Ocean Critter Poems, and her latest, Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse.

Allan kicks things off right away:

Allan: First off, Leslie, I must get a little bit “fanboy” on you and tell you that I love your latest collection of poems, Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse. I mean, honestly, you had me from “borborygmus.” (For those of you who have been living under a rock, borborygmus—bor/bor/RIG/mus—is the growling sound made by your stomach and intestines as they digest your food.)

Question One:
Random Body Parts is what I’d call “anacomically correct.” That is to say, the poems are not just funny, they are also accurate and informative. Your book is obviously well researched, requiring you to transform “informational text” into “literary text.” Do you find it difficult to transform real facts into fantastical verse? How do you find the right balance between accuracy and entertainment?

Leslie: Incredibly kind words coming from the poet who penned The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts, Allan--thank you! And the credit for "borborygmus" goes to my friend, author-illustrator Deborah Freedman (newest: By Mouse and Frog) who bestowed that borbor-gorgeous word upon me in early days of Random Body Parts--a gift she knew would be fully appreciated. Speaking of fabulous phrases, I'm adopting "anacomically correct" as the official Random Body Parts tagline. 

As a kindred wordplay spirit, I find the lexicon of science perfect fodder for writing what I hope will be funny and informative poetry. Science words have their own wonderful parts, are inherently rhythmic, and lend themselves to rhyme surprises. Those surprises are often the source of humor--they're funny to hear and fun to say. I tend to focus on one or two ideas to tell a science story using juicy words and captivating ideas I discover while researching my subjects. The natural world IS fantastical, so there is no shortage of science stories to inspire--no need to make it up! 

Allan: Question Two:
Random Body Parts combines poetry, prose, riddles, diagrams and pictures. It also includes extensive back matter including a glossary of anatomy terms, a bibliography, and detailed notes on the various poetic forms you’ve included: sonnets, haikus, cinquains, and double dactyls to name a few. And if that isn’t enough, each of the book’s poems also has some intentional connection to William Shakespeare! 

Do you think children’s poetry books today are expected to “do” more, and “be” more, than poetry books of the past?

Leslie: This is an interesting question, Allan. I think all genres of writing for children change, over time, don't you? As an example, "slice of life" picture books with minimal story arc, once popular, are not as big in today's market. I dislike hearing "quiet book" in its current pejorative iteration, but we all know books of poetry and prose that might not have made it into print following current trends. I do think children's poetry collections in today's market benefit from a clear and unique focus, which helps define and distinguish the poet's voice or the anthologist's sensibilities. 

There are, of course, beautiful, current collections of poetry for children that don't have, and certainly don't need to have as many elements as I've crammed into Random Body Parts. When I start each new poetry collection, I seem to add a layer--some new twist. I've probably already caused head-shaking in editorial quarters, and if I continue in this vein my tenth collection will be more back matter than book body. 

But at some level there is a method to my madness, because there are many different types of readers out there and I'm interested in all of them: those who'll devour a poem, and those who'll gravitate toward the prose science note. Those who will look up every science word in the glossary, those who will be flinging around Shakespearean phrases by the end of the day, and those who will pore over the brilliant illustrations--I hope to share my fascination with science with all of them, and to make reading and writing poetry approachable and fun on many levels.

Allan: Question Three (or is this four questions in one?):
You are also the author of middle grade novels. Can you move from one discipline to the other fluidly? Or is it more complicated? What can poetry do that prose cannot? When do you feel like poetry is the perfect tool for the writing task at hand?

Leslie: I am something of a logical-sequential type. My preference is NOT to multi-task; I like to start one job and work to its completion. I do not work on a novel in the morning and write poems in the afternoon--my gears won't switch like that. For me, writing a novel is immersive. I have a difficult time picking up my writing flow after vacation or Thanksgiving--lots of rereading and wheel-spinning. But life does intervene; I've (mostly) learned to expect it. I try not to worry overmuch as I work my way back into the heads, hearts and voices of my characters. 

When I'm researching a poetry collection, that experience tends to be somewhat immersive too, because I'm trying to assimilate a body of knowledge--the big picture. I need a lot of background information to help me shape my approach and subsequent selections for individual poem subjects. Once my research is mostly done, working on a poetry collection is a bit more forgiving in terms of dealing with interruptions. If I've internalized the big idea, I can break between poems, then resume without losing too much ground. 

Poetry and science both embody elegance: an idea honed to its core of communication, so they're a natural fit, don't you think? My writing process includes careful selection of poetic form to enhance each science story. I try to choose forms that are accessible to readers and to writers. I hope students will want to choose from the variety of forms I include to tell their own juicy science story in verse. 

Each poem I write could include a whole book as further science reading, so when I add prose, I try to limit those science notes to the information that deepens and enhances the poem's specific ideas, rather than an exhaustive treatise on the overall subject. I go back to those prose notes and cut, cut, CUT. I try to be as ruthless as when I'm jettisoning...er...saving photos for a vacation album: I only need one shot to remind me that I caught my husband with this oldie riddle:

Thanks so much for your thought-provoking questions, Allan, and for sharing this space with me!

Sylvia: Thank you both, Allan and Leslie, for engaging in this entertaining AND enlightening back-and-forth dialogue! 

Now join the Poetry Friday gathering over at Author Amok hosted by Laura this week.

And don't miss the March Madness fun over at ThinkKidThink where poets are rising to the challenge of a poetry tournament!



Image credits: Amazon, Flickr, Leslie Bulion, Peachtree, Allan Wolf

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4. Poet-a-Palooza for SCIENCE!

I'm so excited to report that the amazing Renée La Tulippe from the fabulous No Water River site is featuring The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science today-- complete with videos of seven poets reading their poems from the anthology. If you haven't ever visited No Water River, do it now. Here's the link!

I'll wait. 

She is really creating a rich resource that supports poetry sharing and teaching. I especially love the video component-- so fun for kids (and adults!). Here's a link to my previous post about "How to use NoWaterRiver in the classroom

She is also a poet herself, author of Lizard Lou: A Collection of Poems Old and New, and contributor to our anthologies, too. And she teaches a very popular online writing course, the Lyrical Language Lab

In case I haven't bombarded you enough with information about our book, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, it features 218 new, original poems for children in grades K-5 written by 78 different poets who specialize in poetry for young people. Plus, we have tied the poems to the Next Generation Science Standards and offer Take 5 activities that help you connect poems and science skills (as well as CCSS and TEKS skills in reading/language arts). It earned the National Science Teachers Association "seal of approval" and rave reviews from science author extraordinaire Seymour Simon, among others.

And here are the individual links to poet videos on YouTube in case that is helpful.

Renée also provides many more links to all the poets who contributed to the book and much, much more. Her posts are a one-stop shop for fantastic poetry teaching tools!

Thank you, poets, for your poems AND your videos and thank you, Renée, for creating this wonderful forum for HEARING poems read aloud!

Now head on over to Merely Day by Day where Cathy is hosting Poetry Friday.

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5. Poetry = Newbery

It was so exciting to be in the audience when the awards were announced this morning and POETRY books were at the top of the list!

The Newbery award went to... The Crossover by Kwame Alexander!
Which was also recognized with a Coretta Scott King author honor award
You'll find the guide for this book here.

Newbery honors: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson which also won:

  • Coretta Scott King Author Award
  • Sibert Honor Award
You'll find a "Poet to Poet" interview between Carole Boston Weatherford and Jacqueline Woodson here.


To reiterate, the Coretta Scott King Author award went to Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

Coretta Scott King author honor awards went to:

  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

And poet, author, and literacy advocate Pat Mora will deliver the 2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture, perfect timing with the 20th anniversary of Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros (Children's Day/Book Day)!

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6. Notable (Poetry) Books for a Global Society 2015

Just this week the IRA (now ILA) committee (for CL/R) announced it's latest list of "Notable Books for a Global Society." I was so pleased that they included 8 poetry books on their list of 25 titles published in 2014. Let's see which ones they highlighted, shall we?

Caminar
Harlem Hellfighters
Silver People
Voices from the March
Brown Girl Dreaming
Like Water on Stone
The Red Pencil
A Time to Dance

The pdf of the annotated list complete with book covers here:

I noticed that these are all novels in verse (except Harlem Hellfighters)! Which is lovely, but where are the anthologies that reflect global world views and connections? That's the next challenge for us! But each of these books is truly distinctive, beautifully written and offers a fascinating window into a culturally rich story. Don't miss them!

Here's complete bibliographic info for these 8 titles:

Brown, Skila. 2014. Caminar.Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Engle, Margarita. 2014. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2014. Harlem Hellfighters. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.
Lewis, J. Patrick and Lyon, George Ella. 2014. Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Pinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil.  New York: Little, Brown.

Venkatraman, Padma. 2014. A Time to Dance. New York: Penguin.
Walrath, Dana. 2014. Like Water on Stone. New York: Delacorte.
Woodson, Jacqueline. 2014. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Penguin.

If you want more information about this SIG (Special Interest Group) and the history of the Notables list, here's a nugget from their website:

"The Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association formed the Notable Books for a Global Society Committee in 1995. Under the guidance of Yvonne Siu-Runyan, who originated and spearheaded the project, the committee undertook to identify outstanding trade books that it felt would help promote understanding across lines of culture, race, sexual orientation, values, and ethnicity.

The Notable Books for a Global Society (NBGS) list was developed to help students, teachers, and families identify books that promote understanding of and appreciation for the world's full range of diverse cultures and ethnic and racial groups. Although advances in technology allow us to communicate quickly with people around the world and the growth of world trade brings us increasingly into contact with far-flung members of the "global village," today's society is rife with tension, conflict and ignorance of others different from us. If we hope to meet the many challenges that face us in the 21st century, we must recognize the similarities and celebrate the differences among all races, cultures, religions, and sexual orientations, and appreciate that people can hold a wide range of equally legitimate values.

Each year, the Committee selects twenty-five outstanding books for grades K-12 that reflect a pluralistic view of world society. These twenty-five titles represent the year’s best in fiction, nonfiction and poetry."


Plus criteria for selection are there as well as all the lists since 2010.

Well done, Chair Janet Wong and committee members!

I'm heading to the Midwinter conference of the American Library Association where more big (Newbery, Caldecott, etc.) awards will be announced on Monday (Feb. 2). I'll be sure to post news about any poetry titles that are included! Stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, where is the Poetry Friday party today? Over at These Four Corners. Thanks for hosting, Paul!  

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7. Happy Puzzle Day!

The word is out...

Our next installment in The Poetry Friday Anthology series will be published in March! And to whet your appetite for The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, here is the poem for January 29 (today!):

And here are the Take 5! activities that accompany this poem:
Sample puzzle from National Geographic.com/games
1. Hold up a single piece from a (jigsaw) puzzle and ask children to guess what it is from. Then read this poem aloud slowly.
2. Invite everyone to join in on the final line (“a puzzling scene”) while you read the poem aloud again.
3. Just for fun, work together to complete an online jigsaw puzzle. One source: NationalGeographic.com/games/photo-puzzle-jigsaw/
4. Pair this poem with this picture book: Hide-and-Seek Science: Animal Camouflage (Holiday House, 2013) by Emma Stevenson, and guide children in finding the hidden animals within each ecosystem to celebrate National Puzzle Day.
5. For another poem about 100 things, look for the poem “My 100th Day Collection” by Betsy Franco (mid-January to mid-February, pages 38-39) and for riddle and puzzle poems, check out Kindergarten Kids: Riddles, Rebuses, Wiggles, Giggles, and More! by Stephanie Calmenson (HarperCollins, 2005).

In a nutshell, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations offers:
  • 156 new, unpublished poems by 115 poets
  • poems tied to holidays, celebrations, historic events, and wacky occasions across the calendar year
  • all the poems in both English and Spanish
  • Take 5! activities for sharing every poem with children
  • every poem paired with a picture book to read aloud for a story time or lesson plan
  • skill connections (for CCSS, TEKS, and NCSS)
  • poems appropriate for children preK-5 (and beyond)

Pre-order your copy today here. And for more info go here.


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8. Poet to Poet: Jane Yolen and Lesléa Newman

I'm pleased to post another installment in my ongoing "Poet to Poet" series in which one poet interviews another poet about her/his new book. This time it's Jane Yolen and Lesléa Newman who have very generously volunteered to participate.  <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]--> Lesléa has a powerful, heartbreakingly beautiful new book out just now, I Carry My Mother, a work for adults that has crossover appeal for teen readers too. 
Jane Yolen hardly needs an introduction, but I'm often surprised to find that people don't know about all the POETRY she has published. Her poetry for children includes these and more:
- Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children; Once Upon Ice and Other Frozen Poems, and more weather and seasonal poetry
- An Egret’s Day, Birds of a Feather, and many more wonderful bird-focused poetry books
- Mother Earth, Father Sky: Poems of Our Planet, Bug Off! Creepy Crawly Poems, and many more beautiful nature-themed poetry books
*Plus those very appealing "How Do Dinosaurs" books
*As well as collaborations with other poets such as:
- Self Portrait with Seven Fingers: A Life of Marc Chagall in Verse; Take Two! A Celebration of Twins both with J. Patrick Lewis
- Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy Tales with a Twist (and a forthcoming follow up book) both with Rebecca Kai Dotlich
- Switching on the Moon: A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry both edited with Andrew Fusek Peter.

Her book for adults, The Radiation Sonnets, inspired Lesléa's new book, I Carry My Mother. Both focus on coping with the serious illness of a loved one-- such a tough topic-- but poetry is such good therapy.

Lesléa Newman may be best known for her groundbreaking book, Heather Has Two Mommies (which will be reissued this year!) and she has many other picture books to her credit, but her poetry is also very compelling and engaging. Did you read October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard? So powerful, such craftsmanship. And last year, she published Here is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays, a fun and engaging family treasure.

Jane read I Carry My Mother (and heard drafts read in the writers' group they share) and asked Lesléa several questions. Here we go. 

1. Mourning poems have a fine, long, old tradition. Did you think about that when choosing to write in forms?

The idea for the book was actually inspired by your collection, THE RADIATION SONNETS. I was so moved by both the poems themselves and the concept of a poet writing a poem each night after tucking a loved one who is ill into bed. So the first section of the book, which is a fifteen-part poem called “The Deal” and consists of triolets (a French form using a strict pattern of repetition and rhyme) was written while I was taking care of my mother. Each night for two weeks, after I’d tucked her into the hospital bed we’d set up in the living room, I’d climb upstairs, retreat to my childhood bedroom, and write a poem. After she died, I picked up my pen and began the second part of the book. It made sense to continue writing in form.

2. How long did the writing of the poems take, and when it ended was it like the lighting of a yahrzeit candle?

The poems took about a year, so yes, it was like lighting a yahrzeit candle. It was bittersweet because while I was writing, I felt my mom very close to me. She wanted to be a writer, and for various reasons never pursued it. I literally heard her voice in my ear while I was writing, encouraging me, and being proud of me. When I was finished writing the book, it was like losing her all over again.

3. I know you workshopped most of the poems, which could have felt like people stepping on your deepest emotions or taking flint and knife to your mourning. How did you sidestep such a feeling?

I have been writing poems for a really long time—half a century!—and I know that I am not the best judge of them. I am always grateful for honest, kind, thoughtful feedback which helps me make the poems the best they can be. I am also very careful about choosing my readers. For example, I trust the women in my writers’ group completely. I have learned to detach from my poems emotionally and just look at what’s on the page, almost as if someone else wrote them. You have to be tough on yourself! I tell my students that the first draft of a poem and the final draft of a poem resemble each other as much as a fish resembles a bicycle. I hold myself to the same standard. I am not my poems and my poems are not me. So it wasn’t difficult to receive feedback. Though it never fails: the lines that I am the most attached to are always the ones that need to be cut. And that can be hard. But only momentarily. Then I see that the cut actually improves the poem, and once again, I am impressed with my own brilliance!

4. You pull no punches. Some of the poems are relentless and unsparing—the pukes, moans, groans, asking for a pill to die. And yet even within the tough, gritty poems, your voice of love soars. I wonder which was harder—recording the disorderliness of your mother’s dying or chronicling your own shattered heart?

I definitely felt more emotional when I wrote about my own grief. While my mother was still alive, no matter what shape she was in, she was still among us, and she was still very much herself. Her absence leaves such a large hole. It is almost unbearable, even more than two years later. So the poems in the third section of the book, such as “Looking at Her” in which I describe applying makeup on my mom while she’s lying in her coffin, and “How To Bury Your Mother” were rather excruciating. But necessary.

5. There is anger in these poems, too, as when you say, “I am an orphan and not an orphan…” or the poem that ends with the thought that your mother, who died of a cancer brought on by cigarettes, had a life that had “gone up in smoke.”

It’s interesting that you read them that way. I don’t see the poems that way.  Which doesn’t mean you are reading the poems “incorrectly” as there is no right or wrong way to read a poem. I never felt anger about my mother’s illness and death. Lots and lots of sadness, and much despair, but never anger. My mother was very clear about her choices. She was also very smart. She knew the risks of smoking two packs a day for more than sixty years. When the doctor told her she had six months to live—actually he told me, and I was the one to tell her—my mother absorbed the news and then said matter-of-factly, “Everyone dies of something. This is my something.” She felt no anger. I felt no anger. Only sorrow.

6. And then there is a sprinkle of galgenhumor—gallow’s humor. My favorite of these is the Seussical: “Pills.” Were those written to lighten the book or because you needed a moment of playfulness to hold yourself together?

Humor is a tool of survival that I inherited from my mother. Actually everyone in my family uses humor—often self-depreciating humor—to get by. One day I was thinking about all the pills my mother had to take and I tried writing a poem in the voice of her pills but that didn’t work. Often when something doesn’t work on the page, something else emerges. What emerged was the poem “Pills” which of course is modeled after Dr. Seuss’ poem, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” The start of the poem is amusing:

One pill
two pills 
red pills
blue pills

Then the poem turns darker, though still maintains its humor:

pills so that her blood won’t clot
pills so that her brain won’t rot
pills to only take with food
pills to change her rotten mood

And the poem ends with no humor at all:

pills that make her stomach churn
pills that make her insides burn
pills that make her wonder why
she has no pill to help her die

In a way a poem like this is more devastating than the others because the tension between the lightness of the form and the heaviness of the content pulls at the heartstrings in a very painful way. But to answer your question, the whole book held me together, both while my mom was dying and afterwards. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t write poems. Writing poems has gotten me through all the tough times in my life. I am exceedingly grateful that I have this outlet and that the poems often resonate and offer comfort to others.

+++ 

THANK YOU, Jane and Lesléa-- for this wonderful exchange. I really feel like I'm eavesdropping on two friends talking deeply about a serious subject, but with the care and lightness of a long friendship. What a privilege! 

Now head on over to A Teaching Life where Tara is hosting this week's Poetry Friday gathering. 
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9. BOOK LINKS: Diverse Verse

The January issue of BOOK LINKS features multicultural literature, as usual, and this time my column focuses on novels in verse with the clever title (thank you, Gillian) of “Diverse Verse.” Here’s a chunk of that piece which you’ll find in its entirety here

With roots in ancient epic poetry, the verse novel or novel in verse, continues to grow in popularity, particularly with tween and teen readers. A narrative unfolds poem by poem, frequently with multiple points of view, plenty of dialogue, and in colloquial language. The best verse novels are built on poems that are often lovely stand-alone works of art. The novel in verse form offers the generous white space, short lines, and conversational tone that young readers who are still developing their comprehension expertise find helpful. This format is wooing many young people both to poetry and to reading in general—a promising trend.
Add to this the emergence of more diverse perspectives in the creation of verse novels with many new poets to know. In his essay for The New York Times in March 2014, “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” Walter Dean Myers, author of several novels in verse, talks about his own development as a reader and a writer. He describes the turning point for him as follows: Then I read a story by James Baldwin: “Sonny’s Blues.” I didn’t love the story, but I was lifted by it, for it took place in Harlem, and it was a story concerned with black people like those I knew. By humanizing the people who were like me, Baldwin’s story also humanized me. The story gave me a permission that I didn’t know I needed, the permission to write about my own landscape, my own map.” This “permission” has ushered in a whole new generation of diverse verse novelists.
In the last five years, we have seen an explosion in the publication of novels in verse, particularly written by poets offering rich, diverse experiences. They’ve received Newbery recognition (e.g., The Surrender Tree), as well as Printz, Schneider, Batchelder, Coretta Scott King, and Pura Belpre distinctions. Seeking out poets that reflect parallel cultures with many diverse viewpoints enables us to show young readers both the similarities and the differences that make the human landscape so dynamic and interesting. These poets are using the language, experiences, and images of their cultures in ways that are fresh and powerful. The special succinctness of poetry is also an appealing introduction into culture for students. Sometimes powerful points about prejudice, identity, and cultural conflict can be made in a very few words. In addition, we can also rediscover our human universality in the words and feelings of poems that cross cultural boundaries. These poets speak of their lives, of their color, of their humanity, of their humor. Some write in dialect, some use rhyme, some focus on racial pride, some share emotional universals; readers of all cultural backgrounds deserve to know their names and read their works.
Diverse Novels: An annotated bibliography
  1. Alexander, Kwame. 2014. The Crossover. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  2. Brown, Skila. 2014. Caminar. Candlewick.
  3. Burg, Ann. 2013. Serafina’s Promise. Scholastic. 
  4. Cheng, Andrea. 2013. Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet. Lee & Low.
  5. Clark, Kristin Elizabeth. 2013. Freak Boy. Macmillan.
  6. Crossan, Sarah. 2013. The Weight of Water. Bloomsbury.
  7. Crowe, Chris. 2014. Death Coming Up the Hill. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  8. Engle, Margarita. 2013. The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  
  9. Engle, Margarita. 2014. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
  10. Flores-Scott, Patrick. 2013. Jumped In. Henry Holt. 
  11. Frost, Helen. 2013. Salt. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  12. Grimes, Nikki. 2013. Words with Wings. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. 
  13. Grimes, Nikki. 2011. Planet Middle School. Bloomsbury.
  14. Herrera, Juan Felipe. 2011. Skate Fate. HarperCollins. 
  15. Janeczko, Paul B. 2011. Requiem: Poems of the Terezín Ghetto. Candlewick. 
  16. Lai, Thanhha. 2011. Inside Out and Back Again. HarperCollins.
  17. Levy, Debbie. 2010. The Year of Goodbyes: A True Story of Friendship, Family and Farewells. Hyperion.
  18. Lewis, J. Patrick and Lyon, George Ella. 2014. Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
  19. MacDonald, Maryann. 2013. Odette’s Secrets. Bloomsbury.
  20. McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. 2011. Under the Mesquite. Lee & Low.
  21. Nagai, Mariko. 2014. Dust of Eden. Whitman. 
  22. Nelson, Marilyn. 2014. How I Discovered Poetry. Dial. 
  23. Newman, Lesléa. 2012. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. Candlewick.
  24. Ostlere, Cathy. 2011. Karma. Razorbill.
  25. Pinkney, Andrea Davis. 2014. The Red Pencil. Little, Brown.
  26. Sax, Aline. 2013. The War Within These Walls. Eerdmans.
  27. Thompson, Holly. 2011. Orchards. Random House.
  28. Thompson, Holly. 2013. The Language Inside. Delacorte.
  29. Venkatramen, Padma. 2014. A Time to Dance. Penguin.
  30. Woodson, Jacqueline. 2014. Brown Girl Dreaming. Penguin.
Sharing diverse novels in verse: ACTIVITIES
As we select and share these verse novels with students, we can use a variety of approaches to engage them in reading, listening to, performing, discussing, and understanding these works. Here are just a few ideas.
  1. Guide students in discussing the experience of reading or listening to an excerpt of the book read aloud in contrast with hearing a professional audio adaptation of the book. We can help students contrast what they “see” and “hear” when reading the text with what they perceive when they listen to a professional production. Look for these audiobook adaptations as examples: The Crossover, Caminar, The Weight of Water, Salt, Words with Wings, Planet Middle School, Inside Out and Back Again, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, The Red Pencil, and Brown Girl Dreaming. Does the audiobook version employ music or sound effects? What do these elements add to their understanding of the book? Is there a sole narrator, two narrators, or a full cast? How does that narrator use her/his voice to suggest character, create tension, or add emotion? How does listening to the audiobook enhance the understanding of cultural details, new names, and unfamiliar words?
  2. These diverse novels in verse can provide entrée into a discussion of culture, identity, roles, and expectations as depicted in literature. Work with students to identify cultural details in the verse novels they read that reveal specifics such as names, language/dialect, family structure, forms of address, foods, celebrations, musical references, and religious practices. Collaborate to research background information using nonfiction literature, websites, YouTube videos, local resources, community members, etc. Talk about the cross-section of similarities across cultures; their own and those they read about. Check out the discussion available on the “Official Campaign Tumblr” at the WeNeedDiverseBooks site: http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com.
  3. Lead students in creating a PowerPoint slide show presentation or simple digital trailer (using Animoto, Vimeo, or other sources) of an excerpt from a selected novel in verse. Use key words from the poem to guide the selection of pictures or images, as well as their interpretation of the scene. Then add the poem text and read the poem aloud as you view the slide show with the students. If possible, record the audio of the poem reading with a timed narration for the slide show. Consider adding relevant sound effects or a musical soundtrack as the background for a poem performance. Then play it for another class, in the library, at a public event like Open House, or air it on the school cable channel. 
  4. Novels in verse written from multiple points of view lend themselves readily to readers’ theater adaptation. Work with students to choose crucial excerpts for each character and then give them time to become familiar with their characters’ selections. Students read their selections aloud (with or without simple props) in sequence. Consider recording their reading in audio and/or video format to share with others. This is also an excellent moment for talking about “point of view,” particularly when each reader voices a different persona or character. In addition, for students who compete in UIL or other similar events or for oral interpretation practice in drama/theater class, use verse novel excerpts with monologues or dialogues for solo and duet performances.
  5. Talk with students about how a novel in verse is different from a prose novel (e.g., the use of white space, line breaks, poetic forms) and why an author might choose this verse format. Rewrite a poem page to show it in prose form for contrast. In many cases, the authors of these novels in verse incorporate a variety of poetic forms and types within the narrative, such as haiku, free verse, list poems, sonnets, invented formats, and more. Work with students to identify the specific type or form of your chosen verse novel(s) and talk about its distinctive features. Consider how the poem’s lines or stanzas fit into the overall structure of the poem and contribute to its meaning. Talk about why the poet might choose to include this particular form. If you have an ambitious group of students, try creating a short collaborative verse novel together, with everyone contributing poems on the same agreed-upon event with multiple perspectives or a chronological, sequential story with multiple authors.
I recently noticed that Monday, January 26, has been declared Multicultural Children’s Book Day! (Has that been around awhile and I just didn’t know?) Very excited to see this development, along with the WNDB movement (We Need Diverse Books). I’ll post more next Friday, too.

Meanwhile, join the crowd celebrating Poetry Friday at Live Your Poem hosted by the lovely Irene Latham. See you there!

Image credit: ALA;Jumpintoabook


Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2015. All rights reserved.

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10. Sneak Peek list of poetry for young people in 2015


It's time again to forecast the new poetry to be published for children and teens in 2015. I've scoured all my usual sources (notes, emails, newsletters, publisher previews, etc.) and this is the list (so far). I know there will be more and I hope you'll alert me to any books I've missed. (For example, there have to be a LOT more novels-in-verse coming. I have very few on my list thus far.) But I'll be adding to this list all year long and even have a link to this list posted in the sidebar of this blog, so you can refer to it any time. I hope to get copies of these (and look for more at the ALA Midwinter conference at the end of the month) and post more info as they roll out. I'm already working on more installments in my "Poet to Poet" interview series and other fun surprises. Meanwhile, here we go:

  1. Appelt, Kathi. 2015. Counting Crows. Ill. by Rob Dunlavey. New York: Simon & Schuster/Atheneum.
  2. Argueta, Jorge. 2015. Salsa: Un poema para cocinar/ A Cooking Poem (Bilingual Cooking Poems). Ill. by Duncan Tonatiuh and Elisa Amado. Toronto, Canada: Groundwood. 
  3. Brown, Calef. 2015. To Hypnotize a Lion: Poems About Just About Everything. New York: Macmillan/Henry Holt/Ottaviano.
  4. Bulion, Leslie. 2015. Random Body Parts. Atlanta: Peachtree.
  5. Cannon, Nick. 2015. Neon Aliens Ate My Homework and Other Poems. New York: Scholastic.
  6. Cleary, Brian P. 2015. Chips and Cheese and Nana’s Knees: What is Alliteration? Ill. by Martin Goneau. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook.
  7. Cleary, Brian P. 2015. Something Sure Smells Around Here: Limericks. (A Poetry Adventure) Ill. by Andy Rowland. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook.
  8. Engle, Margarita. 2015. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  9. Engle, Margarita. 2015. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir. New York: Atheneum.
  10. Engle, Margarita. 2015. Orangutanka: A Story in Poems. Ill. by Renee Kurilla. New York: Holt. 
  11. Engle, Margarita. 2015. The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist. Ill. by Aliona Bereghici. Two Lions. 
  12. Grimes, Nikki. 2015. Poems in the Attic. Ill. by Elizabeth Zunon. New York: Lee & Low. 
  13. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Sel. 2015. Lullaby & Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby. Ill. by Alyssa Nassner. New York: Abrams. 
  14. Hosford, Kate. 2015. Feeding the Flying Fanellis. Ill. by Cosei Kawa. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner/Carolrhoda. 
  15. Lewis, J. Patrick and Nesbitt, Kenn. 2015. Bigfoot is Missing! San Francisco: Chronicle.
  16. Lewis, J. Patrick. Ed. 2015. National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry. Washington DC: National Geographic.
  17. Paschkis, Julie. 2015. Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems/ Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales. New York: Holt. 
  18. Raczka, Bob. 2015. Presidential Misadventures: Poems that Poke Fun at the Man in Charge. Ill. by Dan Burr. New York: Roaring Brook. 
  19. Ruddell, Deborah. 2015. The Popcorn Astronauts and Other Biteable Rhymes. Ill. by Joan Rankin. 
  20. Salas, Laura Purdie. 2015. A Rock Can Be… Ill. by Violeta Dabija. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook. 
  21. Singer, Marilyn. 2015. Every Month’s a New Year. Publisher?
  22. Sonnichsen, A. L. 2015. Red Butterfly. Ill. by Amy June Bates. New York: Simon & Shuster. 
  23. Wardlaw, Lee. 2015. Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku. Ill. by Eugene Yelchin. New York: Holt.
  24. Young, Ed. 2015. You Should Be a River: A Poem About Love. New York: Little, Brown.
  25. Zolotow, Charlotte. 2015.  Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection. Ill. Tiphanie Beeke. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks. 
And this one is not poetry, per se, but I can't wait to see it and must include it here:
Kousky, Vern. 2015. Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry. New York: Penguin/Paulsen.

Now head on over to Tabatha's place for the Poetry Friday gathering at The Opposite of Indifference. I have a link to all the Poetry Friday hosts (for half of 2015) in my blog sidebar too (thank you, Mary Lee), just FYI. 

Image credit: I created this crazy quilt of book covers, but obviously each publisher is the image source.
Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2015. All rights reserved.

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11. CYBILS Poetry Shortlist 2014

What a treat to end the calendar year with a dialogue about the best poetry published for young people! I was honored to serve as a Round I judge for the poetry category of the Cybils Award alongside Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Margaret Simon, Bridget R. Wilson, Kelly Ramsdell Fineman, and Nancy Bo Flood, led by our noble chair, Jone Rush MacCulloch. In case you’re not familiar with the Cybils, you’ll find more info here. “Cybils” stands for “Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards” and these were first awarded in 2006. Currently, there are 13 categories of awards including poetry, as well as book apps, nonfiction, easy readers, graphic novels, speculative fiction, etc. I’ve been lobbying for TWO categories of poetry awards, so that both anthologies AND novels in verse might be recognized (separately). We’ll see what happens with that idea.

Meanwhile, we were allowed to select a maximum of seven titles for our shortlist and we used every slot! Our list features these seven wonderful works of poetry:
Cybils Poetry Shortlist 2014
  1. Water Rolls, Water Rises by Pat Mora
  2. Dear Wandering Wildebeest by Irene Latham
  3. Firefly July edited by Paul B. Janeczko
  4. Santa Clauses by Bob Raczka
  5. Voices from the March by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon
  6. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  7. Hi, Koo by Jon Muth
And here are our blurbs on each poetry title on the shortlist.

Water Rolls, Water Rises: El Agua Rueda, El Agua Sube by Pat Mora, published by Children’s Book Press, 2014.

In a series of free verse poems in English and Spanish, our most precious natural resource takes center stage. Water rolls, rises, slithers, hums, twists, plunges, slumbers and moves across the Earth in varied forms and places. Mora’s three-line poems are filled with imagery and emotion. “Water rises/ into soft fog,/ weaves down the street, strokes and old cat.” (In Spanish: “El agua sube/ formando suave neblina/ que ondula pro la calle, acacia a un gate viejo.”) The lyrical movement of water described in verse is accompanied by Meilo So’s gorgeous mixed media illustrations highlighting 16 landscapes from Iceland, to China, to Mexico, the United States and more. Back matter includes an author’s note and information about the images in the book. A joyous, bilingual celebration, this collection brings water to life.

Tricia Stohr-Hunt
The Miss Rumphius Effect

Dear Wandering Wildebeest: and Other Poems from the Waterhole by Irene Latham, illustrated by Anna Washam, published by Millbrook, 2014.

In Dear Wandering Wildebeest, Irene Latham’s poetry bounces with the impala and peeps like the meerkat.  With childlike illustrations by Anna Wadham, Irene Latham takes us on a journey to the water hole of the African grasslands.  Each poem is accompanied with factual information that will inform even the oldest readers. 

To All the Beasts who Enter Here, there is word play with "Saw-scaled viper/ rubs, shrugs,/ sizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzles,"  form experiments in Triptych for a Thirsty Giraffe, humor of "Dung Beetle lays eggs/ in elephant poop,” and even danger, "Siren-howls/ foul the air./ Vultures stick to task." Children and adults alike  will love the language and learning that wanders in this book along with the animals of the watering hole.

Margaret Simon
Reflections on the Teche

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, published by Candlewick, 2014.

Prolific anthologist Paul B. Janeczko brings the old and the new together in Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. The collection of 36 poems contains poems by classic poets such as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. Intermingled with these are poems by well known children's poets including J. Patrick Lewis and X. J. Kennedy. Firefly July takes readers through the seasons beginning in spring and ending with winter. The poems take readers to different locations as well. Both city and country settings appear in the poems. As the subtitle states, the poems are short, but the images they evoke are almost tangible. Melissa Sweet's mixed media illustrations are colorful, playful, imaginative, and whimsical. They draw readers into the poems. Firefly July is a stellar collection that will likely be a family favorite for years to come.

Bridget R. Wilson
What Is Bridget Reading? 

Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, published by Carolrhoda, 2014.

Who knew that among his many talents, Santa was an expert at writing haiku? In this collection of 25 poems using the 5-7-5 format, Raczka brings us Santa's many observations, some about his job: "Wishes blowing in/from my overfilled mailbox--/December's first storm" and others about the weather, the time of year, and Christmas preparations: "Clouds of reindeer breath/in the barn, steam rising from/my hot chocolate". A fun read all at once, or one per day in anticipation of Christmas, some of the haiku work for winter in general as well: "Just after moonrise/I meet my tall, skinny twin--/'Good evening, shadow.'"

Kelly Ramsdell Fineman
Writing and Ruminating 
http://kellyrfineman.livejournal.com/

Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963 written by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon (WordSong/Boyds Mills Press, 2014) 

Voices from the March is a historical novel in verse that focuses specifically on the momentous march on Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech. Six fictional characters (young and old, black and white) tell their tales on this historic day in cycles of linked poems alongside the perspectives of historic figures (the “Big Six”) and other march participants for a rich tapestry of multiple points of view. It’s been fifty years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, when discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin became against the law, but as recent events attest, we still have progress to make as a nation. In this powerful work, Lewis and Lyon tackle issues of racial and social justice in 70 lyrical poems that reflect the perspectives of young people and adults struggling with taking action for positive change in peaceful ways. In addition, extensive and helpful back matter includes a guide to the fictional and historical voices, bibliography, index, and list of websites and related books.

Sylvia Vardell
Poetry for Children

Brown Girl Dreaming written by Jacqueline Woodson, published by Penguin Group, Nancy Paulson Books, 2014.

Brown Girl Dreaming is many things in one rich collection – memoir, history, biography – and lyrical, exquisite poetry.  Events of the author’s personal and family history provide the framework for a series of individual poems.  Woven throughout are key events of the Civil Rights journey and also personal effects of racism and discrimination.  In this beautiful and powerful tapestry of verse, one hears the poignant reflections of Jacqueline Woodson, “one of today’s finest writers,” who kept on dreaming through tough times and good times and who keeps on writing in “mesmerizing verse.”

Nancy Bo Flood
The Pirate Tree; Social Justice and Children's Literature

Hi Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J Muth, published by Scholastic, 2014.

Inspired by his twins, Muth wrote a haiku book that doesn't followe the often used three line, 5-7-5 syllable form. This made this title a stand out among other haiku books. Readers take a seasonal journey from summer through spring by Koo the panda. (Thus the pun in the title: Hi Koo!) Beginning with a simple observation about the wind: found!/ in my Coat pocket a missing button/ the wind's surprise, to the last haiku: becoming quiet/ Zero sound/ only breath, Muth offers to young readers a new way to experience haiku. 

The watercolor and ink drawings complement the text. The subtle alphabet theme adds another dimension to the book. The author's note at the book's beginning sets the tone: "...haiku is like an instant captured in words--using sensory images. At its best, a haiku embodies a moment of emotion that reminds us that our own human nature is not separate from all of nature." This book of poetry will help readers to slow down to appreciate the small moments of nature and daily happenings. 

Jone Rush MacCulloch
Check It Out

Anyone can nominate a book for consideration and this year there were 36 poetry titles nominated. Here’s that list, fyi:

Cybils Nominated Poetry Books 2014
  1. 2014 Rattle Young Poets Anthology
  2. Brown, Margaret Wise. Goodnight Songs: Illus. by 12 Award-Winning Picture Book Artists
  3. Bryan, Ashley. Ashley Bryan's Puppets: Making Something from Everything
  4. Bunting, Eve. P is for Pirate: A Pirate Alphabet
  5. Cleary, Brian P. If It Rains Pancakes: Haiku and Lantern Poems 
  6. Cleary, Brian P. Ode to a Commode: Concrete Poems 
  7. Elliott, David. On the Wing
  8. Florian, Douglas. Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles
  9. Frank, John. Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving
  10. Graham, Joan Bransfield. The Poem That Will Not End
  11. Heppermann, Christine. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
  12. Hoberman, Mary Ann. You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Tall Tales to Read Together
  13. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Manger
  14. Janeczko, Paul B. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
  15. Jiang, Emily. Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose @ Chinese Musical Instruments
  16. Latham, Irene. Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole
  17. Lewis, J. Patrick and Lyon, George Ella. Voices from the March on Washington
  18. Lewis, J. Patrick. Everything is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick Lewis
  19. Lewis, J. Patrick. Harlem Hellfighters
  20. Lewis, J. Patrick. Poem-mobiles: Crazy Car Poems
  21. Lynn, Danika. Imagination Stew
  22. McMahon, Jeff. Swimming to the Moon / A Collection of Rhymes Without Reason
  23. Michelson, Richard. S is for Sea Glass: A Beach Alphabet
  24. Mora, Pat. Water Rolls, Water Rises Water Rolls, Water Rises: El agua rueda, el agua sube
  25. Muth, Jon J. Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons
  26. Nesbitt, Kenn. The Biggest Burp Ever: Funny Poems for Kids
  27. Oliver, Lin. Little Poems for Tiny Ears
  28. Raczka, Bob. Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole 
  29. Radunsky, Vladimir. Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs & Medium Verses
  30. Schmidt, Annie M. G. A Pond Full of Ink
  31. Singer, Marilyn. Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents
  32. Swaim, Jessica. Classic Poetry for Dogs: Why Do I Chase Thee
  33. Thomas, J. C. Ninja Mouse: Haiku
  34. Wilson, Karma. Outside the Box: A Book of Poems
  35. Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming
  36. Yolen, Jane. Sister Fox's Field Guide to the Writing Life
Next, a group of Round 2 judges will consider our shortlist of seven titles and select ONE for the final award. That will be announced on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2015. I’ll be sure to post that info here then, too.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the poets, illustrators, editors, and publishers who produced these wonderful, diverse works of poetry— from haiku to memoir to novels in verse, with a historical focus, ecological theme, santa-center, seasonal slant, or just plain fun—do not miss these poetry gems!


And who knows what the new year will bring? I look forward to posting my 2015 “sneak peek” list of forthcoming poetry books very soon! 

Meanwhile, head on over to my fellow Cybils Poetry Judge, Tricia's place at Miss Rumphius Effect for the first Poetry Friday gathering of the new year. 

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12. Favorites of 2014

As the year ends, I like to revisit the poetry for young people that has been published this year and celebrate my favorites. It's always great to see new poets emerge (like Kwame Alexander, Skila Brown, and Mariko Nagai) and other established authors take interesting risks (like the haiku novel in verse of Chris Crowe, Ashley Bryan's truly creative puppets plus poems, Jacqueline Woodson's moving memoir, and Pat Lewis's collaboration with George Ella Lyon). The novel in verse continues to be a powerful form (check out The Crossover, Caminar, Death Coming Up the Hill, Silver People, Rhyme Schemer, Voices from the March, Dust of Eden, Brown Girl Dreaming), but a few lovely anthologies have been published too (Manger, Firefly July, and if I may be so bold, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science which features new poems by 78 poets). The illustrations are also compelling and appealing in many of this year's poetry featuring the art of Ashley Bryan, Douglas Florian, Melissa Sweet, Meilo So, Jon Muth, and Rick Allen. And flying under my radar (till the end of the year), is a wonderful collection of poetry by Haitian children illustrated with portraits by Rogé. Such a range of voices, subjects, forms, and styles-- wonderful for sharing with children and teens of all ages. Check 'em out!
  1. Alexander, Kwame. 2014. The Crossover.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  2. Brown, Skila. 2014. Caminar.Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
  3. Bryan, Ashley. 2014. Ashley Bryan's Puppets: Making Something from Everything. New York: Atheneum.
  4. Cleary, Brian. 2014. Ode to a Commode: Concrete Poems. Ill. by Andy Rowland. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.
  5. Crowe, Chris. 2014. Death Coming Up the Hill.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  6. Elliott, David. 2014. On the Wing.Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

  7. Engle, Margarita. 2014. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  8. Florian, Douglas. 2014. Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles. NY: Dial.
  9. Heppermann, Christine. 2013. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty. New York: HarperCollins/Greenwillow.
  10. Holt, K. A. 2014. Rhyme Schemer. San Francisco: Chronicle.
  11. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2014. Manger. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  12. Janeczko, Paul. Ed. 2014. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. Ill. by Melissa Sweet. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
  13. Latham, Irene. 2014. Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook/Lerner. 
  14. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2014. Harlem Hellfighters. Ill. by Gary Kelley. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.
  15. Lewis, J. Patrick and Lyon, George Ella. 2014. Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
  16. Mora, Pat. 2014. Water Rolls, Water Rises/ El agua rueda, el agua sube. Ill. by Meilo So. San Francisco: Children's Book Press.
  17. Muth, Jon. J. 2014. Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons. New York: Scholastic.
  18. Nagai, Mariko. 2014. Dust of Eden. Chicago: Whitman.
  19. Nelson, Marilyn. 2014. How I Discovered Poetry. New York: Dial.
  20. Raczka, Bob. 2014. Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole.  Minneapolis: Carolrhoda (Lerner).
  21. Rogé. 2014. Haiti My Country: Poems by Haitian Schoolchildren. Ill. by Rogé. Fifth House. Markham, Ontario.
  22. Salas, Laura Purdie. 2014. Water Can Be. Ill. by Violeta Dabija. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook.
  23. Sidman, Joyce. 2014. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. Ill. by Rick Allen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  24. Woodson, Jacqueline. 2014. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin.

And if I may plug my own book (since I don't write any of the poems):
Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. Eds. 2014. The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. Princeton, NJ: Pomelo Books.

I'm excited to see what 2015 will bring! 
Stay tuned for my "sneak peek" list coming later in January.
Happy new year of poetry, everyone!

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13. New NCTE Poetry Award winner: Marilyn Singer

I posted this information on Twitter the moment it was announced and followed up on Facebook, but forgot that I should also feature the news on my blog—oh the woes of managing multiple social media platforms! So, in case you haven’t heard, it was announced at the recent conference of the National Council of Teachers of English that Marilyn Singer is the next recipient of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. 


The NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children
This award for poetry for children is given by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) every two years to a poet for her or his entire body of work in writing poetry for children. NCTE established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1977 to honor a living American poet for his or her lifetime achievement in works for children aged three to thirteen years. The award was given annually until 1982, at which time it was decided that the award would be given every three years. In 2008 the Poetry Committee updated the criteria and changed the time frame to every other year. The National Council of Teachers of English strives to recognize and foster excellence in children’s poetry by encouraging its publication and by exploring ways to acquaint teachers and children with poetry through such means as publications, programs, and displays. As one means of accomplishing this goal, NCTE established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children to honor a poet for his or her aggregate work. Nearly twenty leading poets have since been recognized. Be sure to check out Renee La Tulippe's fantastic "Spotlight on NCTE Poets" series here. Each recipient has met the following criteria:

NCTE Poetry Award Criteria
Literary merit (art and craft of aggregate work)
• Imagination
• Authenticity of voice
• Evidence of a strong persona
• Universality; timelessness
Poet’s contributions
• Aggregate work
• Evident potential for growth and evolution in terms of craft
• Excellence
Evolution of the poet’s work
• Technical and artistic development as evidenced in the poetry
• Evidence of risk, change, and artistic stamina
• Evidence of different styles and modes of expression
Appeal to children
• Evidence of childlike quality; yet poem’s potential for stirring fresh insights and feelings should be apparent. Although the appeal to children of a poet’s work is an important consideration, the art and craft must be the primary criterion for evaluation.

Recipients of the NCTE Poetry Award
Marilyn Singer

2015 Marilyn Singer
2013 Joyce Sidman
2011 J. Patrick Lewis
2009 Lee Bennett Hopkins
2006 Nikki Grimes
2003 Mary Ann Hoberman
2000 X. J. Kennedy
1997 Eloise Greenfield
1994 Barbara Esbensen
1991 Valerie Worth
1988 Arnold Adoff
1985 Lilian Moore
1982 John Ciardi
1981 Eve Merriam
1980 Myra Cohn Livingston
1979 Karla Kuskin
1978 Aileen Fisher
1977 David McCord

About Marilyn Singer and her poetry
In my book, Poetry People: A Practical Guide to Children’s Poets, I featured this info about Marilyn and her work (which I have updated a bit here):
Marilyn Singer was born on October 3, 1948, in New York and grew up and went to college there, too. She started out as a high school English teacher but soon moved to writing full time.  While visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden one day, she began to write about insect characters that she had created when she was eight years old.  With her husband’s encouragement, she joined a writer’s critique group and soon published her first book, The Dog Who Insisted He Wasn’t (Dutton 1976).  Now a prolific author of nearly 100 children’s books, Singer has created poetry, fairly tales, picture books, novels, mysteries and nonfiction on a variety of topics. Her work has been recognized as an IRA Children’s Choice book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, NCTE Notable Trade Book in Language Arts, Reading Rainbow selection, New York Times Best Children's Book, School Library Journal Best Book, etc. 
Singer enjoys animals, nature, hiking, the theater, independent and avant-garde films, tap dancing, singing, Japanese flower arranging, meditation, gardening, and computer adventure games. Her diverse and far-ranging interests are often reflected in the rich variety of her writing. 
From her first book about a beloved subject, dogs, she has created several others children enjoy. Marilyn Singer’s work may be best characterized by its diversity, from the distinctive poetic formats found in the poems for each month in Turtle in July to her creation of the original, ingenious “reverso” poem showcased in Mirror, Mirror as well as Follow, Follow (both available as excellent audiobooks, too!). Her wide-ranging topics include dogs, animals, science, monsters, Presidents, and nonsense. In fact, pairing her poetry with her nonfiction on a similar topic can be an interesting way to show children how one writer can try different writing styles.  Share the poems from It’s Hard To Read A Map With A Beagle On Your Lap (Holt 1993) or Every Day's a Dog's Day: A Year in Poems (Dial 2012) alongside the informative A Dog's Gotta Do What a Dog's Gotta Do: Dogs at Work (Holt 2000) or How to Talk to Your Dog (HarperTrophy 2003) by Jean Craighead George.
Nature is the dominant theme in her poetry collections, Turtle in July (Macmillan 1989) and Fireflies at Midnight (Atheneum 2003)—which make an excellent “text set” for teaching. In these two parallel works, Singer mimics the rhythms and sounds of the animals she portrays.  Each poem begs to be read aloud, perhaps with simple motions or a costume cap portraying the frog, the robin, the turtle, etc. I would also add more recent works to this category including A Full Moon is Rising (Lee & Low, 2011) and A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats and the Animals That Call Them Home, among others. 
Marilyn Singer has authored three other poetry collections that make a powerful environmental (text) set. Each is a lovely narrow size (9 X 5) illustrated with elegant minimalist India ink paintings on rice paper by Meilo So. 
*Footprints on the Roof:  Poems About the Earth (Knopf 2002) 
*How to Cross a Pond:  Poems About Water (Knopf 2003) 
*Central Heating:  Poems About Fire and Warmth  (Knopf 2005) 
These free verse poems are gems of description and imagery and may inspire young writers to look for the elements of earth, water, and fire that surround them in their everyday lives. Partner this set with Joan Bransfield Graham’s books of concrete poetry, Splish Splash (Houghton Mifflin 2001) and Flicker Flash (Houghton Mifflin 2003) to inspire children to create their own visual representations of earth, water, or fire. 
For humor and nonsense, seek out Singer’s poetry books, Creature Carnival (Hyperion, 2004) and its companion book, Monster Museum (Hyperion, 2001). Children may be surprised to find that poems can be about Godzilla, vampires, Bigfoot and other creepy characters. Accompanied by gleefully gruesome cartoon illustrations by Gus Grimly, these fun poems are full of wordplay and absurdity. Don’t be surprised if these collections inspire imitations. Have a set of Halloween “monster” masks handy for children to wear during the “creature feature” read aloud. Conclude with poems from Douglas Florian’s Monster Motel (Harcourt 1993) or Bobbi Katz’s Monsterologist (Sterling, 2009).
Family is the focus for two other Marilyn Singer collections, In My Tent (Macmillan, 1992) and Family Reunion (Atheneum 1994). These poems about family campouts and reunions show children that even common everyday life experiences can also be the subject of poetry. They can also be fun for reading aloud during family programs and events. Pair them with Kristine O’Connell George’s collection, Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems (Clarion 2001) or Nikki Grimes’ Hopscotch Love: A Family Treasury of Love Poems (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard 1999). Plan a poetry picnic for sharing these and other family poems outside spread out on a tablecloth or under a big tent. 
Because Singer is so prolific, it is possible to pair many of her works (poem book and poem book, poetry with nonfiction, poetry and fiction) for added impact. Children can see how an author’s ideas spill over beyond a single book and in many different directions. Whether reading her “geography” poems in Monday on the Mississippi (Holt 2005) or her poems from the perspectives of two young girls, All We Needed to Say: Poems About School from Tanya and Sophie (Atheneum 1996), an in-depth study of one featured poet can be helpful for aspiring young writers. Simply through examining Marilyn Singer’s body of work, children can begin to see how a poet’s thinking takes shape.

The Poetry of Marilyn Singer
Here’s a nearly complete list of all of Marilyn’s poetry for young people. (Please let me know if I have missed any.)
Singer, Marilyn. 1976. The Dog Who Insisted He Wasn’t. New York: Dutton. 
Singer, Marilyn. 1989. Turtle in July. New York: Macmillan.
Singer, Marilyn. 1992. In My Tent. New York: Macmillan. 
Singer, Marilyn. 1993. It’s Hard to Read a Map with a Beagle on Your Lap. New York: Holt. 
Singer, Marilyn. 1994. Family Reunion. New York: Atheneum. 
Singer, Marilyn. 1996. All We Needed to Say: Poems about School from Tanya and Sophie. New York: Atheneum.
Singer, Marilyn. 2000. A Dog’s Gotta Do What a Dog’s Gotta Do: Dogs at Work. New York: Holt.
Singer, Marilyn. 2001. Monster Museum. New York: Hyperion.
Singer, Marilyn. 2002. Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth. New York: Knopf. 
Singer, Marilyn. 2003. Fireflies at Midnight. New York: Atheneum. 
Singer, Marilyn. 2003. How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water. New York: Knopf. 
Singer, Marilyn. 2004. Creature Carnival. New York: Hyperion.
Singer, Marilyn. 2005. Central Heating: Poems about Fire and Warmth. New York: Knopf. 
Singer, Marilyn. 2005. Monday on the Mississippi. New York: Henry Holt.
Singer, Marilyn. 2008. First Food Fight This Fall. New York: Sterling.
Singer, Marilyn. 2008. Shoe Bop! New York: Dutton. 
Singer, Marilyn. 2010. Mirror, Mirror. New York: Dutton.
Singer, Marilyn. 2011. A Full Moon is Rising. New York: Lee & Low.
Singer, Marilyn. 2011. A Stick Is an Excellent Thing. New York: Clarion. 
Singer, Marilyn. 2011. Twosomes: Love Poems from the Animal Kingdom. New York: Knopf.
Singer, Marilyn. 2012. A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats and the Animals That Call Them Home. San Francisco: Chronicle.
Singer, Marilyn. 2012. The Boy Who Cried Alien. New York: Hyperion.
Singer, Marilyn. 2012. The Superheroes Employment Agency. New York: Clarion.
Singer, Marilyn, 2012. Every Day's a Dog's Day: A Year in Poems. New York: Dial.
Singer, Marilyn. 2013. Follow, Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems. New York: Penguin. 
Singer, Marilyn. 2013. Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents. New York: Disney-Hyperion.

In addition, many of Marilyn’s poems are featured in anthologies of poetry. I’m so proud to say her lovely poems are part of our Poetry Friday Anthology series, too. Plus, if all that weren’t enough, Marilyn is also a tremendous advocate for poetry for young people and initiated the Poetry Blast (along with Barbara Genco) featuring poets reading their works aloud at the annual conference of the American Library Association more than a dozen years ago. It was that event that inspired me to launch a parallel event featuring poets reading their poetry in the Poetry Round Up at the annual conference of the Texas Library Association that has now featured more than 50 poets who write for young people. The ripples of her influence are far and wide and her work continues to touch readers of all ages!

Now head on over to These 4 Corners where Paul is hosting this week's Poetry Friday this week!

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.

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14. MANGER by Lee Bennett Hopkins


At my house tomorrow it is Nicklaus Day (St. Nicholas Day) and we celebrate with stockings and treats—a fun preview of the Christmas celebrations to come. It’s a perfect moment to celebrate a new book from Lee Bennett Hopkins, Manger (Eerdmans, 2014). Beginning with gorgeous endpapers, we journey through fifteen beautiful double-page spreads each featuring a lyrical poem from an animal’s perspective about the arrival of Jesus as a baby in the manger. Beautiful pictures, beautiful poetry, beautiful moments to savor. And it’s not just an artful, contemplative book, it’s also very child-friendly, perfect for sharing with a little one on your lap or with a group of kids sitting around you on the floor. 

As a gift to you, here is my free mini-guide for Manger for sharing this special book with the children in your life.

1. There are fourteen different animals presented in this book: 
endpapers featuring the animal characters +
  • Rooster
  • Sheep
  • Horse
  • Cat
  • Mouse
  • Dog
  • Cow
  • Wren
  • Owl
  • Fish
  • Spider
  • Llama
  • Goat
  • Donkey
This just begs for dramatic interpretation, beginning with making, finding (online), and recording animal noises and pictures. Or gather or create simple puppets or masks for each of these creatures (with paper bags or paper plates) to use as you read each animal poem aloud. You can also find coloring pages here or use the animals featured on the end pages of the book. Then read each poem aloud using the animal sounds to start or end the reading—inviting the kids to make those sounds with you. Use your animal puppets or mask to “tell” the poem, too. Then display the animal pages or puppets along with the book. (For younger children, you may also have to explain what a "manger" is and what it looks like.)

final poem/excerpt in the book
Older children may enjoy creating their own poems that add animals to this mix. What other animals might be present in this barn setting? Hint: there are a few animals pictured in the endpapers and in the illustrations that are NOT represented with their own poems. See if the kids can figure out which ones (e.g., rabbit) and challenge them to create a poem for that animal. How might each of those animals react to a baby’s birth or to this special night? What unique animal attributes might be incorporated into the poem? Point out to your young writers that some of the poems in Manger rhyme and some do not, so they can experiment with creating their poems rhyming or free verse. In addition, note that the final poem in the book is an excerpt from a traditional Christmas carol. So, that’s another approach to try—looking at familiar Christmas songs that include animals and choosing a stanza or stanzas as stand-alone poems.

Finally, link this book with others that feature Christmas poetry, expecially Mary’s Song, also by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Here’s a sampling of poetry books about Christmas from my book, The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists:

  • Aigner-Clark, Julie. 2001. Baby Santa’s Christmas Joy! A Celebration of the Holiday Spirit in Poetry, Photography, and Music. New York: Hyperion.
  • Alarcón, Francisco X. 2001. Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems/ Iguanas en la Nieve y Otros Poemas de Invierno. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
  • Angelou, Maya. 2008. Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem. New York: Schwartz & Wade.
  • Bennett, Jill. 2003. Poems for Christmas. New York: Scholastic.
  • Bronson, Linda. 2002. Sleigh Bells and Snowflakes: A Celebration of Christmas. New York: Henry Holt.
  • Bunting, Eve and Leonid Gore. 2000. Who was Born this Special Day? New York: Atheneum.
  • Causley, Charles. 2000. Bring in the Holly. London: Frances Lincoln.
  • Cookson, Paul. 2000. Christmas Poems. London: Macmillan.
  • Cummings, E.E. 2001. Little Tree. New York: Hyperion.
  • Cunningham, Julia. 2001. The Stable Rat, and Other Christmas Poems. New York: Greenwillow.
  • Delacre, Lulu. Ed. 1992. Las Navidades: Popular Christmas Songs from Latin America. New York: Scholastic.
  • Fisher, Aileen. 2007. Do Rabbits Have Christmas? New York: Henry Holt.
  • Florian, Douglas. 1999. Winter Eyes: Poems and Paintings. New York: Greenwillow.
  • Frank, John. 2003. A Chill in the Air: Nature Poems for Fall and Winter. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Ghigna, Charles and Ghigna, Debra. 2000. Christmas is Coming! Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
  • Grimes, Nikki. 2002. Under the Christmas Tree. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Harrison, Michael and Christopher Stuart-Clark. Eds. 2000. The Young Oxford Book of Christmas Poems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hines, Anna Grossnickle. 2005. Winter Lights: A Season in Poems & Quilts. New York: Greenwillow.
  • Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 1992. Ring Out, Wild Bells: Poems about Holidays and
    Seasons.
    New York: Harcourt Brace.
  • Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2004. Christmas Presents: Holiday Poetry. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2005. Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More. New York: Greenwillow.
  • Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2012. Mary's Song. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Hudson, Cheryl Willis. Ed. 2002. Hold Christmas in Your Heart: African American Songs, Poems, and Stories for the Holidays. New York: Scholastic.
  • Hughes, Langston. 1998. Carol of the Brown King: Nativity Poems. Ill. by Ashley Bryan. New York: Atheneum. 
  • Johnston, Tony. 2005. Noel.  Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.
  • Katz, Alan. 2005. Where Did They Hide My Presents? Silly Dilly Christmas Songs. New York: McElderry.
  • Kortepeter, Paul. 2002. A Child’s Book of Christmas. New York: Dutton.
  • Lewis, J. Patrick. 2007. Under the Kissletoe: Christmastime Poems. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.
  • Nesbitt, Kenn and Linda Knaus. 2006. Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney: 20 Funny Poems Full of Christmas Cheer. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.
  • Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. It’s Christmas! New York: HarperCollins.
  • Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. Eds. 2011. Gift Tag. PoetryTagTime.com.
  • Watson, Clyde. 2003. Father Fox’s Christmas Rhymes. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux.
  • Wells, Carolyn. 2002. Christmas ABC. New York: Abrams.
  • Whitehead, Jenny. 2007. Holiday Stew; A Kid’s Portion of Holiday and Seasonal Poems. New York: Henry Holt. 
  • Worth, Valerie. 1992. At Christmastime. New York: HarperCollins. 

And if you participate in a living nativity scene at your church or in your community, considering adding these animal characters and reading the poems from Manger as part of the performance. 

You’ll find more about Manger here:
Staff pick by Ingrid Wolf
Interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins about Manger
Book trailer for Manger

INTERVIEW
Lee was also kind enough to answer a few questions for me. He also shared the photo here and notes: "This photo is with my younger brother, Donald, visiting Santa Claus in a Newark, NJ department store. The photo is reproduced in LEE BENNETT HOPKINS: A CHILDREN'S POET by Amy Strong (Franklin Watts, 2003)."

What are some of your most vivid memories of this holiday from your childhood?

My younger sister, younger brother and I grew up with a single-parent mother after my father left us. We never had much money but we saved to buy each other what gifts we could afford. I remember one year I saved to buy my mother a musical powder box from Woolworth's five-and-ten-cent store-- our Tiffany's! I brought it home. Mother was scrubbing the floor. I almost slipped. As I caught myself the music began to tinkle through the bag. I wanted to die. I so wanted this to be the biggest surprise for her. Mother pretended she didn't hear it, but I knew she did. Funny -- a powder box memory-- a gift to a hard-working woman who did what she could to make us happy.

Did any of these memories inform the creation of this book (Manger)? How? 

We always had a manger at Christmas. Shockingly we had an over-abundance of manger figures! At one time Mama worked at Woolworth's in Newark, NJ. I describe the scene in my first novel, Mama (Boyds Mills Press) and how so many figures appeared including eighteen Wise Men. In essence I was a young fence.

What are your favorite Christmas holiday traditions that you continue today? 

Christmas present has become lush and love-filled. Our house is decorated to the hilt. It is a time when we hold a large gala, a special evening with family and friends each December. Songs are sung, poems are shared, and prose about Christmas is read.  This year Manger will be read; afterwards "Away in a Manger" will be sung by all.

What do you wish for Christmas poetry future?

There is so much traditional Christmas poetry: words in favorite songs; words in favorite hymns. It is a time for "Sleigh Bells," hope for a "White Christmas," and warm thoughts of a "Silent Night,' an "O Holy Night."  This year, many children will be introduced to new poetry via Manger by some of our top poets writing today including Marilyn Nelson, X. J. Kennedy and Joan Bransfield Graham. A special guest will be Jude Mandell who will read her poem "Curious Cat" from the book.

With the publication of Mary’s Song and Manger, you have quite a lovely duo. Are there any plans for more poetry focused on the nativity or Christmas? 

I hope so.  I am working on a manuscript about the Magi as well as more Christmas poetry presents for the future.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate this special time. And happy holidays to everyone enjoying this season of giving. 

Now join the rest of the Poetry Friday crew over at Anastasia's place. See you there!

Image credits: Eerdmans; LeeBennettHopkins


Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.

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15. YALSA Poets: The Movie

Just a few weeks ago, I was at the YALSA Symposium in Austin TX-- such a great event. I was lucky to gather a fantastic panel of poets and authors (Janet Wong, KA Holt, Michael Salinger, Sara Holbrook, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, and Jacqueline Woodson) all talking about their work and reading and performing excerpts. I was able to videotape a few nuggets to share with you here. Enjoy!

K A (Kari) Holt talking about her new novel in verse, Rhyme Schemer

Jacqueline Woodson reads an excerpt from Brown Girl Dreaming

Guadalupe Garcia McCall shares her poem, "The Cafe," from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School.

Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger read from More Than Friends (by Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf) [an excerpt]

There will be another YALSA Symposium next year and it will be held in Portland, OR in 2015. The focus will expand to include literature, programming AND youth services. Should be fun! 

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16. A poem for Black Friday

Last week I was at the NCTE conference (so fun!) presenting alongside Janet Wong and Eileen and Jerry Spinelli on the topic of kindness. Here's a tiny glimpse of our session-- a video of Eileen reading her original poem, "Get a Life" from The Poetry Friday Anthology (K-5). It's perfect for this crazy Black Friday, too.


And here is the text of the poem:

Get a Life
   by Eileen Spinelli

There are books to read.
And birds to feed.
And awesome facts for learning.
There are yards to weed.
And friends in need.
And dreams to set us yearning.
There are trails to hike.
And films to like.
And stories made for swapping.
What I mean to say in this poem today
is there’s more to life than
shopping!

And here are the Take 5! activities that accompany this poem:

1. Prior to sharing the poem, jot numbers on a piece of paper or list on the board (1, 2, 3, etc.) as if you are making a to-do list. Then read the poem aloud, pausing for a moment after each line. 

2. Share the poem again, inviting students to join in on the final two lines (is there’s more to life than / shopping!) while you read the rest aloud.

3. For discussion: What are some of your favorite activities to do during holiday breaks?

4. Lead students in considering how repeating key words and phrases, particularly at the beginning of each line (There are; And), helps build a poem and can add to the distinctive rhythm of the lines. Then read the poem out loud together again, listening for the patterns.

5. Link this poem with another thoughtful poem by Eileen Spinelli, “Today” (4th Grade, Week 29, page 215 in The Poetry Friday Anthology).

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17. NCTE CLA Master Class: Poetry Across the Curriculum

While attending the NCTE conference, I’ll also be participating in the annual “Master Class” coordinated by the Children’s Literature Assembly of NCTE (such a great organization). The focus is poetry across the curriculum and I’m responsible for the social studies area. I’ll be sharing sample poems, teaching tips, and activity suggestions. Sharing poetry in the context of social studies is a natural given the topics that make up this content area. The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Curriculum Standards quickly reveal the poem connection possibilities with Thematic Strands that focus on culture, people, places, identity, government, technology, society, and civic ideals. Here are the bare bones of my presentation. (We were charged to come up with only 5 examples in each category-- because I would have shared way more than 5, if possible!)

CLA Master Class: Poetry Across the Curriculum
SOCIAL STUDIES AND POETRY

5 GREAT SOCIAL STUDIES POETRY BOOKS
  1. Corcoran, Jill. Ed. 2012. Dare to Dream… Change the World. San Diego, CA: Kane Miller.
  2. Engle, Margarita. 2008. The Surrender Tree. New York: Holt.
  3. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2008. America at War. New York: McElderry. 
  4. Myers, Walter Dean. 2011. We are America; A Tribute from the Heart. Ill. by Christopher Myers. New York: HarperCollins.
  5. Singer, Marilyn. 2013. Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents. New York: Disney-Hyperion.
5 SOCIAL STUDIES-TEACHING TIPS
  1. Talk about “Today’s Document” at the National Archives (at Archives.gov).
  2. Create “found” poetry from news articles.
  3. Examine facsimiles of primary source documents (at Jackdaw.com).
  4. Use Google Maps to locate places you’re reading about. 
  5. Look at children’s books in different languages from around the world at the International Children’s Digital Library.
5 SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHING WEBSITES
  1. National Council for the Social Studies 
  2. Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies
  3. Social Studies Central
  4. History is Elementary 
  5. The History Channel 
5 SOCIAL STUDIES POEMS ONLINE


Look for “Ten Poetry Collections for Social Studies Not to Be Missed” in Poetry Aloud Here (Vardell, 2014) as well as lists of poetry collections organized by topics such as Presidents’ Day, women’s history, U.S. history, world history, war and peace, plus multicultural and international poetry booklists in The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists (Vardell, 2012).

Others will be presenting parallel examples in the areas of math, science, arts, games & sports. 

Learn more about the Children’s Literature Assembly here.

PLUS: Of course I’m absolutely thrilled that our book for middle school, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, was selected as a Poetry Notable by the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Committee. Here’s that link.

There will also be a BUNCH of poets in attendance at the conference and I hope to cross paths with many of them including: Irene Latham, Laura Purdie Salas, Mary Lee Hahn, Jacqueline Jules, Sara Holbrook, Michael Salinger, Heidi Mordhorst, J Pat Lewis, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Georgia Heard, Rebecca Dotlich, Paul B Janeczko, Pat Mora, Linda Kulp, Jane Yolen, Heidi Stemple, Leslie Bulion, Rene Saldana, Eileen Spinelli, Joseph Bruchac, and George Ella Lyon. What fun, right?! I hope to share photos afterward. 

And finally, they’ll be announcing the next winner of the NCTE Poetry Award at the conference too! Stay tuned.


Image credit: MrJohn56.wordpress.com;ncss;cla

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.


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18. Poetry, Kindness and NCTE

I’m off to the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English and looking forward to presenting (twice!). My first session is “Sharing Random Books of Kindness: The Power of Story” alongside Eileen SpinelliJerry Spinelli, and Janet Wong.

We’ll be talking about all kinds of books related to the theme of kindness—including poetry, of course. Here are some of the resources I’ve gathered on our topic.

PROFESSIONAL RESOURCE BOOKS

Ferrucci, Piero. 2007. The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life. Tarcher.
Goldman, Carrie. 2012. Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. HarperOne.
Laminack, Lester and Wadsworth, Reba. 2012. Bullying Hurts: Teaching Kindness Through Read Alouds and Guided Conversations. Heinemann.
Mah, Ronald. 2013. Getting Beyond Bullying and Exclusion, PreK-5: Empowering Children in Inclusive Classrooms. Skyhorse Publishing.
Pearson, Ferial. 2014. Secret Kindness Agents: How Small Acts of Kindness Really Can Change the World. WriteLife.
Rice, Judith Ann. 2013. The Kindness Curriculum: Stop Bullying Before It Starts. Redleaf Press.
Rue, Nancy. 2014. So Not Okay: An Honest Look at Bullying from the Bystander (Mean Girl Makeover series). Nelson.

And there are some excellent web resources on teaching kindness and compassion too.

PROFESSIONAL RESOURCE WEBSITES

MAKING CARING COMMON
Go here.

“Make Caring Common” Tool Kits for Educators
More here.

RFK PROJECT SEATBELT
For schools, homes, communities; check it our here.

THE BULLY PROJECT
Tools for educators, students, parents, advocates; look here.

THE KIND CAMPAIGN
Movement, documentary and school program focused on girls; details here.

SAFE SCHOOLS-HEALTHY STUDENTS INITIATIVE
U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Safe Schools and Healthy Students; look here.


YALSA RESEARCH
"More than Just Books: Librarians as a Source of Support for Cyberbullied Young Adults: by Abigail L. Phillips; click here.

Of course, we'll be sharing kindness-themed poems from The Poetry Friday Anthology (K-5) and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, an NCTE Poetry Notable Book, including these two.



I’ll also be participating in the annual “Master Class” coordinated by the Children’s Literature Assembly of NCTE (such a great organization). That session is focused entirely on poetry! I'll post more details about that tomorrow. 


Image credit: Motivationalmemo.com;PomeloBooks.com

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.


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19. Poet to Poet: Helen Frost interviews Chris Crowe

Here's another installment in my "Poet to Poet" series of interviews between poets who write for young people. This time, Helen Frost interviews Chris Crowe about his new book just published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Death Coming Up the Hill. It's a historical novel in verse about a teenage boy who is navigating high school, first love, and parental conflict during the Vietnam War and it highlights issues of conflict, resistance, and racism. It's built entirely upon haiku poems with a total of 16,592 syllables, one syllable as a tribute to each soldier's death in 1968 during the Vietnam War, the year with the highest casualties during the war. Isn't that astonishing all by itself? Here's the opening entry for this compelling book:

April, 1969
Week Fifteen: 204

There's something tidy
in seventeen syllables,
a haiku neatness

that leaves craters of
meaning between the lines but
still communicates

what matters most. I
don't have the time or the space
to write more, so I'll

write what needs to be 
remembered and leave it to 
you to fill in the

gaps if you feel like 
it. In 1968,
sixteen thousand five

hundred ninety-two
American soldiers died 
in Vietnam, and

I'm dedicating 
one syllable to each soul
as I record my

own losses suffered
in 1968, a
year like no other.

As I'm sure you know, Helen Frost has created a body of poetry for young people that has already garnered several of the most prestigious literary awards, including a Printz honor for Keesha's House. In her carefully crafted novels in poems, she even invents new poetic forms and uses existing forms in very creative ways. That impressive repertoire includes: Keesha's House, Spinning through the Universe (Room 214: A Year in Poems), The Braid, Diamond Willow, Crossing Stones, Hidden, Salt, and the poem picture books, Step Gently Out and Monarch and Milkweed.

Chris Crowe is a fellow professor like myself, but has also authored books for young people, including the historical novel, Mississippi Trial, 1955 and a companion book of nonfiction, Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case, as well as the picture book, Just as Good: How Larry Doby Changed America's Game and many professional books. His new book, Death Coming Up the Hill is his first venture into publishing poetry and it's an interesting story about how this story and this form emerged. 

Helen Frost
Helen: 
Chris, before I ask my three questions, could you give a little background about your work in general terms, and talk a little about what was new territory for you in Death Coming Up the Hill?

Chris:
My work for YA readers has been primarily historical, so 1968 is nothing new for me; however, this book is less focused on African American and/or civil rights history than some of my other books.  What is new is writing in verse. I never aspired to write a novel in verse, and I've never considered myself any kind of poet (though I do claim the title of being the best Bad poet in my English department). I do admire poetry and poets because poetry is such a demanding and exacting art form, a form I've never felt that I had any particular talent for.

Helen:
I have to say that you do exhibit considerable talent for poetry in this book. Sorry if it makes you lose your Best Bad Poet status. I'd like to ask a personal question regarding the historical background of the book. I remember the late 60's and early 70's as such an important time. Could you share some of your memories of those years, particularly in relation to the war in Vietnam and the peace movement?

Chris Crowe
Chris:
I was a high school freshman in Tempe, Arizona, during the 1967-68 school year, so I have some memories of that era, but let's face it, I was a freshman, a knucklehead who was only vaguely aware of what was happening in the wider world. But in those days, even an out-of-touch knucklehead knew about Vietnam. The evening news almost always had some segment relating to the war or protests about the war, and some of my older brothers' friends got drafted---or enlisted---and were shipped over to Vietnam.  In the summer of 1969, I landed a job digging sprinkler trenches for a new hotel going up in Tempe, and the other guy working there had recently returned from 'Nam. He was the first person I'd ever met who had really been there, fighting in the jungles, dealing with Army bureaucracy, fearing for his life every day. He had plenty of stories to tell---and this was after all the news of the My Lai Massacre broke---and he gave me a first-hand education about the war. But even with that, I was still pretty much a self-absorbed teenager who didn't pay a lot of attention to national and world events. The peace movement was a different story.  My dad was a patriotic, flag-waving WWII veteran, and he was firmly "My country, right or wrong." He couldn't abide hippies, peaceniks, or anyone who protested the war. My siblings and I all knew where he stood when it came to student protests and/or anti-war protests.

Helen:
Thanks, Chris. I'd love to talk with you in greater depth about that sometime, but there are two other things I'd like to touch on here. I loved the relationship between Ashe and Angela, refreshingly straight-forward, not angst-filled, yet still so authentic as a high school romance. Can you say something about that, and, if you like, relate it to your own life experience?

Chris: 
I was no Romeo in high school, but my first big crush unfolded as quickly as Ashe and Angela's. Some of my friends were much more experienced with girlfriends, and I never saw or heard that finding a girl required a very long or complicated courtship. I suppose what's most different about Angela and Ashe's relationship is that they turn out to be such soul mates. I see that as the luck of the draw or Fate or whatever it is that lines up such compatible matches. BTW, I met my wife in my 10th grade English class, and we started dating the next year. That kind of early and long-term relationship might have skewed the way I portrayed the relationship between A and A.

Helen:
Thanks, Chris. I think that's a good relationship for YA readers to see in a book. 
My last question is about the form you discovered that helped you tell the story. In your endnotes, you describe how the number 17 shapes the story--it's not at all arbitrary, and beautifully executed. I know how challenging that must have been.  What did you discover about language as you worked so extensively in such a precise book-length form based on the traditional syllable count of haiku?

Chris:
I discovered that language is complicated and various. Writing in haiku stanzas sometimes felt like writing with handcuffs on, especially when I had to make revisions to a key word or line. But in others ways, the narrow confines of 5-7-5 felt freeing and expansive. Once I settled into a routine of composing in fixed chunks, some creative gear clicked into place, and my writing really flowed. But that flow required me to pay careful attention to words, to rely on my trusty Roget's International Thesaurus, and to consider word choice more scrupulously than I have ever before. I also learned, because my editor demanded it, that I had to be consistent in my use of syllable count, that I could not cite poetic license when it was convenient---for example, counting 'camera' as a two-syllable word instead of three. This language demanded my full attention.

Helen:
Again, I'd love to talk with you in more depth about this sometime. For now, let me just say that, like you, I have come to love editors and copyeditors who are willing to engage in syllable-counting, and hold us to the rules we set for ourselves. 
Thanks, Sylvia, for initiating this conversation, and thank you, Chris, for these thoughtful responses to my questions, and for your beautiful and important book.

Sylvia: Thank you, Helen and Chris, for engaging in this fascinating conversation and for all your work for young people. 

*****
Now treat yourself to a stop at Jama's Alphabet Soup for our Poetry Friday gathering. See you there!





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20. Poetry for TEEN READ WEEK


In honor of Teen Read Week (Oct. 12-18), I’d like to promote this year’s selection of poetry for young adults. As usual, I find that about a third of each year’s list of poetry published for young people targets the teen audience and most of those are novels in verse. That’s true once again this year. I would also add that you’ll find some of the most risk-taking and inventive writing here, by a diverse crop of writers, too. I’ve written about many of the titles below in previous postings, but here’s a round up of all the teen poetry this year, as far as I know. And of course, many of the poetry books that target children (ages 0-12) are also eminently suitable for tweens and teens. That’s one of the things I love about poetry, in particular, that poetry is so little age-bound or limited by grade level or readability. So be sure to look at ALL the poetry published for young people available here. 

1. Alexander, Kwame. 2014. The Crossover. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Twin 12 year old boy protagonists love playing basketball and are growing up-- and maybe apart-- as they cope with middle school, girls, and the expectations of their parents. Teacher’s guide here.

2. Brown, Skila. 2014. Caminar. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
*Set in Guatemala in 1981 when conflicts between Communist soldiers and guerilla fighters were at a crossroads, the love of a mother for her son is a beautiful thread throughout this powerful story of war, courage, and survival. Poet to Poet interview here

3. Crowe, Chris. 2014. Death Coming Up the Hill. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
*It's a historical novel in verse about a teenage boy who is navigating high school, first love, and parental conflict during the Vietnam War and it highlights issues of conflict, resistance, and racism. It's built entirely upon haiku poems with a total of 16,592 syllables, one syllable as a tribute to each soldier's death in 1968 during the Vietnam War, the year with the highest casualties during the war. Poet to Poet interview here.  

4. Engle, Margarita. 2014. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
*From the young “silver people” whose backbreaking labor built the Panama Canal to the denizens of the endangered rain forest itself, this novel in verse tells the story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. Teacher’s guide here

5. Frank, Lucy. 2014. Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling. New York: Schwartz & Wade.
*“This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness."

6. Heppermann, Christine. 2013. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty. New York: HarperCollins/Greenwillow.
*”In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious.”

7. High, Linda Oatman. 2014. Otherwise. Costa Mesa, CA: Saddleback.
*A love story set “in a near-future United States, unisex gender presentation becomes mandated by law.”

8. High, Linda Oatman. 2014. Teeny Little Grief Machines. Costa Mesa, CA: Saddleback.
*“When her semi-friends start bullying her… Lexi can't handle school any more. Lexi breaks down and the new counselor calls in the hospital - Lexi has a rehabilitating stay in the mental health ward. Suddenly, she is reborn.”

9. Holt, K. A. 2014. Rhyme Schemer. San Francisco: Chronicle.
*”Rhyme Schemer is a touching and hilarious middle-grade novel in verse about one seventh grader's journey from bully-er to bully-ee, as he learns about friendship, family, and the influence that words can have on people's lives.”

10. Hopkins, Ellen. 2014. Rumble. New York: Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster.
*“Rumble explores bullying and suicide in a story that explores the worth of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

11. Kuderick, Madeleine. 2014. Kiss of Broken Glass. New York: HarperTeen.
*“When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for a mandatory psychiatric watch. There Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who's there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.”

12. Lewis, J. Patrick and Lyon, George Ella. 2014. Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
*This poetry collection focuses specifically on the march on Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Six fictional characters tell their tales on this historic day in cycles of linked of poems alongside the perspectives of historic figures and other march participants for a rich tapestry of multiple points of view.” Teacher’s Guide here.  

13. Nagai, Mariko. 2014. Dust of Eden. Chicago: Whitman. 
*"'We lived under a sky so blue in Idaho right near the towns of Hunt and Eden but we were not welcomed there.' In early 1942, thirteen-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa and her Japanese-American family are sent from their home in Seattle to an internment camp in Idaho. What do you do when your home country treats you like an enemy?" Poet to Poet interview here.  

14. Pattou, Edith. 2014. Ghosting. Skyscape.
*”On a hot summer night in a midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes altering lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario all too familiar from current real-life headlines.”

15. Phillips, Linda. 2014. Crazy. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
*Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness.”

16. Winters, Ben H. 2014. Literally Disturbed #3: More Tales to Keep You Up at Night. New York: Penguin/Price Stern Sloan.
*”Ben H. Winters continues to scare readers in this collection of 30 creepy rhyming stories about the things that haunt your nightmares!”

17. Woodson, Jacqueline. 2014. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin.
*Woodson’s poetic memoir reflects her dual upbringing in her extended family in South Carolina and in New York City, growing up African American in the 1960’s and 1970’s, experiencing difficulty with reading, but a passion for words, stories, and writing. Poet to Poet interview here.  

18. Yolen, Jane. 2014. Sister Fox’s Field Guide to the Writing Life. Papaveria Press.
*”Jane Yolen brings us this delightful new collection of poems on the art and craft of writing. Sometimes whimsical, often amusing, and always a wonder and a delight.”

19. Nelson, Marilyn. 2014. How I Discovered Poetry. Ill. by Hadley Hooper. New York: Dial.
*”Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems.”

Be sure to seek out all these intriguing, diverse works and buy them now, plus multiple copies for your library.  And if I missed any YA titles, please let me know!

Of course I hope you'll look for last year's book, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, a NCTE Poetry Notable, with poems by 70+ poets and "Take 5" mini-lessons for every poem. And check out the other poetry books published in recent years-- you'll find new links to comprehensive lists in the sidebar of this blog.

Happy Teen Read Week!



Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.

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21. Memoirs in poetry

Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson whose book, Brown Girl Dreaming, was just named a finalist for the National Book Award. You know how much I love this book and already featured Jacqueline in a Poet to Poet interview with Carole Boston Weatherford. But did I mention that I also find it so intriguing that a memoir-in-verse is getting all this recognition? I think that’s wonderful! And I loved how Jacqueline said, “This is how memory comes to me -- In small moments with all of this white space around them.” That seems to be true for many poets and I thought it might be interesting to gather a list of other memoirs told in poem or verse form. 

For example, have you seen Marilyn Nelson’s latest book, How I Discovered Poetry? It’s a memoir in 50 sonnets! And it’s a perfect partner to Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming in its exploration of family, identity, racism, and writing. Don’t miss it! Plus, I hear that Margarita Engle will be publishing her own memoir in verse next year (2015). Can’t wait!

It’s also interesting to explore how memoir is adapted for other poetic perspectives. Naomi Shihab Nye wove autobiographical poems and passages alongside science-themed entries in her evocative, Honeybee (Greenwillow, 2008). Carole Boston Weatherford created a fictional verse memoir to tell the first-person life story of the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday in Becoming Billie Holiday (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 2008).

And for a comic twist, look for Bobbi Katz’s engaging, mock memoir with the most beautiful retro cover and scrapbook-like interior perfect for Halloween sharing, The Monsterologist; A Memoir in Rhyme (Sterling, 2009). Or for younger readers, another mock memoir presented as if written in a student notebook by Gary Crew, Troy Thompson’s Excellent Peotry [sic] (Kane/Miller, 2003). Hilarious!

And any look at memoir merits a discussion of biography, autobiography, and history captured through poetry. For example, J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen create a vivid biography in poems for artist Marc Chagall in Self Portrait with Seven Fingers: A Life of Marc Chagall in Verse (Creative Editions, 2011). Gorgeous Chagall art included!

Writers Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Thanhha Lai wrote award-winning novels in verse that were largely autobiographical and truly compelling:
Guadalupe Garcia McCall's Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low, 2011).
Thanhha Lai's Inside Out and Back Again (HarperCollins, 2011).

And let’s not neglect novels in verse that are grounded in true stories and historical events like:
Allan Wolf's The Watch That Ends the Night; Voices from the Titanic (Candlewick, 2011)
Maryann MacDonald's Odette’s Secrets (Bloomsbury, 2013)
to name just a few...

What a great opportunity to talk with students about memory and poetry! 

Here’s another list from my book, The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists, that will help jumpstart your search for poetic memoirs. Enjoy!

Poetry Memoirs for Young People

Poetry is one place where writers look back on their lives and share memories of significant moments and experiences. Here is a selection of poetry memoirs written specifically for young people. 


  1. Abeel, Samantha.1993. Reach for the Moon. Duluth, MN: Pfeifer-Hamilton.
  2. Appelt, Kathi. 2004. My Father’s Summers: A Daughter’s Memoirs. New York: Henry Holt.
  3. Begay, Shonto. 1995. Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa. New York:  Scholastic.
  4. Brown, Dale S. 1995. I Know I Can Climb the Mountain. Columbus, OH: Mountain Books & Music. 
  5. Corrigan, Eireann. 2002. You Remind Me of You; A Poetry Memoir. New York: Push/Scholastic. 
  6. Graves, Donald. 1996. Baseball, Snakes, and Summer Squash. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
  7. Greenfield, Eloise. 1993. Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir. New York: HarperCollins.
  8. Grimes, Nikki. 2004. Tai Chi morning: Snapshots of China. Chicago: Cricket Books.
  9. Harrison, David L. 2004. Connecting Dots: Poems of My Journey. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
  10. Herrera, Juan Felipe. 2001. Calling The Doves/El Canto De Las Palomas. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
  11. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1995. Been to Yesterdays: Poems of a Life. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong, Boyds Mills Press.
  12. Levy, Debbie. 2010. The Year of Goodbyes; A True Story of Friendship, Family and Farewells. 
  13. Little, Lessie Jones. 1988. Children of Long Ago: Poems. New
    York: Lee & Low. Reprinted, 2000.
  14. Lyon, George Ella. 1999. Where I’m From, Where Poems Come From. Spring, TX: Absey & Co.
  15. Mak, Kam. 2001. My Chinatown: One Year in Poems. New York: HarperCollins.
  16. Rylant, Cynthia. 1991. Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 
  17. Spain, Sahara Sunday. 2001. If There Would Be No Light; Poems from My Heart. San Francisco: HarperCollins. 
  18. Stepanek, Mattie. 2002. Heartsongs. New York: Hyperion.
  19. Stevenson, James. 1995. Sweet Corn: Poems. New York: Greenwillow.
  20. Stevenson, James. 1998. Popcorn: Poems. New York: Greenwillow.
  21. Stevenson, James. 2002. Corn-Fed: Poems. New York: Greenwillow.
  22. Stevenson, James. 2003. Corn Chowder: Poems. New York: Greenwillow.
  23. Thoms, Annie. Ed. 2002. With Their Eyes. New York: HarperTempest.
  24. Turner, Ann. 2000. Learning to Swim; A Memoir. New York: Scholastic. 
  25. Yolen, Jane. 2012. Ekaterinoslav: One Family's Passage to America, a Memoir in Verse. Duluth, MN: HolyCow! Press.
  26. Yu, Chin. 2005. Little Green; Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster. 

Now head on over to Michelle's place for the Poetry Friday gathering at Today's Little Ditty.


Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.

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22. Poems for Halloween Plus

We’re breaking weather records for warm days here in Texas with the temperature hitting 90 degree today. Ugh. We’re all ready for cooler Fall weather here, especially with Halloween and November right around the corner. So, to get in the spirit, I thought I’d share a list of poems about superstitions, beliefs, luck, magic, dreams, and nightmares from my book, The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists. I’ve even updated the list to add a few recent titles. Enjoy!

Poetry Books about Superstitions, Beliefs, Luck, Magic, Dreams, and Nightmares

Many works of poetry promote a sense of wonder. These titles focus especially on the world of superstitions, beliefs, luck, magic, dreams and nightmares-- all interpreted in a variety of ways.

Alarcón, Francisco X. 2005. Poems to Dream Together/ Poemas para Sonar Juntos. New York: Lee & Low.
Berry, James. 1991. Isn’t My Name Magical?:  Sister and Brother Poems. New York:  Simon & Schuster.
Clayton, Dallas. 2012. Make Magic! Do Good! Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Corcoran, Jill. Ed. 2012. Dare to Dream… Change the World. San Diego, CA: Kane Miller.
Cushman, Doug. 2012. Pigmares. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Cyrus, Kurt. 2013. Your Skeleton is Showing: Rhymes of Blunder from Six Feet Under. Ill. by Crab Scrambly. New York: Disney/Hyperion.
Denton, Graham. 2006. Silly Superstitions. London: Macmillan Children's Books.
Field, Edward. 1998. Magic Words: Poems. San Diego, CA: Gulliver Books/Harcourt Brace.
Grimes, Nikki. 2000. Shoe Magic. New York: Orchard.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2009. Sky Magic. Ill. by Mariusz Stawarski. New York: Dutton.
Hughes, Langston. (75th anniversary edition) 2007. The Dream Keeper (and seven additional poems). New York: Knopf.
Kennedy, X.J. 1989. Ghastlies, Goops, & Pincushions: Nonsense Verse. New York: McElderry.
Larios, Julie. 2008. Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Lewis, J. Patrick and Yolen, Jane. 2012. Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs. Ill. by Jeffrey Timmins. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Mado, Michio. 1998. The Magic Pocket. New York: McElderry.
Medina, Jane. 2004. The Dream on Blanca’s Wall. Honesdale, PA: Boyd’s Mill Press.
Prelutsky, Jack. 1976/1993. Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep. New York: Greenwillow. Reprinted, New York: Mulberry Books.
Schertle, Alice. 1999. A Lucky Thing. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
Schwartz, Alvin. 1992. And the Green Grass Grew All Around: Folk Poetry from Everyone. New York: HarperCollins.
Sidman, Joyce. 2013. What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Whipple, Laura. Ed. 1996. Eric Carle’s Dragons, Dragons. New York: Philomel.
Winters, Ben H. 2013. Literally Disturbed: Tales to Keep You Up at Night. Penguin/Price Stern Sloan.
Wong, Janet S. 1994. Good Luck Gold and Other Poems. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Wong, Janet S. 2003. Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Wong, Janet S. 2000. Night Garden:  Poems from the World of Dreams. New York:  Margaret K. McElderry
Yolen, Jane. 1996. Sacred Places. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.

And for a list of specifically Halloween-themed poetry books, check out my previous post about Halloween poems here.
And if you know of any additional titles for me to add, please let me know!

Image credits: policemag.com;superstitionsof.com;gigabiting.com;melikedesign.com

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.

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23. Booklist Feature: Exploring Science and Poetry

I write a regular column on poetry for Book Links magazine and every now and then they double-up and feature it in Booklist Online, too. This is one of those times! My November article, "Classroom Connections: Exploring Science with Poetry" appears in the print issue of Book Links and online at Booklist here.

It starts off:

As literacy expert Bernice Cullinan (1995) reminds us, “Scientists observe with a clear eye, record their observations in precise, descriptive language, and craft their expressions. Poets do the same thing.” Maximizing that reciprocal relationship between how scientists observe and describe the world and how poets do so presents a unique opportunity for us as we work with children. But where do we begin? 

Select a science-themed poem, read it aloud, then work with students to identify all the sensory words and descriptions (sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes). Then select a news article on the same science topic and identify the descriptors in that piece. Work together to create a simple Venn diagram showing how poets and scientists overlap in their use of language to record and report their observations. Sandy Buczynski and Kristin Fontichiaro suggest, “For the many educators who feel comfortable using literature in the classroom but are timid about their science expertise, using books to build a bridge to science can yield impressive results for teaching and learning” (2013). How can you make science more accessible and "friendly"? Try a short science poem, of course!

It then includes an annotated list of poetry for life science and earth science. Here's the short version of the list with a few additional titles:

Life Science
Blackaby, Susan. Nest, Nook & Cranny
Bulion, Leslie. At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems
Bulion, Leslie. Hey There, Stink Bug! 
Coombs, Kate. Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems
Florian, Douglas. Dinothesaurus
Florian, Douglas. UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings
Franco, Betsy. Bees, Snails & Peacock Tails: Patterns and Shapes . . . Naturally
Gerber, Carole. Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices
Gifford, Peggy. The Great Big Green. 
Harley, Avis. Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems
Harley, Avis. The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings
Harrison, David. L. Bugs: Poems about Creeping Things
Hubbell, Patricia. Earthmates: Poems
Johnston, Tony. Sequoia 
Latham, Irene. Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole
Lewis, J. Patrick, Ed. The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry
Mordhorst, Heidi. Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature
Rosen, Michael J. The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems 
Salas, Laura Purdie. Chatter, Sing, Roar, Buzz: Poems about the Rain Forest
Sidman, Joyce. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
Sidman, Joyce. Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors
Sidman, Joyce. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold
Singer, Marilyn. A Strange Place to Call Home
Spinelli, Eileen. Polar Bear, Arctic Hare: Poems of the Frozen North
VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig. Forest Has a Song
Wolf, Allan. The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems about Our Parts
Wong, Janet. Once Upon a Tiger: New Beginnings for Endangered Animals
Yolen, Jane. Birds of a Feather 
Yolen, Jane. Bug Off! Creepy Crawly Poems
Yolen, Jane. Least Things: Poems about Small Natures

Earth & Space Science
Bruchac, Joseph. The Earth under Sky Bear’s Feet: Native American Poems of the Land
Bruchac, Joseph. Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons
Florian, Douglas. Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars
Lewis, J. Patrick. Galileo’s Universe 
Salas, Laura Purdie. Water Can Be 
Salas, Laura Purdie. And Then There Were Eight: Poems about Space
Salas, Laura Purdie. Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems about Weather
Singer, Marilyn. Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth
Singer, Marilyn. How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water

There are also suggested activities (along with the Common Core State Standards identified for each):

Science activities 
Hands-on activities can make combining science and poetry fun and experiential and science experts encourage kids to become engaged by “doing” science. A science-themed poem can be a launching pad for such active learning. Here are just a few examples:
  1. Discuss the role of weather reporting in current events and how it helps us keep up with changes in weather from day to day. Talk about the recognizable weather patterns that are described in the poems of Laura Purdie Salas in Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems about Weather such as humidity, clouds, thunder, lightning, and rain. Challenge students to describe today’s weather and how it may have changed from yesterday. Record temperatures and weather for 5 straight days to look for patterns and contrast with weather reports online or on television.
  2. Talk about the steps we might follow in inventing or making something new: gathering materials, consulting books, looking things up online. What kinds of things can students imagine creating? Refer to Wikihow.com, a multilingual how-to site for ideas. Use sample poems like “Tinker Time” (from PFAS) or selections from Eureka! Poems about Inventors by Joyce Sidman to promote creative thinking.
  3. Collaborate to create a quick glog, a digital interactive poster (using Glogster.com), pulling together images and key words from a science-themed poem in a new visual representation of the poem’s topic. Show students the choices of text, fonts, color, graphics, and even animation, if possible, while you input those items and create the finished product together.
  4. Use the details in the poem “Go Fly a Kite” (in PFAS) to talk about factors that influence kites in flight: pressure, streaming, breezes, lift, and drag. Check out NASA’s “Beginner’s Guide to Aerodynamics” for help, available here: GRC.NASA.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/bga.html Contrast this with poems about bird flight found in Jane Yolen’s Birds of a Feather or The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems by Michael J. Rosen.
  5. Share moon-themed poems (such as “Queen of Night” in PFAS or selections from Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian) to talk about what we know about the Moon, beginning with attributes of the Moon and then considering tides, seasons, and the observable appearance of the Moon over time during its phases. Consult the NASA web site: SolarSystem.NASA.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Moon
  6. Use poems to jumpstart a discussion of Earth's renewable resources, including air, plants, water, and animals; and nonrenewable resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas; and the importance of conservation. Consider “Solar Power” (in PFAS) or selections from Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems; Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth, or How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water. Work together to find more information on using the sun as a source of electricity at SolarEnergy.org/answers-younger-kids
  7. Talk about how scientists use a variety of tools to collect information and conduct investigations. In studying the human body, one measure of overall health is pulse rate. Demonstrate how to take a pulse and compare results while resting or exercising after sharing “Moving for 5 Minutes Straight” (from PFAS) or selections from The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems about Our Parts by Allan Wolf.
And here are a few suggested resources that were not included in the article OR online, an extra bonus!

Websites for science fun
The discussion of science topics nearly always leads to exploration (of objects, of the world, of technology) and fortunately there are many excellent online resources that can provide helpful guidance and encourage discovery and playfulness. They offer many ideas for follow up activities to accompany a poem for five minutes of science fun. Many of the science activities listed in the “Take 5” activities for each poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, for example, suggest websites to match specific poems to expand science learning. Here are just a few favorites.
Teaching resources
In addition, as we connect poetry and science, it can be helpful to know about resources that provide background for building science understanding. This select list focuses on science teaching with children and includes blogs, websites, videos, and more.

National Science Teachers Association resources
SciLinks.org; NSTACommunities.org/blog
NSTA.org/publications/freebies.aspx

Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading
ScienceandLiteracy.org

Understanding Science (Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley)
UndSci.Berkeley.edu

Bill Nye, The Science Guy 
BillNye.com

Edheads Science and Math Games
EdHeads.org

Mr. Parr’s YouTube Videos
YouTube.com/user/ParrMr

Bookish Ways in Math and Science
BookishWays.Blogspot.com

Science for Kids

And of course there are even more resources and 200+ science-themed poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. Get your copy now, if you haven't already! We're so proud to earn the "NSTA Recommends" status for our book from the National Science Teachers Association, too!

Image credits: Examiner.com;Kidsites.com;sesp.northwestern.edu;twinkl.co.uk

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24. Time for Winter Bees

Winter has blown in this week, even in Texas, and the temperatures have dropped significantly. What happens to the bees in temperatures like these? Ask Joyce Sidman! Her new book, Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold was just published and it’s a beautiful look at how a variety of plants and animals of the north cope with winter weather. If you’re familiar with Joyce’s work, this new book is parallel to three of her others that examine creatures in a designated ecosystem—through lyrical poetry, informative prose paragraphs, and evocative illustrations:
  • Sidman, Joyce. 2005. Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. Ill. By Beckie Prange. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. Ill. by Beth Krommes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 
  • Sidman, Joyce. 2010. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. Ill. by Rick Allen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

And now with FOUR STARRED REVIEWS already:
Sidman, Joyce. 2014. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. Ill. by Rick Allen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
I was lucky enough to create a readers’ guide for this book that you’ll find here (along with Common Core skill connections).
Winter Bees guide link here.
Just to whet your appetite, here are a few excerpts from the guide.
Set the stage
Before exploring this book, talk with students about winter and how they experience this season. Ask: Is it cold where we live? Is there snow or ice? Or is it a warm place with mild weather? What animals and insects do you notice in your communities and neighborhoods and what do those creatures do during the winter? Explain that in Winter Bees, the poet Joyce Sidman explores what winter is like for a dozen plants and animals of the north through poetry and prose paragraphs.

ART:
Notice that the illustrator Rick Allen has featured the red fox in nearly all of the illustrations, even when other animals and plants are the focus of the poem. Can you spot the fox? Rick Allen uses prints to create the art for these illustrations, particularly linoleum cuts and wood engravings. Students may enjoy trying their own printmaking with simple potato prints (carving simple designs into a half potato with adult supervision) or cardboard prints (cutting corrugated cardboard into simple shapes). Or even simpler—try making paper snowflakes with blank white paper folded multiple times and then snipped and shaped with scissors.

WRITING: 
Students can work with a partner or in a small group to create a “found” poem about a winter animal. They can choose a favorite animal from Winter Bees, read the prose paragraph provided, and then choose their favorite words or phrases from the paragraph and rearrange them into a “found” poem of their own. Remind students that poems don’t have to rhyme.

RESEARCH: 
Make a list of the dozen plants and animals featured in this book. Students can then investigate which of these are found in their own communities and what winter is like for them in their region. Add animals that are unique to your own area and research images of them at sources like Animals.NationalGeographic.com or videos on YouTube. Challenge students to research and write their own nonfiction prose paragraphs about a selected plant or animal in winter similar to those Sidman provides in Winter Bees.

And there are discussion questions for each individual poem too. Here are a few examples.

1. “Snake’s Lullaby”
What is a lullaby? Why might this poem be titled a “lullaby”? Notice how the poet uses rhyme and rhythm to suggest the song-like qualities of a lullaby. Why is it important for snakes to sleep in winter?
2. “Big Brown Moose”
In this persona poem, the poet is writing as if she were the moose. How do you know that? Which lines and words signal that point of view? Notice how she also coins new words (like “slumberous”) to describe the moose. What might “slumberous” mean in this context?
3. “Winter Bees”
Why do you think this whole book of poetry is titled after this particular poem? What do you learn about bees in winter here? Why is that so central to this whole book?
4. “Under Ice”
What animals live “under ice” in this poem? Why is the poem not named after them in this case? In this poem, the poet repeats from one stanza to the next. Can you find each repeated line (beginning with “made of ripped chips and thrashing twigs”)? Use the glossary to help you understand the pantoum form, if needed.
5. “What Do the Trees Know?”
Why did the poet include this poem about trees, instead of featuring another animal? What roles do trees play in the animal world? Why does the poet title this poem with a question? Notice that the poet repeats that title question line twice in the poem. Why do you think she does that?

Wrap up
Which is your favorite animal depicted in this book? Which is your favorite poem? Why? Are these the same (poem+animal) or different? What did you learn about animals in winter that especially surprised you? What do you like to do in winter to help you “survive” and thrive during this season?
  • For more information about Joyce Sidman and her work, go to http://www.joycesidman.com
  • This book is getting lots of buzz (get it, buzz!) and you’ll find a great article here.
  • And a radio interview with Joyce here.
  • More info at Laura Purdie Salas’s blog here.
  • And an in-depth interview with illustrator Rick Allen here

Enjoy!



Image credit: JoyceSidman.com;HoughtonMifflinHarcourt;KenspeckleLetterPress;ChurchLeaders.com;wallpaper web;blendspace
Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.

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25. Talking about poetry at the YALSA Symposium

I’m off to the YALSA Symposium in Austin, Texas, and looking forward to presenting alongside these fabulous poets:

Guadalupe Garcia McCall/ http://guadalupegarciamccall.com/

Our program title: Keepin’ it Real: Sharing Poetry with Tweens and Teens

Session Description: What is true and relevant in providing meaningful connections between students and poetry? As they are poised between childhood and adulthood, we seek out poems that are fresh and authentic, along with approaches that are engaging and interactive. This session will feature a diverse panel of published poets talking about their poetry, their process, and their inspiration, as well as the educator perspective on sharing poetry using the latest media and technology for promoting involvement and participation. 

Of course we’ll be featuring our middle school anthology of poetry, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School,  with 110 poems by 71 poets for grades 6, 7, and 8, along with “Take 5” activities for every poem. We're so proud that this book was selected as a Poetry Notable book by NCTE. Here are a few tips from the book:

Poem Read-Aloud Strategies
  • Take the lead, be the first to read the poem, and don’t be afraid to “ham it up.” Take the pressure off students by showing how the poem sounds, how words should be pronounced, how the meaning and emotion might be conveyed. Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
  • Use props whenever possible to make a concrete connection to the poem, focus attention, and add a bit of fun. Choose something suggested by the poem. It’s even worth planning ahead to have a good prop ready beforehand. Students can then use the props too as they volunteer to join in on reading the poem, taking the focus off of them and giving the audience something specific to look at while listening—the poetry prop.
  • Try using media to add another dimension to the poetry experience. Look for digital images or videos relevant to the poem to display without sound as a backdrop while reading the poem aloud, or find music or sound effects suggested by the poem to underscore the meaning or mood as you read the poem aloud. 
  • Offer choices as you invite students to join in on reading the poem aloud with you. They can choose a favorite line to chime in on or volunteer to read a line or stanza of their choice or ask a friend to join them in reading a portion aloud. The more say they have about how they participate in the poem reading, the more eager and comfortable they will be about volunteering.
  • Make connections between the poems and their lives and experiences, between one poem and another, and between poems and other genres like nonfiction, short stories, newspaper articles, and songs). We provide example questions and poem connections for each poem, but once you have established that pattern, be open to the connections the students themselves make first. 
We also connect poetry with a lot of technology—so appealing to young readers. Here are a few of my favorite websites that we use in the Take 5 activities to introduce or extend the poems.

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School: 
Fun websites we link with poems
  1. AllAboutBirds.org
  2. AnimalSpot.net
  3. AustinKleon.com (blackout poems)
  4. AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com (this one is hilarious!)
  5. Calm.com (feeling hectic? Check this one out!)
  6. Census.gov
  7. CloudAppreciationSociety.org (who knew?)
  8. ConserveTurtles.org
  9. Drive-safely.net (great for new drivers)
  10. Glogster.com (for making digital posters)
  11. HealthyPet.com
  12. HowStuffWorks.com
  13. Illusions.org (weird and fascinating!)
  14. Lifeprint.com  (say it in sign language using ASL)
  15. ListeningLab.Stantons.com (sound recordings)
  16. MySpellIt.com
  17. Petfinder.com
  18. Photography.NationalGeographic.com
  19. Shorpy.com (awesome vintage photographs)
  20. SoundCloud.com (recording sounds yourself)
  21. SpellingBee.com
  22. TeacherVision.fen.com
  23. TheReptileReport.com
  24. TromboneExcerpts.org
  25. Video.NationalGeographic.com
And if you’re looking for more guidance on sharing poetry with young people, here are some excellent resource books.

Professional Resource Books for Sharing Poetry with Teens and Tweens

Ambrosini, Michelle and Morretta, Teresa. 2003. Poetry Workshop for Middle School. International Reading Association.
Collom, Jack and Noethe, Sheryl. 2005. Poetry Everywhere; Teaching Poetry Writing in School and in the Community. Teachers & Writers. 
Franco, Betsy. 2005. Conversations With a Poet: Inviting Poetry into K-12 Classrooms. Richard C. Owen.
Frost, Helen. 2001. When I Whisper, Nobody Listens: Helping Young People Write About Difficult Issues. Heinemann.
Heard, Georgia. 1994. For the Good of the Earth and Sun. Portsmouth, 
Heard, Georgia. 1999. Awakening the Heart. Heinemann. 
Holbrook, Sara and Salinger, Michael. 2006. Outspoken: How to Improve Writing and Speaking Through Poetry Performance. Heinemann. 
Holbrook, Sara. 2003. Wham! It’s a Poetry Jam: Discovering Performance Poetry. Wordsong, Boyds Mills Press.
Holbrook, Sara. 2005. Practical Poetry; A Nonstandard Approach to Meeting Content-Area Standards. Heinemann. 
Janeczko, Paul B, comp. 2002. Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets. Candlewick.
Lipson, S. L. 2006. Writing Success through Poetry: Create a Writers’ Workshop. Prufrock Press.
Livingston, Myra Cohn. 1991. Poem-making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry. HarperCollins.
O’Connor, John S. 2004. Wordplaygrounds; Reading, Writing, and Performing Poetry in the English Classroom. National Council of Teachers of English.
Ruurs, Margriet. 2001. The Power of Poems; Teaching the Joy of Writing Poetry. Maupin House.
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2011. Picture Yourself Writing Poetry: Using Photos to Inspire Writing. Capstone.
Sloan, Glenna. 2003. Give Them Poetry: A Guide for Sharing Poetry with Children K-8. Teachers College Press.
Tiedt, Iris McClellan. 2002.Tiger Lilies, Toadstools, And Thunderbolts: Engaging K-8 Students With Poetry. International Reading Association.
Vardell, S. M. 2012. The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists. Pomelo Books.
Vardell, Sylvia. 2007. Poetry People: A Practical Guide to Children’s Poets. Libraries Unlimited.
Vardell, Sylvia. 2014. Poetry Aloud Here 2: Sharing Poetry with Children. American Library Association.
Wolf, Allan. 2006. Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet’s Life. Sterling.
Wood, Jaime R. 2007. Living Voices: Multicultural Poetry in the Middle School Classroom. National Council of Teachers of English.

I hope to share some moments from our session afterward, too. Stay tuned.


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Image credit: YALSASymposium12.ning;Greeblehaus.com;uncyclopedia.wikia.com;enwikipedia.com


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