Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Shedding Light on AFTER DARK

Today is my turn to participate in a "blog tour" for my friend, David L. Harrison's new book, After Dark. I asked David to share some back story about the writing of this new poetry collection and he was happy to oblige. Welcome, David!

David Harrison writes: After Dark is a collection of poems, with accompanying back notes, featuring creatures that stir about their business after the sun goes down. It’s my 97th book and set for publication on February 25. It is beautifully illustrated by Stephanie (Steph) Laberis. 

I formally presented the proposal to Mary Colgan, who was at that time my editor at Boyds Mills Press, on May 9, 2015. She chose it as her favorite from among half a dozen ideas we’d recently discussed in a phone call. 

But After Dark started long before 2015. After Dark has always been with me. It was with me when I was six years old, camping in a tent with my parents beside White Horse Lake in Arizona, listening to bears not so far away banging on metal trash cans in futile efforts to get a free meal. With me in third grade, camping in the back yard beside a sheet draped over the clothesline and illuminated from within so I could capture night moths that came to the light. With me as I walked in the dark up a streambed looking for frogs but catching a water moccasin instead. Later, much later, I wrote Goose Lake, a book about the lake behind the house where we’ve lived for thirty years. It included this passage.

Morning News
Dusk has just enough time to pull a blanket over the day crew before full dark summons the night shift. Toothy yawns and yearning bellies greet another evening of chance. At one time or another I’ve met all the players: foxes sniffing for hidden ducklings; skunk families strolling my yard, raccoons that should be arrested for repeatedly breaking into my attic; light-blinded opossums who lose lopsided duels with cars. Deer . . . coyotes . . . stray cats . . .  they’ve all appeared on the hooded stage between my back door and the lake. Their visits are rarely marked. Only snow gives them a slate on which to write their dramas. Even then they tell you no more than they must.

credit: Nathan Papes, Springfield News-Leader
So in some ways, After Dark is the book I was supposed to write all along. Maybe the first 96 books were warm-ups for this one. When Mary Colgan left Boyds Mills Press, Brittany Ryan took over. When Kane bought Boyds Mills Press, Rebecca Davis became my editor. And now, dear readers, it’s in your hands. I hope you like my cast of moonlight characters. 

David L. Harrison

More about David L. Harrison:
David L. Harrison’s 97 books for children and teachers have received dozens of honors, including Society of Midland Authors award for best children’s nonfiction book, 2016; Missouri Pioneer in Education Award; and Missouri Library Association’s Literacy Award. His work has been widely translated and anthologized more than 185 times. His poems have been set to music and sandblasted into a library sidewalk. He has been featured at hundreds of conferences, workshops, literature festivals, schools, and colleges. David holds two science degrees and two honorary doctorates of letters. He’s Drury University’s poet laureate and David Harrison Elementary School is named for him.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Hop to It!

Trumpets, please!

Right here, right now, we're issuing an invitation to submit poems for our next book, HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving, to be published later this year by our company Pomelo Books. This will be an anthology of approximately 75 poems that incorporate movement and we'd like you to submit a poem for consideration!

Some key elements:
--We're on a super-short deadline. We need to receive poems by March 31, 2020
--We aim to publish this book in August of this year
--Poems should be geared toward PreK - Grade 5 (short poems = better)
--Poems should be previously unpublished (not even included in blog posts yet)
--You'll retain the copyright in your poem (and will be free to use it elsewhere after publication)
--Please understand that we'll have room for only ~75 poems, so we'll have to say no to hundreds of excellent poems (an unfortunate reality for all our books).

We believe that welcoming poem submissions from everyone who would like to have a poem considered for this book is an inclusive approach that will yield a wonderful variety of high-quality poems. Although we currently work with nearly 200 poets whom we adore, we pride ourselves on identifying and promoting new poets-- and we never know who will be able to "deliver" the best poems for a particular topic or need.

So, if you are a poet who loves to hop, jump, twist, twiddle, spin, shrug, reach-- or even sit very, very still, stretching and breathing slowly-- please read on!

What we envision is a book of poems that teachers, librarians, parents, grandparents, and leaders in summer camps and afterschool programs can use to help children "get the wiggles out." We'd like many poems to encourage movements that can be done while seated in a chair, both to be inclusive and to fit those moments when jumping around the room isn't practical. If the poems can also incorporate some poetry and language elements (such as simile or alliteration or capitalization or punctuation), that's even better. Here's a list for some inspiration:

What is most important, though, is that these poems be terrific examples of rich imagery, musical language, and relevance to children. While it's so difficult to evaluate this, it is very easy to recognize. We all know it when we read an outstanding poem, right? To see what we mean, take a look at some of our favorite poems at the Pomelo Books Pinterest page  and then, if you're inspired, Hop to It . . . and write a poem!

Submit a poem at PomeloSubmissions@gmail.com.

Now head on over to TeacherDance where Linda is hosting our Poetry Friday fun. See you there!

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Oppa, Gangnam Style!

Eight years ago, seventy-six poets joined us in a project that aimed to make it easy for K-5 teachers to share poetry with their students for five minutes each Friday. That was 2012, the year we created The Poetry Friday Anthology K-5. One edition of the book was designed to help teachers integrate poetry lessons with the CCSS (Common Core State Standards). Another edition of the book focused on the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).

Immediately after these books came out, middle school teachers and librarians asked us to create middle school versions. In 2013, we published The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, again with one CCSS edition and one Texas TEKS edition.

To give you some context, the hit song in 2012 was "Gangnam Style." In 2013, the second Hunger Games movie, "Catching Fire," had just been released. That was the year that Beyonce admitted to lip-synching the national anthem at President Obama's inauguration. (We still loved it, anyway.) It feels like such a long time ago, doesn't it?

That's how we're feeling now about those books with the big sun on the cover. We love them, but they remind us of a time that has passed. Many states have left the CCSS behind, moving from the Common Core to standards that might still be very similar but have different names and code numbers) or fewer standards overall (which we think is a good thing). The Poetry TEKS are still in full force, but have been slightly revised since 2012. And so we believe it's time to say goodbye to those books. May 31, 2020 will be the last day of their availability on Amazon. You might be able to find them during the summer at QEPBooks.com or some of our other distributors or independent booksellers, but probably not for long after that.

The good news is that we're going to keep on publishing and promoting our other books in The Poetry Friday Anthology series, and in the Poetry Friday Power Book series, and also our title for administrators, GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud.

Here's a summary, in case any of these books are new to you:

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science is an NSTA Recommends book that comes in two editions: a K-5 Teacher/Librarian Edition and an illustrated student edition with extra bonus poems, The Poetry of Science. A STEM poem from these books is featured monthly in our column in the NSTA elementary journal Science and Children, along with a Take 5! mini-lesson that gives teachers and librarians a quick ready-made presentation on a STEM topic such as lab safety or ecosystems or 3-D printing.

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, an ILA Notable Book for a Global Society, is available in both Teacher/Librarian and Student editions. A neat feature: you'll find a picture book pairing (recommendation) for each of the 150+ poems in the book. And each of the poems is presented in both English and Spanish versions. If you don't want to share the Spanish versions, you can ignore them; but if you want to highlight some of them by playing audio readings by award-winning writer David Bowles and some of his UTRGV students, listen for free at SoundCloud. https://soundcloud.com/user-862117714/sets/bilingual-performances

Moving onto our Poetry Friday Power Book series, which focuses on building the reading-writing connection and playing with words: 

You Just Wait, an NCTE Poetry Notable, is an interactive writing journal that weaves 12 anchor poems (by poets such as Margarita Engle and Joseph Bruchac) together with 24 poems by Janet Wong, told in the voices of three teen characters: Paz, a star soccer player; Joe, a basketball player with limited skills but big dreams; and Lucesita, who loves movies and food.

Here We Go, an NCTE Poetry Notable and an NNSTOY Social Justice Book, is an interactive writing journal with anchor poets that include Naomi Shihab Nye and David Bowles. Janet Wong created 4 characters for this book, children who want to change the world—starting with a food drive, walkathon, and school garden.

Pet Crazy, for youngest readers and writers, includes anchor poets Laura Shovan and Padma Venkatraman and 3 characters created by Janet Wong: Kristy, who loves cats; Ben, who wishes he could have a dog; and Daniel, who loves all animals but doesn't feel a need to own a pet. This book has a Hidden Language Skills section with poetry and general language skills (such as capitalization and spelling).

Finally, create a school culture of positivity with the morning announcement poems-- and Did You Know? Intros-- found in GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud, featuring well-known poets such as Carole Boston Weatherford and Jack Prelutsky, newer poets such as Traci Sorell and Xelena Gonzalez, and educators who are poets, too, such as Carol Varsalona and Catherine Flynn.

PHEW! That was a lot of information, we know. So visit this blog again next week for an additional very exciting piece of news! A big Poetry Friday THANK YOU to all the poets who took a risk with us on those very first books and all the teachers and librarians who have used, loved, and shared those books. We hope they have helped you infuse more poetry into your routine, build your confidence with strategies for sharing poetry, and gotten the young people you love excited about poetry!

Now, it's time for more Poetry Friday fun! The lovely Laura Purdie Salas is hosting all our postings today, so go there now!  

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Poetry among the ALA Awards

I was in Philadelphia last year for the American Library Association midwinter conference and was in the room on Monday when they announced all the big awards-- such a fun, electric morning! And as usual, I like to celebrate the works of poetry that are among the award winners. So, here you go: 

John Newbery Medal is given to the most outstanding contribution to children's literature.
Newbery Honor Books: 
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers)

Randolph Caldecott Medal is given to the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award Winner:
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Michael L. Printz Award is for excellence in literature written for young adults
Printz Honor Book: 
Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes (Wordsong/Boyds Mills & Kane)

Odyssey Award goes to the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.
Odyssey Honor Audiobooks:
Redwood and Ponytail produced by Hachette Audio, written by K.A. Holt and narrated by Cassandra Morris and Tessa Netting
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga produced by Live Oak Media, written by Traci Sorell and narrated by Lauren Hummingbird, Agalisiga (Choogie) Mackey, Ryan Mackey, Traci Sorell, Tonia Weavel

The Pura Belpré Awards honor a Latino writer and illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.
The Pura Belpré Illustrator Award
Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster)

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award is for the most distinguished informational book for children.
Sibert Winner:
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Roaring Brook Press) 
Sibert Honor Book:
Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes (Wordsong/Boyds Mills & Kane)

The American Indian Youth Literature award is announced in even years and established to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. The award is administered by the American Indian Library Association (AILA), an affiliate of the American Library Association. 
Picture Book Honors: 
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard (Seminole Nation, Mekusukey Band), illustrated by Juana Martínez-Neal (Peruvian-American) (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan)
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Frané Lessac (Charlesbridge) 
At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva/Scots-Gaelic) (Kokila/Penguin Random House)

[This one is NOT poetry, but I have to include it, because this is the award committee that I was fortunate to chair this year. I had a lovely committee and we are so pleased with our choice.] 
Children’s Literature Legacy Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children through books that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children’s lives and experiences. The 2020 winner is Kevin Henkes, whose award-winning works include Kitten’s First Full Moon which won the Caldecott Award in 2005 and The Year of Billy Miller, recipient of a Newbery Honor in 2014. In addition, Henkes has received two Geisel honors, two Caldecott honors and a second Newbery honor.

Now head on over to Jone's place where she is gathering all the Poetry Friday goodness. 

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Sneak Peek list for 2020

It's time again to share my "sneak peek" list of the poetry for young people that is due to be published this year. As usual, please let me know about any titles that I may have missed or any errors I have made here. I've made a broad sweep and included anthologies, poetry picture books, and novels in verse. I've even included books that gather poems alongside other things like stories and art. But I have not include rhyming picture books (because there are so many of them!). I'll revise and expand this list all year long, so check back any time. There's a link to this list in the sidebar too. (I can't believe I've been creating a "sneak peek" list for more than TEN YEARS now! Wow!) Here's to another year full of wonderful work! 

2020 Sneak Peek List

  1. Abery, Julie. 2020. Yusra Swims. Ill. by Sally Deng. Minneapolis: Creative Editions.
  2. Acevedo, Elizabeth. 2020. Clap When You Land. New York: HarperCollins. 
  3. Arndt, Michael. 2020. Thoughts Are Air. Ill. by Irena Freitas. New York: Dial. 
  4. Atkins, Jeannine. 2020. Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math. New York: Atheneum. 
  5. Beck-Jacobson, Darlene. 2020. Wishes, Dares and How to Stand Up to a Bully. Berkeley, CA: Creston.
  6. Berne, Jennifer. 2020. On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson. Ill. by Becca Stadtlander. San Francisco: Chronicle.  
  7. Bogart, Jo Ellen. 2020. Little Blue House Beside the Sea. Ill. by Carme Lemniscates. Thomaston, ME: Tilbury House. 
  8. Bowling, Dusti. 2020. The Canyon’s Edge. New York: Little, Brown. 
  9. Bradley, Jeanette; Dawson, Keila V. and Metcalf, Lindsay H. Eds. 2020. Taking the Mic. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
  10. Brantley-Newton, Vanessa. 2020. Just Like Me. New York: Knopf. 
  11. Browne, Mahogany L. 2020. Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice. New York: Roaring Brook Press. 
  12. Bulion, Leslie. 2020. Amphibian Acrobats. Ill. by Robert Meganck. Atlanta: Peachtree. 
  13. Caprara, Rebecca. 2020. Worst-Case Collin. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. 
  14. Chang, Victoria. 2020. Love, Love. New York: Sterling. 
  15. Culley, Betty. 2020. Three Things I Know Are True. New York: HarperCollins. 
  16. Davies, Jacqueline. 2020. Bubbles…UP! New York: HarperCollins. 
  17. Donwerth-Chikamatsu, Annie. 2020. Beyond Me. New York: Caitlyn Diouhy/Atheneum.
  18. DuBois, Caroline Brooks. 2020. The Places We Sleep. New York: Holiday House. 
  19. Elliott, David. 2020. In the Woods. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
  20. Elliott, Zetta. 2020. Say Her Name. Ill. by Love is Wise. New York: Jump at the Sun. 
  21. Engle, Margarita. 2020. A Song of Frutas. Ill. by Sara Palacios. New York: Atheneum. 
  22. Engle, Margarita. 2020. With a Star in My Hand. Ill. by Rubén Darío. New York: Atheneum. 
  23. Fipps, Lisa. 2020. Starfish. New York: Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books. 
  24. Frost, Helen. 2020. All He Knew. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 
  25. Frost, Helen. 2020. Blue Daisy. Ill. by Rob Shepperson. New York: Holiday House.
  26. Gansworth, Eric. 2020. Apple: Skin to the Core. New York: Levine Querido. 
  27. Gianferrari, Maria. 2020. Whoo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story. Ill. by Jonathan Voss. New York: Putnam. 
  28. Grehan, Meg. 2020. The Deepest Breath. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
  29. Harrison, David. 2020. After Dark. Ill. by Stephanie Laberis. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills & Kane/Wordsong.   
  30. Hill, Skip. 2020. How to Tie a Shoe. Oklahoma City, OK: Penny Candy. 
  31. Holt, K. A. 2020. Ben Bee and theTeacher Griefer. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. 
  32. Hopkins, Ellen. 2020. Closer to Nowhere. New York: Putnam.
  33. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2020. Construction People. Ill. by Ellen Shi. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills & Kane/Wordsong.   
  34. Iloh, Candace. 2020. Ada. New York: Dutton. 
  35. James, Nancy Johnson. 2020. Brown. Ill. by Constance Moore. Cameron Kids. 
  36. Jensen, Kelly. Ed. 2020. Body Talk. New York: Algonquin. 
  37. Johnson, Aimee Hagerty. 2020. The Fir and I. Boston: Page Street Kids. 
  38. Johnson, Angela. 2020. A Girl Like Me. Ill. by Nina Crews. Brookfield, CT: Lerner/Millbrook. 
  39. Jules, Jacqueline. 2020. Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence. Ill. by Iris Deppe. Chicago: Albert Whitman. 
  40. Latham, Irene and Waters, Charles. 2020. Dictionary for a Better World. Ill. by Mehrdokht Amini. Brookfield, CT: Lerner. 
  41. Latham, Irene. 2020. Nine: A Book of Nonet Poems. Ill. by Amy Huntington. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. 
  42. Latham, Irene. 2020. This Poem Is a Nest. Ill. by Johanna Wright. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills & Kane/Wordsong.   
  43. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2020. Always, Jackie. Ill. by John Thompson. Minneapolis: Creative Editions. 
  44. Lowry, Lois. 2020. On the Horizon. Ill. by Kenard Pak. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
  45. Lyon, George Ella. 2020. Voices of Justice. Ill. by Jennifer Potter. New York: Holt. 
  46. Madan, Vikram. 2020. A Hatful of Dragons: And 13.8 Billion Other Funny Poems. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills & Kane/Wordsong.  
  47. Maddox, Marjorie. 2020. I'm Feeling Blue, Too. Ill. by Philip Huber. Wipf & Stock.
  48. Maddox, Marjorie. 2020. Inside Out: Poems on Reading and Writing Poems. Kelsay Books. 
  49. Maizes, Sarah. 2020. Atticus Caticus. Ill. by Kara Kramer. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
  50. Marroquin, M.L. 2020. Hair. Ill. by Tonya Engel. Boston: Page Street Kids. 
  51. Mateer, Trista. 2020. When the Stars Wrote Back. New York: Random House. 
  52. Moore, Clement C. 2020. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Ill. by Loren Long. New York: HarperCollins. 
  53. Murphy, Sally. 2020. Worse Things
  54. Nye, Naomi Shihab. 2020. Cast Away: Poems for Our Time. New York: Greenwillow.
  55. Robillard, Evie. 2020. A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Ill. by Rachel Katstaller. New York: Kids Can Press. 
  56. Salazar, Aida. 2020. The Land of the Cranes. New York: Scholastic. 
  57. Keller, Shana. 2020. Fly, Firefly. Ill. by Ramona Kaulitzki. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear. 
  58. Sidman, Joyce. 2020. Hello, Earth! Poems to Our Planet. Ill. by Mira Asiain Lora. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  59. Silverman, Buffy. 2020. On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook.
  60. Singer, Marilyn. 2020. Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration, and Cake. Ill. by Marjorie Priceman. New York: Dial. 
  61. Slade, Suzanne. 2020. Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Ill. by Cozbi A. Cabrera. New York: Abrams. 
  62. Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Ed. 2020. [Untitled powwow anthology]. New York: HarperCollins. 
  63. Solter, Sonja. 2020. When You Know What I Know. New York: Little, Brown. 
  64. Stein, Gertrude. 2020. A Little Called Pauline. Ill. by Bianca Stone. Oklahoma City, OK: Penny Candy. 
  65. Stevenson, Robert Louis. 2020. Where Go the Boats? Ill. by Chris Sheban. Minneapolis: Creative Editions. 
  66. Stohler, Lauren. 2020. The Best Worst Poet Ever. New York: Atheneum.
  67. Tellegen, Toon. 2020. I Wish. Ill. by Ingrid Godon. Translated by David Colmer. Brooklyn, NY: Elsewhere Editions. 
  68. VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig. 2020. Write! Write! Write! Ill. by Ryan O’Rourke. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills & Kane/Wordsong.   
  69. Vecchione, Patrice. 2020. My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Poetry Writing Resource for Speaking In and Speaking Out. New York: Seven Stories/Triangle Square. 
  70. Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom. Ill. by Michele Wood. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
  71. Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. By and By, Charles Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music. Ill. by Bryan Collier. New York: Atheneum. 
  72. Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Ill. by Frank Morrison. New York: Atheneum. 
  73. White, Dianne. 2020. Green on Green. Ill. by Felicita Sala. New York: Beach Lane Books. 
  74. White, Dianne. 2020. Walls. Ill. by Barroux. Toronto: Owl Kids. 
  75. Whitman, Walt. 2020. The World Below the Brine. Ill. by Jim Carroll. Minneapolis: Creative Editions. 
  76. Wiles, Deborah. 2020. Kent State. New York: Scholastic.
  77. Wolf, Allan. 2020. The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: Voices from the Donner Party. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
  78. Yolen, Jane. 2020. Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings. Ill. by Christine Davenier. New York: Macmillan/Henry Holt/Ottaviano. 
Here's a little bonus video featuring the book covers of many of these new and forthcoming poetry titles for 2020. Can't wait to read them all!

Don't miss the rest of the Poetry Friday fun at Sally Murphy's blog. Sally, I am thinking about you and all the people (and animals) in Australia struggling with the awful fires. 

Friday, January 03, 2020

Cybils 2019 Poetry Finalists

It's a new year and time to celebrate lists of best books, favorite books, and just-plain-awesome books for young people. I love participating in the Cybils award, in particular, because they focus on POETRY specifically and because it gives me an opportunity to dialogue about poetry with other bloggers and lovers of poetry! This year, I served as a judge for the poetry finalists and we were charged with winnowing the wonderful field of poetry for young people published last year down to SEVEN books. Not easy, but fun to read, reread, and discuss. You can see the list of ALL the nominated poetry titles here. But here are the SEVEN finalists we chose collectively. The final ONE winner will be announced on Feb. 14. Stay tuned. 

Cybils Poetry Finalists

Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems
by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez
Henry Holt

Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience 
Edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond
Triangle Square

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir 
by Nikki Grimes

Other Words for Home
by Jasmine Warga
Balzer + Bray

by Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking Books for Young Readers

Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer
by Elizabeth Steinglass, illustrated by Edson Ike

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems 
by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Richard Jones
Candlewick Press

My fantastic fellow judges for the Cybils Poetry Finalists:
Anastasia Suen, #kidlit Book of the Day
Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids
Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect
Matt Esenwine, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche

And don't miss ALL the wonderful poetry published in 2019! There were so many other fantastic works to read and share. Revisit my 2019 list of poetry here.

Now head on over to Carol's Corner for more Poetry Friday love!
Happy new year, y'all. My "sneak peek" list of forthcoming 2020 poetry titles should be up next week! 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Chicago Treasure

Have y'all seen this creative and wacky book, Chicago Treasure? It's a collection of fairy tale-themed poems and short stories all focused around actual children out and about in Chicago illustrated in vivid color photographs. Here's the descriptive blurb:

Chicago has many treasures. The Magnificent Mile and Wrigley Field, wonderful public art and parks, beautiful bridges and skylines. But the true heart and the real treasure of the city are its children. 

This book is devoted to Chicago's children. Come along as they travel to worlds within worlds, becoming storybook characters who follow the Yellow Brick Road, sip tea in Wonderland, tame a tiger, live in a shoe, climb a magic beanstalk to bring home a golden-egg-laying hen, turn a frog into a prince, meet fairies and dragons. 

Continue as they step into painted canvases to inhabit scenes from other times and places. After climbing down from those framed worlds, they explore the city, high-fiving the victorious Chicago Bears, joining penguins at the theater, and leaping across State Street Bridge aboard African impalas. 

The kids are the story. The book is their adventure. Its door swings open. . . 

For kids of all ages. 168 pages and 150 illustrations. Unlimited dreams.

Here are a few spreads from the book to give you a flavor:

 One of my favorite elements is the section featuring children incorporated into works of fine art. Here's an idea for kids and classrooms to try themselves!

The classic stories and poems are rewritten in contemporary language to match the contemporary art. And did you see how diverse the children are? Such a fun and lovely aspect of the book. What a fun idea to invite children to celebrate their town or city, to put children themselves in the photographs, and to cosplay nursery rhymes and fairy tales in this contemporary context. 

Now head on over to Today's Little Ditty where Michelle is hosting our Poetry Friday fun!

Friday, November 08, 2019


It's time for another behind-the-scenes glimpse at a new 2019 poetry book for my EXTRA EXTRA feature. This time, poet and artist Calef Brown has been kind enough to share a bunch of poems from previous works that helps set the stage for his newest book, UP VERSES DOWN. Plus, he shares a glimpse into a very personal work-in-progress. Check it out! 

I’m happy to be here on Extra Extra! 

Since my first book was published in 1998, I’ve especially enjoyed writing poems inspired by various kinds of mash-ups – combinations of ideas, characters and words. Here are a few examples :  

Tattlesnake,  from Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers, Houghton Mifflin 2000:

An odd little creature
that every kid fears
is a snake
with unusual stripes
and big ears.
It spies on you,
tells on you,
then disappears.
Leaving the house
with your parents in tears.
Now because of that snake,
and one small mistake,
you’re in trouble 
for sixty or seventy years.

Allicatter Gatorpillar from Flamingos on the Roof,  Houghton Hifflin 2006:

Allicatter Gatorpillar
chews a leaf
shows his teeth.

Allicatter Gatorpillar
sings a song
then he’s gone.

Allicatter Gatorpillar
by and by
my oh my!
Allibutter Gatorfly

The Vumpire, and The Ooompachupa Loompacabra from Hallowilloween, Houghton Hifflin 2010:

The Oompachupa Loompacabra

The Oompachupa Loompacabra
roams the western plains.
On moonless nights
it captures goats
and gobbles up their brains.
“It lures its prey
with chocolate bars,”
a local man explains,
“horns and hooves
and candy wrappers –
little else remains.”

The Vumpire

He only works night games.
His signals are creepy.
When managers argue,
he makes them feel sleepy.
He never appears
in the photos we snap.
A widow’s peak peeks out
from under his cap
when he takes a nap
in the dugout.
His eyes bug out
and he hisses like a frightened cat
at the sight of a broken bat.
How weird is that?
Once, while waiting on deck,
I caught him staring
at the back of the catcher’s neck.

My book Hypnotize a Tiger – Poems About Just About Everything, Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt 2015  included a section of portmanteau poems called “Word Crashes”. This one is called Yak and Woody:

Guess which one
will soon become

My latest effort,  Up Verses Down – Poems, Paintings and Serious Nonsense, is an 80 page picture book with 55 poems published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt this past June. 
When I first gathered together a group of poems for this collection,  there were a couple that fell into the mash-up category, but were different than any of my poems that had appeared in other books, in that the subjects were real people (plus one fictional monster).

The first one is called The Wright Brothers Grimm. 

The Wright Brothers Grimm

Orville and Jacob and Wilbur and Wilhelm
were known as The Wright Brothers Grimm.
They plotted a flight 
through a forest at night.
Their chances seemed frightfully slim.
The first to attack them 
were witches and trolls.
They flew from the branches
and hopped out of holes.
The Brothers, as pilots,
were nimble and deft.
They zigged to the right
and they zagged to the left.
The monsters that rushed them
and fiendishly laughed
by double propellers 
were quartered and halved.
Down swooped a dragon
determined to strike.
The plane did a loop
and The Brothers yelled “Psych!”
At the edge of the forest was one final tree.
As the foursome flew close to it, 
what did they see?
A passel of spectators
out on a limb,
applauding their heroes –
The Wright Brothers Grimm.
I liked the idea of these four characters piloting The Wright Flyer through a fairytale forest full of witches, trolls and monsters. 

The second was a silly poem called Ben Franklinstein;

Ben Franklinstein

Ben Franklinstein,
once like a kind uncle to us,
is now a giant homunculus,
and quite frightening!
Brought back to life
by kite lightning.

The other poems in the collection naturally fell into broad categories – including a Miscellany section,  but these two didn’t fit with the others, again, because they dealt with actual individuals in a way that I hadn’t approached before. I decided to write some more that were ridiculous takes on real people – historical figures and other famous types. Here are two:

Albert E.

A now-famous genius
when only a tot,
was partial to numbers
and math, quite a lot.
His parents encouraged
their smart little guy.
His nickname?
Albert Einszweidrei.

Moz & Bee

Mozart, in truth,
was a wolfgangly youth,
with a neck like a baby giraffe.
A musical stickler. 
An ivory tickler.
He loved to make elephants laugh.
Beethoven too–
he knew what to do
to encourage a pachyderm giggle.
He danced on his toes
while a tune he composed
was performed with a squirm and a wriggle.

Despite doing some initial sketches, at this point it was clear that these poems, and this approach, wasn’t right for Up Verses Down. Aside from being different from my other work, they posed questions about how I might expand on this concept of using historical and cultural figures in a kind of gentle to pithy satire. I feel comfortable having a bit of snarky nonsensical fun at the expense of notable white male European and American subjects, but not anyone outside of that. After mulling it over for a while, I thought I would foreground that constraint, and maybe this could just be a personal project done for my own amusement. So, over the past couple years, in spare moments,  I wrote a bunch more in this vein, and compiled them into a collection of 26 poems titled: 

I try to make my picture books appeal to folks of all ages, but this was a first for me – a collection specifically aimed at adults (although there is nothing inappropriate for older kids and teenagers who may also appreciate it). I approached writing the rest of the poems with a similar process to the way I employ rhyme and wordplay in my children’s books, but aimed at a different audience. Perhaps that audience is just me. As with the examples above, they spin off nonsensical scenarios involving historical and notable figures from various eras. From ancient history to pop culture. From Nostradamus to Sid Vicious. The “And some who never were” part of the subtitle refers to a few fictional dudes who also pop up in the collection, including the afore-referenced Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, Dorian Gray and  Ebenezer Scrooge. They are “about” the subjects to various degrees, including not at all,  but are mostly just spun out of associative wordplay and a particular kind of absurdist and obtuse satire. 
Here are a few of my favorites:

The House of Nostradamus

No one, 
as a prognosticator,
has a legacy greater
than Nostradamus,
who made his offspring promise
to refer to their home
in a reverent tone
as “The Nostradomicile”.
They refused and were evicted.
This was all predicted.

René and Friends

René Descartes  
first got his start
as a sitcom songwriter.
He would strum a guitar
and sip strong cider,
until, enraptured,
he totally captured
the vibe of the show.
A consummate pro.
This is his opus 
that all of us know,
(or most of us do):

I’ll be, 
therefore, you.

Vic V.

Sid's brother - Vic Vicious,
despite being fictitious,
was known to kiss pigeons 
and lick fishes.

Pablo Goes Low

Pablo Picasso
was no basso profundo.
He sang for fun, though,
and once hit a note so low
with his a cappella group
it made a fella poop. 

Mea Draculpa

My behavior was feckless.
It was impromptu.
Very reckless.
Sorry I chomped you.

And lastly, the author of Twelfth Night channels (or should I say chunnels) the author of Naked Lunch:

Dig the Bard

William S. burrows 
and tunnels away.
Masterful digging,
I do have to say.
A noble endeavor
that, unlike a play,
will serve every citizen
day after day.
People will travel
and go where they may.
He started in Dover.
His goal is Calais.

I’ve started on some sketches, and will be illustrating the collection with black and white ink wash drawings. What happens after that, I’m not sure, but it’s been fun so far. 

Thank you Sylvia, for inviting me to share some of my nonsense on Extra Extra!

Sylvia; Thank YOU, Calef, for sharing so generously! It's always fascinating to me to see how a poet AND artist works and the decisions you make along the way. It's so cool to see BOTH poems and illustrations that you decided NOT to use in the final book. And it's interesting to see how those "outtakes" lead to yet another project! 

Now head on over to Live Your Poem where the lovely poet Irene Latham is gathering all our Poetry Friday posts!