Monday, January 29, 2007

Favorite poetry quotes

Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get YOU.
And all you can do is to go where they can find you.

A. A. Milne
The House At Pooh Corner (1928)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ALA Awards announced

On Monday, Jan. 22 in Seattle, the American Library Association announced the major awards for children’s and young adult literature. You’ve probably already heard that the Caldecott award went to David Wiesner (again) for Flotsam and the Newbery award went to (librarian) Susan Patron for The Higher Power of Lucky. For a complete listing, check out Unfortunately, few poetry books appeared on the award lists (another reason that I’m grateful that the new Cybils Awards included poetry as a category). As I combed the lists, I found two titles of poetry among the winners. Interestingly enough, both are Coretta Scott King Illustrator honor books:

Jazz by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers (published by Holiday House)
Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad, illustrated by Benny Andrews (published by Sterling Publishing)

You may remember that Jazz was also recognized as one of the five best poetry books for children chosen for the Cybils Award. It’s a vibrant picture book poetry collection that is a celebration of jazz music and history and a tribute to New Orleans. The language is vivid and participatory and the art is obviously prize winning—sprawling and expressive.

Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes features a collection of 26 of Hughes’ best-known poems along with a brief introduction for each and a short biographical section, written by Hughes scholars and incorporating quotes from the poet himself. And of course, there’s the art, too—wonderful cubist collages and watercolors.

Look for these two gems—of poetry, of art, of African American pride. Each is also a treat to read aloud with young people of all ages.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Nikki Grimes interview published

As I’ve mentioned before, Nikki Grimes was recently presented the National Council of Teachers of English award for Excellence in Poetry for Children for her entire body of writing. It was an honor to present her this award as I served as co-chair of the committee. One other privilege I enjoyed was the opportunity to interview her for an article for the NCTE journal, Language Arts, along with my co-chair, Peggy Oxley. Well, the article has now been published and the full text is online and free to NCTE members at:
Or look for the January, 2007 issue of Language Arts (V. 84, N. 3), pages 281-285 at your area library. Nikki was very open in talking about her childhood, early influences on her writing, the story behind the creation of Danitra Brown, and what receiving the award means to her. Check it out! Here’s one nugget to whet your appetite:

Do you have any ideas about guiding teachers and librarians in sharing your books with kids or promoting poetry in general?

“Well, that’s why I have teacher’s guides on my web site ( The field is so rich now. You can essentially find poetry on any subject that kids would be interested in if you just look for it. I enjoy talking to teachers and librarians, trying to get them beyond feelings of intimidation. Really giving them permission to explore poetry. Because for the most part, it was presented to them so badly that they are either afraid of it or think of it in terms of “shoulds.” “You ‘should’ like this poem.” And I always say, “Don’t ‘should’ all over me!” Just find poetry that you like, that you love, that you get, that you’re excited about, because your students are going to pick up on your attitude. I don’t care what you share with them, if you have a good attitude about it, they’re going to respond to it well. Choose poetry that is going to engage them. Never mind about dissection and all of that. That can come later. And yes, the classics are important, but the classics can wait. Dissection can wait. First, you want to get them hooked on poetry as a genre. ‘Cause once they are, try to keep them FROM reading! And once teachers have this “permission,” they go back to the classroom and say, “Okay, let’s try it!” Then I get these emails: “You know what? I tried it. It worked!” They’re excited. I think they were just waiting for permission and a way in. I’m not surprised at the wonderful results they’re having, but they are. Poetry is just natural for children. It’s part of their lives! From the ABC’s to Mother Goose to patty cake to jump rope rhymes, poetry is already a part of their lives, so you’re just building on that foundation. It’s already there.”

Friday, January 12, 2007

Cinderella creator's birthday

Charles Perrault, born on this day in 1628, is credited with capturing the classic European version of the Cinderella story so familiar to us. So, for a change of pace, I thought I might feature my favorite Cinderella poem. This one is by Judith Viorst, author of the classic picture book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.


By Judith Viorst

I really didn’t notice that he had a funny nose.
And he certainly looked better all dressed up in fancy clothes.
He’s not nearly as attractive as he seemed the other night.
So I think I’ll just pretend that this glass slipper feels too tight.

From: If I were in charge of the world and other worries

The European tale of Cinderella or the “good sister/bad sister” story told in cultures all around the world may be the most adapted, retold, and reillustrated folktale in children’s literature. There are culturally rich versions as well as nonsensical modernized renditions to choose from. Roald Dahl wrote a rhyming parody in his Revolting Rhymes collection and Shel Silverstein turned his attention to the tale with this gem.


by Shel Silverstein

From dusk to dawn,
From town to town,
Without a single clue,
I seek the tender, slender foot
To fit this crystal shoe.
From dusk to dawn,
I try it on
Each damsel that I meet.
And I still love her so, but oh,
I've started hating feet.

from A Light in the Attic

Cinderella is such a part of Americans’ literary heritage that phrases like “if the shoe fits,” “Cinderella complex,” and “until the stroke of midnight” are part of their everyday vernacular. Folklorists have identified more than 3,000 stories that qualify as Cinderella variants worldwide; almost every culture, every nation, has at least one variant, one authentic tale with Cinderella-style characters and motifs. What is it about this girl’s story that has such appeal across generations of listeners and readers, and also across so many countries and cultures?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Cybils Awards announced (poetry included!)

I had the honor of being invited to participate in a brand new award launched in the children’s and young adult literature field, the Cybils awards. The Cybils, a loose acronym for Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards, began with nominations open to absolutely anyone. Then five nominating committee members read the nominated books (with different committees in eight categories, from poetry to fiction to nonfiction to graphic novels). I was on the committee for POETRY along with Eisha Prather (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog), Elaine Magliaro (Blue Rose Girls blog), Bruce Black (Wordswimmer blog), and Johanna (Becky at Farm School blog). Susan Thomsen (Chicken Spaghetti blog) was our awesome liaison to the Cybils head honchos. And what a great committee it was, each one of us already a poetry lover and not shy with our opinions! I also have to give a shout out to the publishers who were so quick and generous in sending us copies of many of the poetry books under consideration. What a treat to focus on poetry only and to have it singled out for award distinction. Woo hoo! And which books did we select? Here is our list of the top five finalists (out of 26 nominations).

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow

written by Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Beth Krommes
Houghton Mifflin

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
written and illustrated by Adam Rex
Harcourt Children's Books

written and illustrated by Douglas Florian
Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins

written by Walter Dean Myers; illustrated by Christopher Myers
Holiday House

Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art

written by Diane Siebert; illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson
Chronicle Books

Next up, five judges will make final decisions and those will be announced in early February. For all the award finalists, go to