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This week I am honored to feature Carole Boston Weatherford and her award-winning book, Birmingham, 1963, in memory of the bombing of the Birmingham church fifty years ago (September 15, 1963) that took the lives of four little African American girls. Carole's book is a beautiful, moving tribute and has been recognized with several awards:
Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
The Jefferson Cup Award
Jane Addams Children's Book Award, Books for Older Readers Honor Book
Kirkus Reviews' Editor's Choice list
Best Children’s Books of the Year, Children’s Book Committee of Bank Street College of Education
Lion and the Unicorn Awardfor Excellence in North AmericanPoetry Honor Book
Best Children's Books of 2008 — Christian Science Monitor
Carole was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book (below). She'll be appearing on a variety of blogs this month with even more information, too.
Why did you decide to write this book?
I don’t want young people to forget the sacrifices made in America’s freedom struggle. I’ve written a few books with that mission. One is even titled Remember the Bridge.In Birmingham, 1963, I offer an elegy to the four girls who were killed in the church bombing: Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.
Can you share a bit about your research and writing process?
After writing Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins, I wanted to tackle another watershed event in the Civil Rights Movement. I chose the church bombing because, at the time, there was not children’s book devoted to the subject. The death of the four girls turned the tide of public opinion against white supremacists and the systemic racism that they avowed.
I began research using primary sources in the Birmingham Public Library collection. I read newspaper accounts of the event, viewed news photos, and read responses by President John F. Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. I also referred to secondary sources. An article that interviewed the girls’ families helped me to humanize and personalize the victims.
From the start, I used poetry to tell the story. My early drafts in third person, however, lacked immediacy. So I decided on historical fiction and created a fictional first-person narrator. To layer the plot a bit, I set the action on the anonymous narrator’s tenth birthday. For rhythm and resonance, I employed repetition: “The year I turned ten…”; and “The day I turned ten….” What would have been a childhood milestone, she remembers instead for violence.
Why did you use poetry to tell the story?
Most of my books are poetry or are a hybrid genre blending poetry, biography, fiction or nonfiction. For example, I, Matthew Henson, Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive, and Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane are poetic biographies. Becoming Billie Holiday is a fictional verse memoir. The Sound that Jazz Makes and a Negro League Scrapbook are poetic informational books. Birmingham, 1963 is an elegy. But it is also a narrative poem, a historical fiction. Poetry allows me to conjure images and distill emotions that make the story powerful.
Why did you create an anonymous narrator?
The historical events are true, but the first-person narrator is fictional. I used a narrator to give young readers a character with whom to identify. In so doing, young readers grapple with social justice issues. I did not want names of fictional characters to stick in readers’ minds or to take the focus off the real victims. Also, the narrator’s anonymity draws readers even closer to the action. In this scene, she struggles to get out of the church after the blast.
Smoke clogged my throat, stung my eyes.
As I crawled past crumbled plaster, broken glass,
Shredded Bibles and wrecked chairs—
Yelling Mama! Daddy!—scared church folk
Ran every which way to get out.
Why did you structure the book with an “In Memoriam” section?
The book has two sections: a longer opening poem with a first person narrator is followed by four short “In Memoriam” poems—one about each of the four girls. The tributes read like incantations. I could not have written this book without honoring Cynthia, Denise, Carole and Addie Mae. I felt that it was important to spotlight their individuality. I did so by revealing their pastimes, personalities and passions. I tried to show not only who they were but who they might have become. In May 2013, the four girls were posthumously awarded Congressional Gold Medals.
This fall, Carole is offeringFREE Skype visitsto schools that read Birmingham, 1963. Click here for more information. There's also a discussion and activity guide for the book here and more information at the publisher's link here.
Links to Classroom Resources
Free Film Kits (from Teaching Tolerance Magazine)-- Mighty Times: The Children’s March and America’s Civil Rights Movement: A Time for Justice
Photographs of Signs Enforcing Discrimination (Library of Congress)
Special thanks to Carole for gathering all this information for us-- and for her beautiful, moving book-- and a reminder of the price children often pay for our collective ignorance and stupidity. Look for many more wonderful works by Carole Boston Weatherford at her web site here.
It seems like there has been an explosion in the publication of novels in verse this year-- and so many great ones! Just out this week: Sonya Sones's latest-- To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story (Simon & Schuster). It's getting lots of buzz...
Don't you love this crazy mash-up here (above)?! And it fits the story perfectly. President George "I cannot tell a lie" Washington plugging a book about a teenage girl with a serious problem with telling the truth. Why bother, when lying serves you so much better? (At first!) Teen readers will love the California setting, movie star characters, hilarious and authentic teen voice, and sexy first-love scenes. Here's one nugget (from near the end of the book, when the bottom has fallen out on her romance):
All Weekend Long
Try to eat.
Colette has a great relationship with her little, lisping brother that gives the book heart, and a difficult relationship with her glamorous mother that provides the story's tension. But it's the budding romance with a boy who may or may not be what he pretends to be (just like her!) that pushes the story along toward a satisfying conclusion. Check it out!
More on verse novels coming soon... plus blog tours for poets Carole Boston Weatherford and Janet Wong. Happy Poetry Friday, one and all!
It's hard to believe kids and teachers (and librarians) are heading back to school already! In honor of that big transition, here's a new poetry postcard featuring a fun "back to school" poem by new poet, Terry Webb Harshman.
This is one of the new "printables" featured at Pomelo Books and available here. Each poem comes from our Poetry Friday Anthology series and each book begins with two weeks of back-to-school poems for every grade level, K-5; 6-8.
For more school-themed poems, look for the following list in my book, The Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists.
Poetry Books about School for Children: Children often particularly enjoy poetry about school since most of their daily lives are spent there. The ups and downs of classroom life make fine grist for both humorous and serious poetry. Look for these books of poems about school and share them throughout the school year. (Some are out of print, but may be available on library shelves or via your favorite "used book" provider.)
Abeel, Samantha.1993. Reach for the Moon. Duluth, MN: Pfeifer-Hamilton.
Bagert, Brod. 1999. Rainbows, Head Lice, and Pea-Green Tile: Poems in the Voice of the Classroom Teacher. Gainesville, FL: Maupin House.
Bagert, Brod. 2008. School Fever. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Carpenter, Stephen. 1997. No More Homework! No More Tests!: Kids' Favorite Funny School Poems. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.
Dakos, Kalli. 1990. If You're Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand: Poems about School. New York: Four Winds Press.
Dakos, Kalli. 1993. Don't Read This Book Whatever You Do!: More Poems about School. New York: Trumpet Club.
Dakos, Kalli. 1995. Mrs. Cole on an Onion Roll and Other School Poems. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Dakos, Kalli. 1996. The Goof Who Invented Homework and Other School Poems. New York: Dial.
Dakos, Kalli. 1999. The Bug in Teacher’s Coffee. New York: HarperCollins.
Dakos, Kalli. 2003. Put Your Eyes Up Here: And Other School Poems. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Dakos, Kalli. 2011. A Funeral in the Bathroom and Other School Bathroom Poems. Albert Whitman.
Franco, Betsy. 2009. Messing Around the Monkey Bars and Other School Poems for Two Voices. Ill. by Jessie Hartland. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Frost, Helen. 2004. Spinning Through the Universe. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Harrison, David L. 1993. Somebody Catch My Homework. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Harrison, David L. 2003. The Mouse was out at Recess. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Holbrook, Sara. 1996. The Dog Ate My Homework. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 1996. School Supplies: A Book of Poems. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Horton, Joan. 2004. I Brought my Rat for Show-and-Tell and Other Funny School Poems. New York: Grosset & Dunlap.
Katz, Alan. 2008. Smelly Locker; Silly Dilly School Songs. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kennedy, Dorothy M. Ed. 1993. I Thought I'd Take My Rat To School: Poems for September to June. New York: Little, Brown.
Krensky, Stephen. 2004. There Once was a Very Odd School and Other Lunch-Box Limericks. New York: Dutton.
Lansky, Bruce. Ed. 1997. No More Homework! No More Tests! Kids Favorite Funny School Poems. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009. Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year. Ill. by Ethan Long. New York: Little, Brown.
Nesbitt, Kenn. 2004. When the Teacher Isn't Looking. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.
Nesbitt, Kenn. 2007. Revenge of the Lunch Ladies. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.
Opie, Iona and Peter Opie. Eds. 1992. I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
Prelutsky, Jack. Ed. 2003. I Like It Here at School. New York: Scholastic.
Prelutsky, Jack. 2006. What a Day it was at School!: Poems. New York: Greenwillow.
Prelutsky, Jack. Ed. 2010. There’s No Place Like School. New York: HarperCollins.
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2008. Do Buses Eat Kids? Poems About School. Minneapolis, MN: Capstone.
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2009. Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School! New York: Clarion.
Shields, Carol Diggory. 1995. Lunch Money and Other Poems About School. New York: Dutton.
Shields, Carol Diggory. 2003. Almost Late to School: And More School Poems. New York: Dutton.
Sierra, Judy. 2000. There’s a Zoo in Room 22. San Diego: Harcourt.
Sierra, Judy. 2005. Schoolyard Rhymes: Kids' Own Rhymes for Rope Skipping, Hand Clapping, Ball Bouncing, and Just Plain Fun. New York: Knopf.
Singer, Marilyn. 1996. All We Needed to Say: Poems about School from Tanya and Sophie. New York: Atheneum.
Stockland, Patricia M. 2004. Recess, Rhyme, and Reason: A collection of Poems about School. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books.
Thurston, Cheryl Miller. 1987. Hide Your Ex-lax under the Wheaties: Poems about Schools, Teachers, Kids, and Education. Fort Collins, CO: Cottonwood Press.
Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2006. Dear Mr. Rosenwald. New York: Scholastic.
For more info, check out the blog for this "list" book here.
Now head on over to NoWaterRiver where the fabulous Renee La Tulippe is hosting Poetry Friday this week!
I've been away for a bit, finishing the revised edition of Children's Literature in Action: A Librarian's Guide, wrapping up summer classes, and enjoying a bit of a break. Earlier this summer I took a trip to a town just an hour away (from Dallas where I live) and had so much fun-- it's called POETRY, Texas. Yes, there is really a town called "Poetry" and I took pictures of all the places that carry the town name. I thought I might share them here, just for fun, as I wrap up my summer and head toward the new school year. Enjoy!
I definitely would love to live at the Poetry Ranch!
Poetry taxidermy? Does that mean preserving the old classic poems?
Stop for poetry!
Great to be welcomed and comforted by poetry.
I bet the singing is great here!
That is the mayor of Poetry on the far right in the cap (not the cowboy hat).
As I mentioned previously, Janet Wong and I were lucky enough to have a proposal accepted for the recent ALA conference in Chicago and presented a session on poetry and the Common Core. We had a great audience and were able to tape a few nuggets to share here-- thanks to poet, friend, and "filmmaker," Laura Purdie Salas. Here's Janet talking for a moment about how "ageless" poetry can be-- particularly how the poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School can work at the high school level, too.
And here I am wrapping up our session with a quote about the value of poetry from First Lady Michelle Obama.
We talked about why poetry is important for young people, what poetry skills are included in the Common Core Standards, and demonstrated how to share a poem while gently incorporating skill instruction.
What are the expectations outlined in the Common Core?
There has been a lot of discussion about how the Common Core Standards focus on nonfiction-- and that is an interesting and important new direction. But there is a misconception that fiction and poetry reading are no longer important and this is certainly not true. There are Standards that address explicitly important aspects of reading, sharing, and understanding poetry, in particular. Let me also note that good teachers and librarians have been doing these things for YEARS (with our without official "standards"), but we hope that this push to the Common Core Standards might provide additional ammunition for incorporating poetry where it may not have been included before. So, what does the Common Core say about poetry? In a nutshell:
In sharing poetry with kindergartners, we capitalize on their developing knowledge of language, their joy in learning and playing with words, and their emerging understanding of how words should be spoken, spelled, read, and written. First we focus on enjoyment and understanding, then we guide students in recognizing and responding to poems. We can explore the rhythm of poetry as well as the power of rhyme and the sounds of words. (RL.K.5)
With first graders, we continue to do many of the same things, but shift slightly to guide students in understanding how poets express feelings in poetry and appeal to the senses through language. We can also help them understand and identify the words and phrases poets use to communicate emotions and convey sensory experiences through poetry. (RL.1.4)
In second grade, we add to the mix by guiding students in responding to the rhythm of poetry and recognizing how rhyme is used in poems. We can also explore how repetition and alliteration can help shape a poem and how meaning emerges. (RL.2.4)
In third grade, we do all of the above, plus support students in responding to poetry in various forms, exploring narrative poems that tell stories, lyrical poems that explore questions and emotions, and humorous poems that make us groan or laugh. We help students understand how poets use lines and stanzas to build poems in distinctive ways. (RL.3.5)
In fourth grade, we also guide students in responding to poetry in various forms, articulating themes from key ideas and details in the poems. In sharing poetry aloud and in print, we can assist students in understanding how structural elements such as verse, rhythm, and meter help shape a poem. (RL.4.2; RL.4.5)
Finally, in fifth grade, the emphasis is to help students respond to poetry in various forms, articulate themes from key ideas and details in the poems, and explain how the poem’s speaker reflects upon a topic and shapes it with a particular point of view. We can guide students in understanding word meanings and how Higurative language such as metaphors and similes function in poetry. We can also discuss how structural elements such as stanzas and line breaks help shape a poem and how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a poem. In a variety of meaningful and participatory ways, we can celebrate poetry while gently introducing and reinforcing key skills. (RL.5.2; RL.5.4; RL.5.5; RL.5.6; RL.5.7)
The keys to remember are:
A poem should first be enjoyed for its own sake;
Presenting poems in participatory ways (in various read-aloud strategies) gets children "into the poem;”
The main idea is to help children see and hear the poetic elements after enjoying the poem through multiple readings—and to come through the "back door" to skills.
As we shared a poem for every grade level, we demonstrated how it could be both meaningful and fun, starting with the grown up reading the poem aloud, then inviting children to join in on reading the poem aloud (with a variety of creative strategies). Next, we pause to talk with kids about the poem, connecting it with their lives and other reading or other poems. Then, we highlight ONE SKILL that grows out of that poem organically and read the poem aloud again. Finally, we connect with another poem that is similar in some way or with a book of poetry that is similar. And all of this in five minutes! In The Poetry Friday Anthology we do all of this for you for every poem. These steps can also be applied to any poem in any other book of poetry, of course.
We had the audience reading poems with us and seeing how quickly and naturally poetry could be incorporated into weekly routines (or even more often!). I think the best compliment we heard was how practical and do-able this was. Exactly! We're trying to help people who don't already share poetry feel comfortable taking those steps. For more info, check out Pomelo Books and dig up my article, "Take 5 for Poetry" in the April 2013 issue of Book Links also available here.
And head on over to Todays' Little Ditty where Michelle Barnes is hosting the Poetry Friday party. See you there!
I am so happy to report that Marilyn Singer and Barbara Genco were able to bring back the Poetry Blast at the ALA convention in Chicago last weekend. This time it was held in the exhibit hall at the Pop Top stage on Monday morning. It was a nice screened off area with a great sound system, so you could hear perfectly. And as always, Marilyn and Barbara had a great line up of poets with marvelous introductions of each one. I took photos and film and am happy to share a few nuggets here. Enjoy!
Rebecca Kai Dotlich read from Grumbles from the Forest, the forthcoming Grumbles from the Town, When Riddles Come Rumbling, and here's one of my favorites, her poem tribute to her dad from Lemonade Sun. Such a sweet and moving moment!
I was so tickled to hear Bob Raczka (rhymes with Nebraska) since I'm a big fan of his witty Guyku and Lemonade. He read from Guyku, his forthcoming Joy in Mudville, a "Casey at the Bat" riff, and Santa's Haiku Journal. Bob definitely delivered with humor and cleverness. Kids are going to love that Joy is a girl baseball player. I did!
Tamera Will Wissinger was also a new treat since I hadn't heard her read before and I love her new (first) book, Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse. I loved how she wove a story through multiple poem forms and character voices.
Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, collaborators on the new poetry/prose book, Yes! We Are Latinos each read a poem from that book. They each brought such passion to the topic and to their readings. (Those video files seem to be too big for Blogspot, so I wasn't able to upload those. Sorry!)
Loved hearing Sid Farrar read from his recent (first) book, The Year Comes Round: Haiku Through the Seasons. His dry, droll voice added a fun twist to these lovely poems for the calendar year.
Laura Purdie Salas was up next and is such a natural teacher and reader sharing gems from Bookspeak! (book poems = a librarian's best friend) and Stampede (school poems = a teacher's best friend) as well as one of her poems from The Poetry Friday Anthology. (Thanks bunches, Laura!)
The marvelous Nikki Grimes read many selections from her new novel in poems, Words with Wings, with dear Ed Spicer sitting front and center-- the teacher referenced in that lovely book about the power of daydreaming. She also shared her powerful poem from Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out.
And the Blast ended once again with co-host Marilyn Singer sharing some of her latest gems: poems from Follow, Follow, her new companion to Mirror, Mirror, as well as some fascinating and funny selections from her presidential poems, Rutherford B., Who Was He?
Thanks to Marilyn and Barbara for fighting to bring the Blast back and to Albert Whitman (and Michelle!), Charlesbridge (and Donna!), Disney-Hyperion (and Dina!), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (and Lisa!), and Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press (and Kerry!) for sponsoring a wonderful session. I am so glad to see the Blast back and hope it will be on the docket in Vegas next year! Poets in sparkle and sequins-- I can see it already!
It's time for the annual conference of the American Library Association and I am lucky enough to be presenting a session along with my friend and collaborator, Janet Wong. If you're in Chicago for this event, we hope you'll join us on Sunday morning at 10:30 (McCormick Convention Center room S405). So far, 186 people have signed up to attend our session and we are THRILLED! Here's the lowdown:
Celebrating Poetry Fridays & Common Core Curriculum Connections
Pausing for poetry every Friday is becoming a tradition in the children’s literature world and many librarians are incorporating this practice into their teaching and programming activities. In addition, the new Common Core standards include a poetry component highlighting a need for meaningful skills instruction. This proposed session will offer guidelines, instructional strategies, and print and digital resources for sharing poetry with children (ages 5-12) weekly while incorporating these required skills in meaningful ways. We'll kick off with an artsy "Poetry Is" slide show with images and poetry quotes.
Then we have a terrific PowerPoint slideshow highlighting our major points, if I do say so myself. :-) We'll be doling out the facts, connecting with the poetry standards from the Common Core and reading a lot of poetry and demonstrating how it can be celebrated with a bit of teaching tucked in along the way. Here are a few nuggets to entice you: When we think about what poetry does for children—and in just a few minutes of sharing on a regular basis—it’s a pretty impressive list. Author and literacy expert Mem Fox noted, "Rhymers will be readers; it's that simple. Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.” Writer and scholar Rebecca Rupp commented, “Poetry makes you smarter…. and all kinds of research indicates that rhyme, rhythm, and imagery boost memory formation and recall.” The Common Core Poetry Standards in a nutshell!
What is ThePoetry Friday Anthology series? (poems + mini-lessons) *Quality poetry, previously unpublished, contemporary, diverse
*K-5; 6-8 (based on appeal and appropriateness, not Lexiles)
*Poem for every Friday at every grade = 36 poems for each grade level
*Weekly themes across the grades: school, pets, weather, food, families, holidays; connections across the curriculum (science, math, social studies)
*Take 5 strategies tied to Common Core(and TEKS in Texas) for every poem
*Plus, we offer a resource BLOG with links to each poet’s web site, pluseach grade level is available in e-book form We'll demonstrate our "Take 5" approach using poems from The Poetry Friday Anthology, as well as from other works of poetry-- like Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends, the bestselling children's poetry book of all time!
We'll also share poetry blog and web site resources too. We'll pack in as much as we can in our 60 minutes, I am sure! Finally, Janet has promised interesting snacks to the first 50 people who show up and I have a ton of poetry "swag" to give away: poetry post-its, Poetry Friday buttons, poetry pens, poetry bookmarks, and poetry air fresheners for those long car trips this summer! Plus we have a few copies of The Poetry Friday Anthology (for K-5 and for middle school) to give away as door prizes. I have an excellent poetry trivia quiz to test your Poetry IQ! (For example, do you know what is widely considered the best-known American poem?) Wishing you all a wonderful Poetry Friday-- which we will extend to continue through Poetry SUNDAY this week! Meanwhile, head on over to Amy's place at the Poem Farm for more Poetry Friday fun!
The next Children's Poet Laureate was announced today by the Poetry Foundation. It's Kenn Nesbitt.
Kenn's recent works include: Nesbitt, Kenn. 2009. My Hippo Has the Hiccups with CD: And Other Poems I Totally Made Up. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks. Nesbitt, Kenn. 2010. The Tighty Whitey Spider: And More Wacky Animal Poems I Totally Made Up. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks. Nesbitt, Kenn. 2007. Revenge of the Lunch Ladies: The Hilarious Book of School Poetry. New York: Meadowbrook Press.
His web site, Poetry4Kids has been a go-to site for poems, activities, and fun for kids.
FYI The Children’s Poet Laureate was established by the Poetry Foundation in 2006 to raise awareness of the fact that children have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them. The Children’s Poet Laureate receives a $25,000 cash prize and a medallion that includes the inscription “Permit a child to join,” taken from an Emily Dickinson poem. The Children’s Poet Laureate serves as a consultant to the Foundation for a two-year period and gives at least two major public readings for children and their families, teachers, and librarians during his/her term. He/She will also serve as an advisor to the Poetry Foundation on children’s literature, and may engage in a variety of projects and events to help instill a love of poetry among the nation’s youngest readers.
While I was in Bali for the IBBY conference, I also had the opportunity to visit a small school-- always an eye-opening experience. This was a school that served a population of some 40 children, most of them with special needs (learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, autism, etc.). The headmaster picked me up and drove me out and I toured the tiny building with its half dozen small un-airconditioned rooms with small homemade wooden chairs and tables.
moms hanging out with toddlers
the school library and library volunteer
Moms sat outside in the open area and were welcome there. Children played-- some babies and toddlers there with their mothers. It was a relaxed and happy environment. I went into each room and smiled and chatted-- including a tiny library with a few shelves of paperback books and a small crate of toys.
Most of my time was spent in a small classroom with the oldest kids-- about a dozen-- working alongside their regular teacher-- she told me she was a former hotel worker whose English was good, so she volunteered to help out at the school. She was a natural and had a real knack in taking every moment and making it a language learning lesson.
practicing English words
a boy with autism adept on his notebook computer
I brought a pile of poetry books to share (and donate) and a copy of The Poetry Friday Anthology (or course). Although their knowledge of English was extremely limited, I did share the first stanzas of several poems-- as their teacher helped translate each key word. I shared:
(K-1) "Happy Song for the First Day of School" by Patricia Hubbell It's my Happy Snappy Tip-top Day
(K-14) "Mrs. Betty" by Rebecca Kai Dotlich Knock, knock! Who's there? It's Mrs. Betty! She brought us a pot of homemade spaghetti!
(One bright little girl recognized the "knock, knock" formula for jokes and pointed that out to me!)
(K-27) "Animal Talk" by Charles Ghigna Ducks quack Doves coo Dogs bark Cows moo
(They loved making the animal noises for this poem!)
Then we sang a variety of songs in English that were familiar to them and I joined right in. Plus, I chatted at length with the kids, answering questions and asking them questions.
this same boy thought of using his computer to take our photo while the teacher used my camera
her English was amazing!
The little girl who knew the "knock, knock" formula was quite adept with English and eager to converse-- she told me about TV programs she had watched about Sasquatch, ghosts, and zombies! The kids were eager to show off and were high energy!
a classroom for the younger children
What a privilege to spend a few hours with them and see the dedication of the staff and the eagerness of kids to learn new things. It's a good reminder of the heart of teaching-- caring about kids and helping them learn.
P.S. Two days later I came down with a bad cold-- just a little sampling of what teachers face every day in working with children! I remember getting sick at the beginning of every school year when I was a classroom teacher, as I built up my immunities for the year. Looks like that's another universal part of teaching!
I recently attended a conference in Bali that drew 125 teachers, professors, publishers, authors and others from Japan, Korea, Indonesia, India, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Australia, New Zealand and beyond.
IBBY ASIA OCEANIA CONGRESS May 2013 Bali
It was a wonderful event and I met many people doing fascinating work often with very limited resources. I heard several interesting speakers-- on storytelling types, on the value of the trickster story for truth-telling, on the depiction of girls in Indonesian comics, on the importance of karma in eastern folktales, on the Korean diaspora, and so much more. My own presentation was about poetry (of course): The World in Verse: Multicultural Poetry for Young People
I began by highlighting some of the special benefits of poetry, in particular: *Special succinctness of poetry in providing an introduction to other cultures *Poets use the language, experiences, and images of their cultures *Poets make powerful points about prejudice, identity, and cultural conflict *Poems show children firsthand both the sameness and the differences across cultures
I shared a bibliography of poetry books and a paper which they had all already received, so I read actual POEMS to them-- and there was a spontaneous and positive reaction. (This was a conference with several storytellers and even a shadow puppet performance!) Since my time was short, I chose about a dozen poems to read aloud to convey the breadth of styles and topics represented in contemporary multicultural poetry. Here's a glimpse.
African American Poetry for Young People African American writers have been creating poetry for many generations with new poets emerging all the time like Charles Waters and Jaime Adoff alongside the award-winning Nikki Grimes, Marilyn Nelson, and Eloise Greenfield, among others. Consider some of these outstanding examples of African American poetry. I read aloud: “I, Too” By Langston Hughes and “At the Library” by Nikki Grimes and “Things” by Eloise Greenfield (a BIG hit!)
Asian Pacific American Poetry for Young People Asian and Asian American poetry for young people is not just haiku; there are many lovely, ancient and contemporary works to share with children by poets such as Janet Wong and Linda Sue Park. Here is a sampling of poetry for young people by Asian and Asian American poets. I read aloud: “Speak Up” by Janet Wong and “1975: Year of the Cat” by Thanhha Lai, the beginning poem from Inside Out & Back Again
Hispanic/Latino/Latina Poetry for Young People There are more and more poets of Hispanic/Latino background writing poetry for children. Some are of Hispanic heritage and others collect poetry from Latin American countries. Here are a few of my favorites for sharing with young people by poets such as Pat Mora, Gary Soto, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Margarita Engle. I read aloud: “Ode to Family Photographs” by Gary Soto and “Potato” by Pat Mora and “Juan” (one poem from The Poet Slave of Cuba) by Margarita Engle
Native American Poetry For Young People Voices from Native American or Indian tribes and traditions offer poetry in many forms. Here is a selection of these poetry books for young people. I read aloud: “I Rise, I Rise” from an Osage prayer before a young man’s first buffalo hunt, collected by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve and "Who Am I?”(excerpt) by Dusty Black Elk from Walking on Earth & Touching the Sky
International Poetry for Young People As we seek poetry for children from many cultural perspectives, we can expand beyond the cultures in the U.S. and include poetry from other countries by poets such as Graham Denton, Avis Harley, Monica Gunning, Carol-Ann Hoyte, JonArno Lawson, Holly Thompson (living in Japan) and Renee M. LaTulippe (living in Italy). Some of the following works are imported from across the oceans and others are anthologies of global poems collected by poets within the U.S. Sharing poems from these collections can put a face on a news story from far away lands. I read aloud: “The Bridge” by the Lebanese poet, Kaissar Afif, translated by Mansour Ajami from The Space Between Our Footsteps and “Sleep” by Michio Mado from The Animals
One note-- most of the people at this conference made no distinction between multicultural and international literature, since many of the books they share are imported from other countries and their own indigenous publishing may be limited (particularly in English). It's all just "literature" to them without the VOLUME of books we have in the U.S. and the distinctions that we make in authorship and culture.
I also made some practical connections, talking about "Poetry Friday" and the "Take 5" strategies that we introduced in The Poetry Friday Anthology.
Take 5: Strategies for Poetry Sharing #1: Read the poem aloud (vary your approach in multiple readings). #2: Read the poem aloud again with student participation and involvement. #3: Take a moment to invite students to discuss the poem; have an open-ended question ready as a prompt. #4: Make a subtle skill connection with the poem—just one. #5: Connect with other poems and poetry books that are similar in some way.
I ended with two sample poems from The Poetry Friday Anthology, showing how "multicultural poets" can express both culturally specific as well as universally understood themes and subjects: I shared “Grandfather’s Chopsticks” by Janet Wong as well as “The Do Kind” also by Janet Wong.
I concluded by emphasizing how contemporary poets of color produce poetry that: *Is both individual and universal, about childhood and about culture *Captures themes of identity, society, heritage, power, wisdom *Uses a variety of elements from memoir, facts, repetition, slang, rhyme to free verse
The session was well received and I was so pleased at the enthusiastic response to HEARING poems (although why should I be surprised?)! I spoke with several people afterward-- people who want to go home and promote poetry alongside storytelling (which is a bigger emphasis), people who want to encourage indigenous poets in their home countries, and even a middle school teacher in Bali who wants to introduce poetry jams and slams! So fun to make these poetry connections!
One of my fabulous former students is Carol Neeland, a teacher at the American School of the Hague (in the Netherlands). She is doing really creative things with kids incorporating technology in promoting and responding to poetry-- she calls it "green screen poetry." I've shared some of their gems before and have permission to do so once again. Here are very clever poem movies that her students created for two poems by Shel Silverstein.
"Crazy Dream" was created by 6th graders Amanda and Anna and it features some special guest stars:
Dr. Richard Spradling, Superintendent Ms. Mary Russman, Middle School Principal Mr. Doug Teter, Grade 6 Science Teacher Mrs. Rochelle Slachta, Grade 6 Language Arts teacher and Mrs. Carol Neeland, Middle School IT Teacher
Amanda and Anna's interpretation of poem gave them the "power" to make the Superintendent and Principal stand on their heads and to send their teachers to outer Mongolia!
"Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me, too" was created by Kevin and Jakob, but they needed someone to play Tickle Me, so Jin joined them as well. They used Photoshop to create the flying shoe and then used green screen to put themselves inside of it. Don't they make flying in a shoe look like fun?
This was all part of their big Mo Po celebration for National Poetry Month. (Mo as in "MORE" and Po as in "Poetry!") Way to go, Carol! And thank you for sharing their work with us. Keep the MoPoMomentum going!
I'm currently in Bali (yes, THAT Bali) for the IBBY Asia Oceana Congress to talk about poetry, what else? (More on my presentation, "The World in Verse," later.) But first, I've done a bit of touring and ran across this and I had to share!
Since I am a shoe lover (although I just can't manage the way-high heels I wore in my "youth"), I get that shoes and bags do have their own kind of poetry! Don't you agree?
(Also, my apologies for being AWOL. Bali is blocking Gmail and Blogger, but I stumbled upon a "back-door" today, which will probably slam shut any moment! If not, I'll post more nuggets soon...)
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This time last week, I was lucky enough to host the 9th annual Poetry Round Up at the Texas Library Association conference in Fort Worth. What an amazing lineup of poets and what a great audience. For those of you who couldn't join us, here are a few video clips to share the magic!
Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2001. Lemonade Sun and Other Summer. Boyds Mills. Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2001. When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder. Boyds Mills. Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2004. Over in the Pink House: Original Jump Rope Rhymes. Boyds Mills. Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2009. Bella and Bean. Simon & Schuster. Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2010. In The Spin of Things: Poetry of Motion. Boyds Mills. Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2012. What Can a Crane Pick Up? Knopf. Heard, Georgia, Ed. 2012. The Arrow Finds Its Mark. Roaring Book Press. Holbrook, Sara and Michael Salinger. 2006. Outspoken!: How to Improve Writing and Speaking Skills Through Poetry Performance. Heinemann. Holbrook, Sara and Michael Salinger. 2010. High Definition: Unforgettable Vocabulary-Building Strategies Across Genres and Subjects. Heinemann. Hopkins, Lee Bennett, ed. 2011. Nasty Bugs. Dutton. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2014. Amazing Places. Ill. By Chris Soentpiet. Lee and Low. Hoyte, Carol-Ann and Roemer, Heidi Bee. Eds. 2012. And the Crowd Goes Wild!: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. Ill. by Kevin Sylvester. Friesens Press. Lewis, J. Patrick and Rebecca Kai Dotlich. 2006. Castles: Old Stone Poems. Boyds Mills. Lewis, J. Patrick. Ed. 2012. The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. National Geographic. Salinger, Michael. 2004. They Call It Fishing Not Catching. Boyds Mills. Salinger, Michael. 2007. Stingray: New and Collected Poems. Wordsmith. Salinger, Michael. 2009. Well Defined: Vocabulary in Rhyme. Boyds Mills. VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig. (forthcoming). Reading Time. Boyds Mills. VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig. 2013. Forest Has a Song. Houghton Mifflin. Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. Eds. 2011. Gift Tag. PoetryTagTime.com. Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. Eds. 2011. P*TAG. PoetryTagTime.com. Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. Eds. 2011. PoetryTagTime. PoetryTagTime.com. Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. Eds. 2012. The Poetry Friday Anthology K-5. Pomelo Books. Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. Eds. 2013. The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School. Pomelo Books. Weston, Robert Paul. 2008. Zorgamazoo. New York: Razorbill/Penguin. Weston, Robert Paul. 2012. Prince Pugly. New York: Razorbill/Penguin. Yolen, Jane and Dotlich, Rebecca. 2013. Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy Tales with a Twist. Ill. by Matt Hahurin. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. Yolen, Jane and Peters, Andrew Fusek. 2010. Switching on the Moon: A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems. Candlewick. Yolen, Jane and Peters, Andrew Fusek. Ed. 2007. Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry. Candlewick. Yolen, Jane. 2002. Wild Wings: Poems for Young People. Wordsong/Boyds Mills. Yolen, Jane. 2003. Least Things: Poems about Small Natures. Wordsong/Boyds Mills. Yolen, Jane. 2004. Fine Feathered Friends. Wordsong/Boyds Mills. Yolen, Jane. 2006. Count Me A Rhyme: Animal Poems by the Numbers. Wordsong/Boyds. Yolen, Jane. 2007. Shape Me a Rhyme. Wordsong/Boyds Mills. Yolen, Jane. 2009. A Mirror to Nature. Wordsong/Boyds Mills. Yolen, Jane. 2009. How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? Scholastic. Yolen, Jane. 2010. An Egret’s Day. Wordsong/Boyds Mills. Yolen, Jane. 2011. Birds of a Feather. Wordsong/Boyds Mills. Yolen, Jane. 2012. Bug Off! Creepy Crawly Poems. Wordsong/Boyds Mills.
Special thanks to these publishers and their wonderful representatives: Penguin Books for Young Readers and Laura Antonacci, and Boyds Mills Press and Kerry McManus.
Jane and Rebecca discuss collaborating on GRUMBLES FROM THE FOREST
Will Richey and teens rock the house; volunteers step up to participate
Our enthusiastic audience; Jane and Charles talking about process; poets in the audience
Thanks to the poets who spoke so eloquently and each stayed for the entire 4 hour institute. Thanks to Penguin and Boyds Mills Press for bringing several of our poets. Thanks to our lovely audience who were so committed, open, and enthusiastic. And special thanks to Dr. Marianne Follis, Chair of the Children's Round Table (of the Texas Library Association) for conceiving of P*CON (the poetry version of Comic Con!) and for all her support. This was TLA's FIRST post-conference institute and I think it was a big hit! One participant said it was the highlight of her entire conference experience!
The Children’s Poet Laureate was established by the Poetry Foundation in 2006 to raise awareness of the fact that “children have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them.”
2006 The first Children’s Poet Laureate was Jack Prelutsky, chosen in 2006.
2008 Mary Ann Hoberman was selected as the second Children’s Poet Laureate in 2008.
2011 J. Patrick Lewis was selected as Children’s Poet Laureate in 2011 and also received the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children that same year.
2013 The next Children’s Poet Laureate will be announced in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
Wishing everyone happy El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) celebrated every April 30. Buy a book of poetry for someone you love today!
In 1997, Karen Hesse’s novel in verse, Out of the Dust, was awarded the Newbery medal and set the stage for an explosion of the novel in verse form.
And sad to say, that was pretty much IT for poetry books winning the Newbery award until 2008 when Laura Amy Schlitz won for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village (Candlewick, 2007). That’s four poetry winners in 90 years!
1981-- Nancy Willard’s A Visit to William Blake’s Inn 1988-- Paul Fleishman's Joyful Noise 1997-- Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust 2008-- Laura Amy Schlitz's Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!
Do you like the verse novel? I do! And tweens and teens certainly do. Look for these new verse novels coming out in 2013:
1. Cheng, Andrea. 2013. Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet. New York: Lee & Low. 2. Clark, Kristin Elizabeth. 2013. Freak Boy. New York: Macmillan. 3. Crossan, Sarah. 2013. The Weight of Water. New York: Bloomsbury. 4. Engle, Margarita. 2013. The Lightning Dreamer. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 5. Engle, Margarita. 2013. Mountain Dog. New York: Holt. 6. Frost, Helen. 2013. Salt. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 7. Grimes, Nikki. 2013. Words with Wings. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. 8. Hemphill, Stephanie. 2013. Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein. New York: HarperCollins. 9. Hopkins, Ellen. 2013. Smoke. New York: Simon & Schuster. 10. MacDonald, Maryann. 2013. Odette’s Secrets. New York: Bloomsbury. 11. Sones, Sonya. 2013. To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story. New York: Simon & Schuster. 12. Thompson, Holly. 2013. The Language Inside. New York: Delacorte. 13. Weston, Robert Paul. 2013. Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff. New York: Razorbill/Penguin. 14. Wissinger, Tamera Will. 2013. Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse. Ill. by Matthew Cordell. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
In 1993, Lee Bennett Hopkins established the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award (in association with Pennsylvania State University) for an American poet or anthologist for the most outstanding new book of children's poetry. The first recipient was Ashley Bryan for Sing to the Sun.
Followed by: In 1995, Lee Bennett Hopkins established the Promising Poet Award in collaboration with the International Reading Association to encourage new poets in their writing beginning with Deborah Chandra (Rich Lizard and Other Poems, 1993). The most recent recipient is Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Under the Mesquite, 2011 ). Here’s the complete list:
2013 -- Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Under the Mesquite. New York: Lee & Low, 2011) 2010 -- Gregory Neri (Chess Rumble. New York: Lee & Low, 2009) 2007 -- Joyce Lee Wong (Seeing Emily. New York: Abrams, 2006) 2004 -- Lindsay Lee Johnson (Soul Moon Soup. Asheville, NC: Front Street, 2002) 2001 -- Craig Crist-Evans (Moon Over Tennessee: A Boy’s Civil War Journal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999) 1998 -- Kristine O’Connell George (The Great Frog Race and Other Poems. New York: Clarion, 1997) 1995 -- Deborah Chandra (Rich Lizard and Other Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993)
Followed by: In 1998, Bank Street College established the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award for the best poetry book of the year in honor of the late Claudia Lewis, a distinguished children's book expert and longtime member of the Bank Street College faculty. The first recipient was The Invisible Ladder; An Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers compiled by Liz Rosenberg.
For a complete listing of all the award and honor books, as well as teaching guides and digital trailers (created by my wonderful librarian students) for many of these books, go to the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award Teaching Toolbox.
The year 1992 was a big one for poetry for young people, with more and more significant collections of poetry for young readers by poets of color in the U.S. and around the world being published including: • Michio Mado’s The Animals: Selected Poems (1992) from Japan, • Joseph Bruchac’s Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back (1992), a milestone work of Native American poetry for children which followed Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve's collection of poems by Native young people, Dancing Teepees: Poems of American Indian Youth (1989). • and Naomi Shihab Nye’s This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World (1992), a landmark compilation of world poetry for young people still in print.
Myra Cohn Livingston, the Grande Dame of poetry for young people, may have set the stage with her ground-breaking anthology for young adults, A Tune Beyond Us published by Harcourt, Brace back in 1968.
From Belgium Herbauts, Anne (text/illus.) De quelle couleur est le vent? (What colour is the wind?) [Bruxelles] [et al.]: Casterman, 2011. –  p. (Series: Les albums Casterman) ISBN 978-2-203-02016-0 Wind – Colour – Poetry Early morning, the little giant leaves his home to find the wind and to learn more about its colour. Every being in its surroundings (dog, wolf, tree, window) gives the little giant a new answer. The topic of the book is inspired by Anne Herbaut’s encounter with a blind child who asked: what colour is the wind? In this picture book she attempts to answer the poetic question in various ways, which ultimately must remain open-ended. This is because things that one feels sometimes remain invisible and colourless even for the sighted. This is an extraordinary and tactile-focused book, made with a love for detail. It is lamentable that only the title was printed in Braille and not the entire text. (Age: 6+)
From (French-speaking) Canada Various authors (text) Rogé (illus.) Bacon, Joséphine (transl.) Mingan, mon village. Poèmes d’écoliers innus (Mingan, my village. Poems by Innu students) Montréal: Éd. de la Bagnole, 2012. –  p. ISBN 978-2-923342-76-4 Mingan Indian Reservation – Innu – First Nations – Poetry Together with the French poet Laure Morali and the Innu poet Rita Mestokosho, the illustrator Rogé held a writing workshop on the Mingan Reservation, which is located in the nearly inaccessible northern region of Québec. Many Innu children of the Teueikan School there took part in the workshop. Out of it came poetic prose texts and short poems that stand up forcefully and hopefully to the contemporary worries of Innu society. Rogé presents fifteen of the selected poems from this writing workshop in French translation and includes portraits of the young poets. Unfortunately, the original Innu texts do not appear alongside the French, but only at the very end of the book after the poets Morali and Mestokosho have been intro-duced. (Age: 8+)
From China Lin, Huanzhang (text) Li, Qingyue (illus.) Zai xin li zhong yi ke shu (Plant a tree in your heart) Chengdu: Sichuan shao nian er tong chu ban she (= Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Books Publishing House), 2012. – 183 p. + CD (Series: Zhongguo er tong wen xue ming jia jing pin chang xiao shu xi) ISBN 978-7-5365-5524-2 Nature – Language – Poetry Lin Huanzhang is one of the most esteemed writers of modern Chinese children’s verse. With his talent and creativity, the Taiwanese poet has contributed much to Chinese children’s literature. Many of his poems demonstrate the unique rhythm and expressiveness of children’s poetry in the Chinese language. This book is a collection mainly of his poems as well as of a few animal stories and essays about his own childhood. Lin’s works show a close kinship with nature. Not only do they explore a wide variety of natural imageries, but they also convey a profound respect and love for the natural world. (Age: 5+)
From the Czech Republic Kratochvíl, Miloš (text) Sýkorová-Pekárková, Eva (illus.) Pes nám spadla. Bláznivé basnicky (We let the dog drop. Crazy poems) Praha: Mladá fronta, 2012. – 93 p. ISBN 978-80-204-2690-1 Animals – School – Anecdote – Poetry »Follow us into the Kratochvíl universe!« The present anthology could begin with that line. It represents a journey through Miloš Kratochvíl’s world of frequently animal-related verse-anecdotes. The anthology contains well-known as well as brand new poems. Laughing is guaranteed, since the author is a master at inventing funny occurrences and knows exactly how to parse these into crisp rhymes. In four segments one encounters: a sparrow that organises a worm grill party, a child that plays the violin so badly that all birds fall unconscious out of the trees, and a pitiable mouse who has to share an apartment with four cats. All these tales are freshly and wittily illustrated by Eva Sýkorová-Pekárková. (Age: 4+)
Also from the Czech Republic Malý, Radek (text) Čech, Pavel (illus.) Listonoš vítr (co prinesl a co mi šeptal) (The Postman Wind [what he brought and what he whispered to me]) Praha: Albatros 2011. –  p. ISBN 978-80-00-02697-8 Autumn – Mood – Poetry Put the currently reigning Czech children’s poet and one of the most captivating illustrators of the country together and have them make a children’s book about autumn – the result is sure to be a hit. In fact, in 2012 »Listonoš vítr« won the most significant Czech literary awards in the children’s book category, »Magnesia litera« and »Zlata stuha«. The book charms with poignant poems about the rustle of leaves and of paper, the festival of the fall forest, chestnuts, pumpkins, and the special mood of the season. Paired with Pavel Čech’s occasionally quite mystical illustrations, Radek Malý succeeds in presenting the hazy autumnal atmosphere of colourful leaves, crisp air, and melancholic fogginess in a sensuous and arresting manner. (Age: 6+)
From France Chedid, Andrée (text) Corvaisier, Laurent (illus.) Le Chedid. Poèmes (The Chedid. Poems) Paris: Mango Jeunesse, 2012. – 40 p. (Series : Album Dada) ISBN 978-2-7404-2899-3 Poetry Very shortly after the death of the great francophone poet and two-time Prix Goncourt award winner Andrée Chedid (1920-2011), Mango Jeunesse Publishers put out this selection of her most beautiful poems with illustrations by Laurent Corvaisier. Andrée Chedid was born in Cairo, grew up in the Egyptian capital and went to school there, then lived for many years in Lebanon, before coming to and staying in Paris. The poet was equally at home in the Arab as in the French world. Her poems bear witness to the tense as well as enriching encounter between the two cultural poles. Chedid’s poems always speak of wonder and of the resilience, i.e. the creative power of human brings, to withstand existential threats such as loneliness, violence and war. (Age: 9+)
From Great Britain Morpurgo, Clare / Morpurgo, Michael (ed.) Gill, Olivia Lomenech (illus.) Where my wellies take me. A childhood scrapbook with poems and pictures Dorking: Templar, 2012. – 97 p. ISBN 978-1-84877-544-2 Countryside – Girl – Walk – Animals – Nature – Poetry Inspired by the love for poetry of former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare and by their happy childhood memories, this magnificent collaboration takes readers on a walk with little Pippa. Setting off from her aunt’s village home, the girl ambles along a country lane, across bridges, past fields and pastures, admiring the flora and fauna on her way. Cleverly embedded into the enchanting story of Pippa’s countryside ramble are the Morpurgos’ favourite poems by well-known poets such as Ted Hughes, William Blake, Edward Lear, and Grace Nichols. Olivia Lomenech Gill’s exquisite scrapbook-like design, including handwritten text, mixed-media collage pictures, a map of Pippa’s walk, etc. make this anthology-cum-diary a truly enjoy-able read for readers of any age. (Age: 6+) l
From Greece Kyritsopulos, Alexēs (= Kyritsopoulos, Alexis) (text/illus.) Ligo akoma ... Ena paramythi empneusmeno apo ta poiemata tu Giōrgu Sepherē (Just a little more … A fairy tale inspired by Giorgos Seferis’s poems) Athēna: Ikaros / Museio Mpenakē (= Museum Benakis), 2012. –  p. (Series: An diabaza … poietes tes genias tu ‘30) ISBN 978-960-9527-49-1 Optimism – Courage – Solidarity – Zest for life – Sea In dialogue with the poets of 1930s Greece, Alexis Kyritsopoulos cooks up an allegorical fireworks display for children in his signature style, making poems sparkle through images and images glow through words. Kyritso-poulos found inspiration for this book in verses by the poet Seferis that talk of sea waves and marble that shines in the sun. Encouraged by his grandfather, a child sails fearlessly and eagerly through Scylla and Charybdis into the open sea, dives into the colours of the sun, and meets mermaids and dolphins. In the end, the child returns from the journey that »entwined mountains and bore stars« back to his grandfather’s garden, where children fly kites that blossom »like vulnerable souls« high up in the sky. (Age: 5+)
From Japan Funazaki, Yoshihiko (text) Ajito, Keiko (illus.) Koko ni iru (I feel you) Tokyo: Popurasha (= Poplar-sha), 2011. – 31 p. ISBN 978-4-591-12616-5 Death – Grief – Poetry Illustrator Keiko Ajito is a master at depicting the spiritual state of girls in real stories and fairy tales. Her black-and-white images are delicate and floating. They avoid background detail and thus seem quietly symbolic, sometimes even eerie. For this poem, too, the illustrator draws a girl who has lost those she loves most. Her deep-set eyes reflect pain and emptiness, but there is also hope. Memories and love can give the one in mourning the feeling that the departed are still present in the souls of those who remain, giving them the power to go on. With poetic intensity, the text and pictures provide consolation to overcome loss and grief. (Age: 11+)
From Korea Nam, Ho-s1p (= Nam, Hoseop) (text) Ko, Chjan-gyu (= Ko, Chankyu) (illus.) Ppl e ssoyptta (= Bule ssoyetda) (Stung by a bee) S1ul-si (= Seoul): Chjangbi (= Changbee Publishing), 2012. – 134 p. ISBN 978-89-36446-30-7 Aging – Death – Everyday life – Poetry This book includes forty-nine poems for children that deal with the lives of ordinary people – especially neighbours, both young and old. Although written for young readers, the poems do not only address the interests of children. Also, they do not only show the bright side of the world. Rather, the poet attempts to share every aspect of life, dealing with children’s common environments, the people next door, and their plain and unpretentious daily lives, thus blurring the boundaries between adults and children. He also addresses the issues of aging and death, inviting children to feel more empathy towards the world and towards people, and to realise that the world is a place in which everyone, young or old, must face sadness, joy, aging, and even death. (Age: 7+)
From La Réunion (France) (French) Écormier, Joëlle (text) Gaboriau, Claire (illus.) Un cœur de sardine (A sardine heart) Saint-André (Réunion): Océan jeunesse, 2012. –  p. ISBN 978-2-36247-042-4 Pet – Sardine – Poetry A capricious sardine lives all alone in a tin on the kitchen counter. Robert (named after the well-known canning factory on the island of La Réunion) peers into a dim future, for his sardine mates have already disappeared into the frying pan. Does the same fate await him? Facing these bad prospects, »pet« Robert is not easy to keep in a good mood. His homesickness for the Atlantic, for instance, can only be cured with grandiose stories – complete with fictional starry sky, silvery »light show«, and the works. At worst, Robert barricades himself in his tin, annoyed. Claire Gaboriau’s boldly shining illustrations emphasise the affectionate humour of Joëlle Ecormier’s quick rhymes. (Age: 5+)
From Latvia Baltvilks, Janis (text) / Petersons, Reinis (illus.) Biki – Buki Riga: Liels un mazs, 2012. –  p. (Series: Biki Buks; 001) ISBN 978-9984-820-48-4 Poetry Reinis Petersons (born 1981) is one of his country’s busiest illustrators and is nominated for the 2013 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. In 2012 he joined five colleagues (Juris Petraškevičs, Kristine Jurjane, Liga Kičena, Edmunds Jansons, Marija Liduma), all exemplary representatives of contemporary Latvian children’s book illustration, in illustrating the first volumes of the charming book project known as »Biki Buks«. Each of these six small-format bookspresents a popular Latvian children’s poem written between the years 1940 and 1990, illustrated in a new and fresh form. In this case, the poem featured is Janis Baltvilks’s »Biki-Buki« from the year 1987. One hundred poems, all still well remembered by different generations of readers, are planned to be showcased in this series. (Age: 3+)
From New Zealand Mahy, Margaret (text) Duder, Tessa (ed.) Elliot, David (illus.) The word witch Auckland, N.Z. [et al.]: HarperCollins, 2012. – 168 p. + CD ISBN 978-1-77554-001-4 Poetry The late Margaret Mahy, great dame of New Zealand children’s literature, was renowned not only for her many children’s and young adult books but also for her innumerable poems. This collection of sixty-six of her rhymed works includes funny and popular classics such as »Dashing Dog«, the tongue-twisting »Bubble Trouble«, or the limerick »My Sister«, as well as lesser-known texts such as »When I am Old and Wrinkled Like a Raisin«. All the poems are beautifully illustrated by David Elliot with atmospheric drawings in various sizes and different hues of colour that perfectly capture the texts’ peculiar moods. Originally published in 2009, the book now features a CD with twelve poems recited by the author herself. The performed poems, enhanced with subtle background sounds, sparkle with Mahy’s wit and make this a special treat. (Age: 4+)
From Poland Rusinek, Michał (text) Rusinek, Joanna (illus.) Wierszyki domowe (At home poems) Kraków: Znak emotikon, 2012. – 176 p. ISBN 978-83-240-1974-8 House – Home – Living room – Poetry Reading this Polish »Children’s book of the year« enables one to see one’s home with new eyes. Michał Rusinek (born 1972) shows how much potential for inspiring witty, refreshing, and simply extraordinarily good poems individual rooms in a house have, even the basement workshop and the garden. The washing machine in the laundry room might be a substitute TV, the front door a rampart against outside calamities (storms! vampires!) and the dark staircase a chamber of horrors à la Tim Burton. Thanks also to Joanna Rusinek’s (born 1978) poignant illustrations, »Wierszyki domowe« evokes a wonderfully weird feeling of being at home in one’s well-familiar house, but at the same time viewing it as an unknown, alien seeming site. (Age: 5+)
From Spain (in Spanish) Benedetti, Mario (text) / Zabala, Javier (illus.) Árboles (Trees) Barcelona [et al.]: Libros del Zorro Rojo, 2012. –  p. (Series: Libros de cordel) ISBN 978-84-96509-99-3 Tree s Libros del Zorro Rojo presents another pearl of Spanish-language literature in the form of a picture book. It is based on a text of the famous Uruguayan author Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), which is taken from his 2008 publication »Vivir adrede« (Conscious living). In the style of a prose poem, Benedetti describes the beauty of trees, their agreeableness and modesty in a discreet, almost tender manner. Trees bear mute witness to the speechlessness that defines relations between humankind and nature. Spanish illustrator Javier Zabala has created airy, transparent pic-tures to accompany the text, using a mixed-media technique of ink, water colour, and paper collage. With a few lines, brush strokes, colour splotches, and abstract shapes he grows delicate, magical landscapes, which translate the subtle poetry of the text in a congenial manner. (Age: 6+)
From Taiwan Lin, Fangping (text) Lin, Xiaobei (illus.) Ai hua hua de shi(Painting with poetry) Taibei shi: Xin yi ji jin chu ban she (= Hsin Yi Publications), 2012. –  p. (Series: Wen xue jiang xi lie) ISBN 978-986-161-446-5 Chinese characters – Visual poetry – Poetry This charming book is filled with »poems that love to paint« – as the Chinese title reads. Chinese characters are arranged to create »concrete poetry«, visual depictions of the topics addressed. These images proliferate joyfully amid colourful drawings, while verbal images add even more layers of meaning. Chinese characters flutter through peach-hued pages, snacking on flowers, or swim past mermaids, who sweep blue oceans clean. Are these poems umbrellas or candy canes topped by mountain peaks? Are these mountains of verse a giant’s green fingers stretching towards the shining gold ring of sun? Are those drunken girls wearing shoes of poetry adorned with bows of red wine? The old idea of using the typography of a poem to shape its subject is realised here in most enchanting ways. (Age: 6+)
Valerie Worth, author of the “Small Poems” collections of free verse, received the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1991.
With pen and ink sketches by Natalie Babbitt, these small books are some of my favorite examples of the most beautiful free verse for children. Here's my copy (at left) of small poems published in 1972!
They almost seem like scientific observations in the most perfect, poetic language. Take “Garbage,” for instance (from All the Small Poems):
The stained, Sour-scented Bucket tips out Hammered-gold Orange rind
Eggshell ivory, Garnet coffee- Grounds, pearl Wand of bared Chicken bone:
Worked back soon To still more Curious jewelry Of chemical And molecule.
Contemporary Connections I’m so happy to report that a new compilation of Worth’s animal poems is out this year with wonderful paper illustrations by Steve Jenkins!
Worth, Valerie. 2013. Pug and Other Animal Poems. Ill. by Steve Jenkins. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
And pair it with a previous posthumous collection of Valerie's animal poems also illustrated by Steve Jenkins:
Worth, Valerie. 2007. Animal Poems. Ill. by Steve Jenkins. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Two lovely visual incarnations of her crisp and elegant poetry!
Gary Soto published A Fire in My Hands, the first major Latino poetry collection for young people in 1990.
Then in 1996, the first mainstream Latina poet for young people, Pat Mora, published Confetti: Poems for Children.
Contemporary Connections I am absolutely thrilled that we have so many new Latino/a voices writing poetry for young people today like Margarita Engle, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Francisco X. Alarcon, Jorge Argueta, for example. And more by Gary Soto and Pat Mora on a regular basis, of course. Check out these new titles by Latino/a poets coming out this year in 2013:
1. Ada, Alma Flor and Isabel F. Campoy. 2013. Yes! We Are Latinos. Ill. by David Diaz. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. 2. Argueta, Jorge. 2013. Tamalitos: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem. Ill. by Domi. Toronto: Groundwood. 3. Engle, Margarita. 2013. The Lightning Dreamer. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 4. Engle, Margarita. 2013. Mountain Dog. New York: Holt.
And don’t forget to mark your calendars for the annual celebration of El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) on April 30.
P.S. The all-knowing Lee Bennett Hopkins tells me that there was an earlier work of Latino poetry published for teens back in 1977: The Yellow Canary Whose Eye is So Black: Poems of Spanish Speaking Latin America edited and translated by Cheli Duran and published by Macmillan.
Paul Fleishman’s unique poetry book for two voices, Joyful Noise, received the Newbery medal in 1988. This is the second book of poetry to win the Newbery award since 1922. (Remember that Nancy Willard’s A Visit to William Blake’s Inn won in 1981.)
Reading poems for two voices is the most complex and challenging form of choral reading, in my opinion, but also a lot of fun. It takes a bit of practice, but is very powerful. Two individuals volunteer to practice and perform poems for two voices (often with overlapping lines). It can be effective with two groups, rather than with two individuals, but it does take practice. (Underline the lines that are spoken simultaneously to help cue the children. Be aware that they may be saying different words at the same time.)
Contemporary Connections More poetry books for reading with multiple voices:
Fleishman, Paul. 1985. I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices. New York: Harper & Row. Fleishman, Paul. 2000. Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. Franco, Betsy. 2009. Messing Around the Monkey Bars and other School Poems for Two Voices. Ill. by Jessie Hartland. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. Greenfield, Eloise. 2006. The Friendly Four. Ill. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. New York: HarperCollins. Harrison, David L. 2000. Farmer’s Garden: Rhymes for Two Voices. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2001. You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You; Very Short Stories to Read Together. New York: Little, Brown. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2004. You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together. New York: Little, Brown. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2005. You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You; Very Short Mother Goose Tales to Read Together. New York: Little, Brown. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2007. You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together. New York: Little, Brown. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2010. You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fables to Read Together. New York: Little, Brown. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 1988. Side by Side: Poems to Read Together. New York: Simon & Schuster. Singer, Marilyn. 2010. Mirror, Mirror. New York: Dutton. Singer, Marilyn. 2013. Follow, Follow. New York: Dutton.
Bilingual Poetry If you hunt, you can find poems that may not be intended for two voices but may be very effective delivered that way, particularly bilingual poetry collections with poems that appear in two languages. For example, Jennifer Clement’s poem “Arbol de Limon / Lemon Tree” appears in both Spanish and English (translated by Consuelo de Aerenlund) in Naomi Shihab Nye’s collection The Tree Is Older Than You Are. If you are a Spanish speaker, you can read the poem in Spanish, followed by a reading in English. Or you can ask a Spanish-speaking volunteer from the audience to read the Spanish version. Once the readers have taken turns presenting their versions of the poem, both read their versions simultaneously. Just be sure to encourage the readers to pause at the end of each line and to start the next line together. The effect is quite stunning. This can work with many bilingual collections of poetry like:
Ada, Alma Flor and Campoy, F. Isabel. 2011. Ten Little Puppies; Diez perritos. Rayo/HarperCollins. Alarcón, Francisco X. 2005. Poems to Dream Together/ Poemas para Sonar Juntos. New York: Lee & Low. Argueta, Jorge. 2012. Guacamole; Un poema para cocinar/ A Cooking Poem. Ill. by Margarita Sada. Toronto: Groundwood. Argueta, Jorge. 2013. Tamalitos: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem. Ill. by Domi. Toronto: Groundwood. Carlson, Lori M, comp. 2005. Red Hot Salsa; Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States. New York: Henry Holt. Cashman, Seamus. 2004. Something Beginning with P: New Poems from Irish Poets. Dublin: O’Brien Press. Henderson, Kathy. 2011. Hush, Baby, Hush! Lullabies from Around the World. Ill. by Pam Smy. Seattle: Frances Lincoln. Luján, Jorge. 2008. Colors! Colores! Ill. by Piet Grobler. Toronto: Groundwood. Mora, Pat. 1996. Uno Dos Tres/One, Two, Three. New York: Clarion.
Poet and author Georgia Heard published her seminal work about the teaching of poetry with young people, For the Good of the Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry in 1987. (My students and I STILL read and refer to that book.)
Contemporary Connections Georgia’s latest professional book provides guidance on poetry teaching AND the Common Core standards.
Heard, Georgia. 2013. Poetry Lessons to Meet the Common Core State Standards: Exemplar Poems with Engaging Lessons and Response Activities That Help Students Read, Understand and Appreciate Poetry. New York: Scholastic.
And her previous professional reference is also an excellent poetry resource: Heard, Georgia. 1999. Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Don’t miss her recent poetry anthologies either: Heard, Georgia. Ed. 2006 (reissued). This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. Heard, Georgia. Ed. 2009. Falling Down the Page; A Book of List Poems. New York: Roaring Brook. Heard, Georgia. Ed. 2012. The Arrow Finds its Mark: A Book of Found Poems. New York: Macmillan.
In 1983, Jack Prelutsky, himself a notable poet, compiled and published one of the most popular and bestselling contemporary anthologies of poetry for young people, The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. With 500+ poems organized in kid-friendly categories and illustrated in full color by the award-winning illustrator Arnold Lobel, this compendium is STILL in print and STILL popular with both kids and grown ups.
I remember looking at galleys of that book when Jack came to speak at a conference I was hosting in south Texas way back when. My baby girl spilled iced tea on the pages and I was mortified-- he simply renamed her, "Emily Tea-Knocker." (She is now a librarian herself and pursing a PhD!) That book will always have a special place in my family!
Prelutsky has published several other notable anthologies (Read-aloud Rhymes for the Very Young, The Beauty of the Beast, The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury), as well as an impressive body of his own work—it’s hard to believe that the still-hilarious The New Kid on the Block first appeared in 1984. I love that whole "series" illustrated by the droll and understated James Stevenson.
Contemporary Connections Jack Prelutsky was the first person to be selected as the Children’s Poet Laureate and continues to create appealing poetry for young people. This year’s contribution?
Prelutsky, Jack. 2013. Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems. New York: Greenwillow.
In 1982, John Ciardi received the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children and was the creator of one of the most beloved contemporary children’s poems of all time, “Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast” (according to Ann Terry’s study in the 1970’s). Here’s how that classic poem begins:
Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast By John Ciardi
Daddy fixed the breakfast. He made us each a waffle. It looked like gravel pudding. It tasted something awful.
From: You Read to Me, I'll Read to You. Illustrated by Edward Gorey. Philadelphia: Lippincott. Reprinted. New York: HarperTrophy, 1987.
John Ciardi’s smart and often sardonic poetry paved the way for the work of Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Douglas Florian, and many others-- and for much of the humor we still see in poetry for young people today.
Contemporary Connections Who writes like Ciardi (pronounced Chee-ardy)? My vote goes to current Children’s Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis who demonstrates a similar mastery of form, puns, irony, and surprise. Pat has several new books out this year, of course (he is SO productive!). Look for:
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2013. Face Bug: Poems. Photos by Frederic Siskind. Ill. by Kelly Murphy. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2013. World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You've Never Heard Of. Ill. by Anna Ruff. Somerville, MA. Candlewick Press.
And previously: Lewis, J. Patrick. 2006. Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009. The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse. Ill. by Serge Bloch. New York: Simon & Schuster/Atheneum. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009. Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year. Ill. by Ethan Long. New York: Little, Brown. Lewis, J. Patrick and Yolen, Jane. 2012. Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs. Ill. by Jeffrey Timmins. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2012. If You Were a Chocolate Mustache. Ill. by Matt Cordell. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Nancy Willard’s book, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, was the first work of poetry for children to receive the Newbery medal from the American Library Association in 1981.
Contemporary Connections Willard weaves together several poems to tell a story in picture book form. Multiple poems + one story line + fully illustrated = poem story picture book! That approach continues today with these contemporary examples.
Clifton, Lucille. 2001. One of the Problems of Everett Anderson. Henry Holt.
George, Kristine O’Connell. 2002. Little Dog and Duncan. Clarion.
George, Kristine O’Connell. 2009. Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. Clarion.
Greenfield, Eloise. 2011. The Great Migration: Journey to the North. Amistad/HarperCollins.
Grimes, Nikki. 2005. Danitra Brown, Class Clown. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Gunning, Monica. 2004. A Shelter In Our Car. Children’s Book Press.
Gunning, Monica. 2004. America, My New Home. Children’s Book Press.
Kobayashi, Issa. 2007. Today and Today. New York: Scholastic.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009. The House. Illus. by Roberto Innocenti. Minneapolis, MN: Creative Editions.
Medina, Jane. 2004. The Dream on Blanca’s Wall. Boyd’s Mill Press.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2009. Amiri and Odette: A Love Story. Scholastic.