Wednesday, April 08, 2020

"Thankful" by Traci Sorell

Here's another mini movie created by Brittnee D. featuring the poem "Thankful" by Traci Sorell from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Guest post: Vikram Madan

Vikram Madan is an up-and-coming poet with a new book out this spring: A Hatful of Dragons. Vikram was born in India and lives in Seattle, started out as an engineer, and now is an artist and writer-- what transitions, right? I'm lucky to participate in a blog tour highlighting his new collection-- full of humorous, zany poetry sure to be a hit with kids! Here, Vikram share a look at how he got started writing poetry for kids-- honest, inspiring, and informative!

How this book came to be
I have been writing poetry and drawing cartoons since I was very young, but did not think of combining the two until I encountered Shel Silverstein’s work as an adult. 
My early forays with submitting my self-illustrated poems for publication met with universal rejection. At one point I even sent some work to Jack Prelutsky who liked it enough to introduce me to his editor, but she too demurred, saying that it was “too hard to publish an unknown poet”. These consistent rejections convinced me to eventually try self-publishing, resulting in my first poetry collection, ‘The Bubble Collector’(2013), at which point I learnt that distributing and marketing a book is much harder than writing it! 
By 2015, I had put together a second collection of poems (working title: ‘I Met a Man with Twenty Heads’) but was hesitant to self-publish again. Around that time I had a major mural project fall apart due to a contract disagreement (my ‘day job’ is ‘visual artist’) and I suddenly found myself with free time on my hands. I decided to use that time to try finding a literary agent. Between distributing a self-published book and querying agents, the latter seemed less painful!  
In the past, I had targeted agents randomly. This time I decided to be a little ‘smarter’. Every week Publisher’s Weekly sends out a Children’s Bookshelf newsletter. I started harvesting agent names from the ‘Rights Report’ section of the newsletter, with the assumption that agents placing books were both active and successful. I would then look up their submission policies and query anyone who did not explicitly refuse poetry submissions. 
After literally dozens and dozens of queries over a period of months, one agent, Rosemary Stimola at Stimola Literary Studios, expressed interest, liked the manuscript, and signed me on. It took Rosemary another year to find an interested editor, Rebecca Davis at Boyds Mills & Kane. Rebecca took the time to distill my 150-page manuscript into a chiseled 64-page proposal and by the time we signed a contract, it was already 2017. The book was scheduled for publication in 2020 and we started working on it in late 2018, at which point it took me a whole year to get the words and illustrations up to the high standards of my editors.
Looking back, if that mural project hadn’t fallen apart, or Rosemary not signed me on, I would have probably ended up self-publishing a poetry collection, but it would not have looked like, or even been half as fun as, ‘A Hatful of Dragons’. I am very grateful to Rosemary Stimola, Rebecca Davis, and Barbara Grzeslo (Art Director and Book Designer) at Boyds Mills & Kane for helping make this book what it is!   

Here, Vikram provides manuscript pages that show early and near-final versions of the book in process:

Next, here's Vikram performing one of the poems from A Hatful of Dragons, "Fifty Ukuleles"--- while playing a red ukulele and SINGING the poem (and I LOVE singing poems!):  

Sylvia: Thank you, Vikram, for sharing this fascinating back-story and art. We look forward to a "hatful" of hilarious poetry from you!

Monday, April 06, 2020

"School Bake Sale" by Elaine Magliaro

Here's another mini movie created by Emily C. featuring the poem "School Bake Sale" by Elaine Magliaro from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Sunday, April 05, 2020

"Make a Joyful Noise" by B J Lee

Here's another mini movie created by Kathleen C. featuring the poem "Make a Joyful Noise" by B J Lee from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015). Enjoy! 

Saturday, April 04, 2020

"How to Make a Friend" by Jane Heitman Healy

Here's another mini movie created by Alex A. featuring the poem "How to Make a Friend" by Jane Heitman Healy from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015). Click on the link below:

"How to Make a Friend" by Jane Heitman Healy

Friday, April 03, 2020

Guest post: Nikki Grimes

Photo credit: Aaron Lemen
I'm so happy to share my blog space with another poet for a guest post! The award-winning poet Nikki Grimes has a new book out in May and I thought it would be lovely to get a bit of back-story on it. I love what she has to say about representation here and I think you will too. So, please welcome Nikki Grimes and her new book, Southwest Sunrise (Bloomsbury, 2020), illustrated by the amazing Wendell Minor.

Nikki's bio: "New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Award, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include the much-honored books Garvey's Choice, ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin's Notebook, Talkin' About Bessie, Dark Sons, Words with Wings, and The Road to Paris. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California."

Nikki writes:
Southwest Sunrise, my newest picture book, illustrated by Wendell Minor, is about to make its way into the world. I love how Kirkus closed its starred review of the book. "How glorious: a story about a black child experiencing the outdoors that is beautiful in every way." What's so special about that sentence is how it hints at my core reason for writing this book.

Too often, the children's books featuring black characters that make it through the publishing machine represent a single story. That story is set against an urban landscape, with a family that is either broken, dysfunctional, or both, and centers around some stereotypical socio-economic problem that the child must overcome, or be rescued from. In fact, such stories are often referred to as "problem books." Then there are, of course, slave narratives, black biographies, and books chronicling civil rights issues—all of which are important. That said, are they the only stories there are to tell? Do black children not have experiences outside of this narrow framework? Of course they do! There are black children from strong families with happy homes, children growing up in the suburbs, in rural areas, and gathering eggs on their family's farms. They call ranches home, live in beach cities, even overseas. And there are black children whose daily lives and imaginations are fueled by engagement with Nature. Where are those stories? It's high time we see more of them, and that's one of the reasons I wrote this book.

Southwest Sunrise is a story in poems about Jayden, a boy suddenly transplanted from New York City to the wide-open spaces of New Mexico. This move was his parent's idea, and Jayden's not too happy about leaving his friends, and his city, behind.

Too old to cry myself to sleep,
I hide behind my baseball cap,
close my eyes, and pout
all the way from New York
to New Mexico,
mad about moving to a place 
of shadows.
That's all I see when we land.

Why are we here?  
What's so great about
New Mexico?

Like it or not, this is Jayden's new home, so he takes the field guide his mother hands him at the breakfast table, and steps outside to explore.  

I shiver from the silence
unbroken by
the familiar sound of sirens—
but not for long.
A few yards down the road,
I pick up the mad chatter
of winged gossips
passing secrets
from one unfamiliar tree to another.
The guidebook calls them
piñon trees 
Little by little, Jayden discovers prehistoric looking lizards, flowers in flaming colors he's never seen, and unfamiliar species of birds like ravens, and magpies.

Someone should tell these
flying chatterboxes
magpies are beautiful
when their beaks are still,
when they sail on air
and write across the sky
with the long black tips
of their tails.

Jayden misses New York City's skyscrapers, but the red rock outcroppings all around show him that New Mexico has skyscrapers of its own.

What's so great about New Mexico? Read Southwest Sunrise and find out.

Sylvia: Thanks so much, Nikki, for sharing this glimpse of your new book. Living in Texas, I've been to New Mexico many times and I love it too-- especially the landscape. White Sands is one of my favorite places on the planet! Can't wait to get my hands on this book in May!

Next, head on over to My Juicy Little Universe where poet and teacher Heidi Mordhorst is hosting our Poetry Friday fun.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

"In the Life of a Substitute" by Lydia Breiseth

Here's another mini movie created by Elaine A. featuring the poem "In the Life of a Substitute" by Lydia Breiseth from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

"Bilingual/Bilingüe" by Alma Flor Ada

For Poetry Month this year, I'm featuring a variety of things, including guest posts for new, forthcoming poetry books and mini movies my graduate students created to bring individual poems to life. Here's the first one, a movie for the poem "Bilingual/Bilingüe" by Alma Flor Ada created by Mandy A. (It features the poem in English, but it's also available in Spanish in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations.) Enjoy! 

"Bilingual/Bilingüe" by Alma Flor Ada 

Friday, March 20, 2020

TLA Virtual Poetry Round Up

As you probably know, the annual conference of the Texas Library Association was cancelled--like so many other events-- due to the coronavirus outbreak we are all facing. It's always a great conference, so it's disappointing for all of us, but I'm especially disappointed to miss my 16th annual Poetry Round Up session which is always a hit. So, I hope to share a few videoclips that the poets who were set to appear have kindly made. Enjoy! And be sure to look for their new books!

First up: Irene Latham! Irene is the author of several books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry: including Dear Wandering Wildebeest, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica, Fresh Delicious, and Can I Touch Your Hair? (with Charles Waters). She won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award and is a regular speaker at schools, libraries, and festivals. She lives on a lake in Alabama with her family and is learning to play cello (spoiler alert!). Here, she talks about her newest book, Nine (published by Charlesbridge), and treats us to a concert!

Now hold to your hats, while Irene serenades us with her cello! 

Thanks so much for taking the time to create these videos for us, Irene! WONDERFUL! I can't wait to get my hands on Nine, too. 

[I debated about creating new posts for each poet, but lots of people are linking to this posting to share with kids (HOORAY!), so I'm going to keep adding poets right here!]

Next up: Leslie Bulion!
Poet Leslie Bulion is the author of many wonderful science-themed books of poetry for young people including Superlative Birds, Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse, Leaf Litter Critters, At the Sea Floor Cafe: Odd Ocean Critter Poems, Hey, There, Stink Bug!, as well as middle grade fictional novels for young readers. Bulion studied science in college, oceanography in graduate school and worked with children and families. She loves photographing nature, scuba diving, and kayaking. Here, she shares a few poems, background stories, and activities from her new book, Amphibian Acrobats. Enjoy!

Next up: K.A. Holt!

Poet Kari Anne (K.A.) Holt is the author of several middle grade novels, especially novels in verse such as Rhyme Schemer, House Arrest, Knockout and the #ownvoices Redwood and Ponytail, as well as the picture book, I Wonder, illustrated by Kenard Pak. She lives in Austin, Texas, and is a co-founder of Typewriter Rodeo, a troop of poets who compose poems on request on-the-spot. Here she talks about two of her novels in verse. First: House Arrest.

Next, Kari talks about her forthcoming book, BenBee and the Teacher Griefer (I can't wait to read it!):

Next up: Zetta Elliott

Zetta Elliott is a poet, author, and an educator who was born in Canada and currently lives and writes in Pennsylvania. She earned a PhD from NYU and is the award-winning author of multiple works for adults and young readers including fiction, fantasy, plays, essays, a novella, picture books, YA novels, and middle grade fantasy. Her latest book is a poetry collection for young adults, Say Her Name. In the video linked here (click here), she reads a few selections from this new book, including a very helpful poem entitled, “Self Care.” Enjoy!

Elliott has also created a poetry workbook for teens, Find Your Voice, and I can send you a pdf of that (with Zetta’s permission) if you leave your name and email address in the comments. 

Finally: Vikram Madan!

As poet and artist Vikram Madan admits on his website, he grew up in India where he really wanted to be a cartoonist, but ended up an engineer. He now lives in Seattle and worked for years in the tech industry and then made the switch to art and writing, creating editorial cartoons, drawing and painting and exhibiting his art, and writing poetry for young people. His poetry is full of humor and wordplay, including The Bubble Collector, Lord of the Bubbles, and his new book, A Hatful of Dragons. He shares a poem from that new book here:

And here Vikram leads us in a 30-second flip through his new book:

And just for fun, Vikram has created a music video for a poem from his first book, The Bubble Collector:

Thank you, poets, for being part of my virtual Poetry Round Up! It's so kind of Irene Latham, Leslie Bulion, Kari Holt, Zetta Elliott, and Vikram Madan to take time to make videos for us to enjoy. I hope I can bring them all to TLA in the future for an in-person rock concert of poetry! Meanwhile, take care of yourselves, everyone-- and share poetry-- so therapeutic just now (and always!).

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Poetry Awards Catch-up 2020

Three major poetry awards announced the winners in the last month, so it's time to catch up and corral that info. I was lucky enough to serve on the Round I panel of judges for the Cybils 2020, so let's start with that one.

Cybils Poetry Award 2020
"The Cybils Awards aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal...The Cybils awards are given each year by bloggers for the year’s best children’s and young adult titles. Nominations open to the public on October 1st."

The 2020 winner in the poetry category is:
Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience collected by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond published by Seven Stories Press

Here's my blurb for the award winner:
Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond is a poetry anthology for older readers that celebrates the lives and experiences of immigrants, refugees, exiles, and their families, who have made this land a home for generations. With poets like Elizabeth Acevedo, Tarfia Faizullah, Hala Alyan, Gala Mukomolova, Bao Phi, and Ocean Vuong, from countries such as Iran, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam, Sudan, Haiti, Syria and beyond, Ink Knows No Borders creates a sense of the immigrant and refugee experience that… honors its complexity and variety.” It gives voice to the experiences of young adults first and second-generation immigrants and refugees as well as providing a historical perspective in poems by Ellen Bass, Eavan Boland, Jeff Coomer, Li-Young Lee, and others. Although each poem channels an individual experience, the collection also offers universal themes on the power of family love, the shock of war, and the isolation of relocation. The poems take us from trauma to hope and as Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera reminds us, “let me tell you what a poem brings . . . it is a way to attain a life without boundaries.”

Lee Bennett Hopkins Award
"The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award was named for the internationally renowned educator, poet, anthologist and passionate advocate of poetry for young people. Established in 1993, the award is presented annually to an American poet or anthologist for the most outstanding new book of poetry for children published in the previous calendar year.
Selected by a panel of authors, librarians, teachers and scholars, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award was the first award of its kind in the United States. The Pennsylvania Center for the Book and the Penn State University Libraries share joint administration of the annual award. Beginning 2007-present, this award has been administered by Education Librarian at Penn State and Director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, Karla M. Schmit—and has been funded by the Pennsylvania School Librarians' Association (2007-2012), the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, sponsored by Penn State University Libraries, and Lee Bennett Hopkins."

2020 Award Winner
How to Read a Book written by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books.
Here's the SLJ review from my Legacy colleague, Lucia Acosta:

"Award-winning poet Alexander compares reading a book to peeling the gentle skin of a clementine, digging in to its juiciness, enjoying it "piece by piece, part by part," until you can "watch a novel world unfurl right before your eyes." And who better to illustrate this delicious poem than Caldecott Honoree Sweet. The artwork is done in watercolor, gouache, mixed media, handmade and vintage papers, found objects including old book covers, and a paint can lid. Not a splash of color, a piece of paper, or a line is out of place. Starting with the initial collage that incorporates the building blocks of reading (the letters A to Z) and the lines from a poem by Nikki Giovanni that careful readers will have to pay attention to see, the tone is set. "So get/real cozy/between/the covers/And let your/fingers wonder/as they wander…" for there is much to relish in this poem and its exuberant images. "Squeeze/every morsel/of each plump line/until the last/drop of magic/drips from the infinite sky." The book includes a note from both the poet and the artist. VERDICT A beautiful book not to be rushed through, but to be enjoyed morsel by tasty morsel."—Lucia Acosta, Children's Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ

You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks, written and illustrated by Evan Turk, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

"In simple, soaring language and breathtaking art, acclaimed author-illustrator Evan Turk has created a stirring ode to nature and nation. From the rugged coast of Maine to the fiery volcanoes of Hawaii, You Are Home reminds us that every animal, plant, and person helps make this land a brilliant, beautiful sanctuary of life."

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. 

"Convincing and authentic, infused with thoughtfulness, humor, determination, and hope.... A realistic portrait of the strength it takes to move to a new country, as well as of the complicated dynamics between first- and second-generation immigrants." (Horn Book, starred review)
Claudia Lewis Award
"The Claudia Lewis Award, given for the first time in 1998, honors the best poetry book of the year. The award commemorates the late Claudia Lewis, distinguished children’s book expert and longtime member of the Bank Street College faculty and Children’s Book Committee. She conveyed her love and understanding of poetry with humor and grace."

2020 Award Winner
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books.

"Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), Voices offers an unforgettable perspective on an extraordinary young woman. Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices."