Monday, December 31, 2007

My favorite poetry books of 2007

It’s the last day of the year and time for me to pause and ponder all the wonderful poetry books published for young people this year. So much variety! Anthologies, biographical poetry, picture book collections, novels in verse, edgy YA work, playful verses for very young children, and more. New voices and new works by old favorites. Great curricular connections in science, social studies, and beyond. Fun experimentation with poetic form and voice. Beautifully written, beautifully illustrated. Serious, humorous, and everything in between. After much deliberation, here’s my list of not-to-be-missed poetry for kids in 2007. Be sure your library has multiple copies of each!

1. Alexander, Elizabeth and Nelson, Marilyn. 2007. Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color. Wordsong.
*Powerful sonnets tell the story of Prudence Crandall and her school for African American women in the early 1800’s

2. Crisler, Curtis. 2007. Tough Boy Sonatas. Wordsong.
*Gripping, edgy poems about growing up as a young black man in the city

3. Fisher, Aileen. 2007. Do Rabbits Have Christmas? Henry Holt.
*Lovely, fresh gathering of older poems by Fisher about Christmas in nature

4. Florian, Douglas. 2007. comets, stars, the moon, and mars. Harcourt.
*Florian’s dynamic illustrations and clever, descriptive poetry take us to outer space

5. Frank, John. 2007. How to Catch a Fish. Roaring Brook.
*Evocative oil paintings and lyrical poetry introduce fishing around the world

6. Grandits, John. 2007. Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems. Clarion.
*Musings of a teenage girl in often unorthodox poetic forms

7. Hemphill, Stephanie. 2007. Your Own, Sylvia. Knopf.
*Semi-biographical verse novel written in the style of Sylvia Plath’s poetry

8. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2007. Behind the Museum Door. Abrams.
*Fun collection of field trip poems that make museum artifacts come alive

9. Issa, Kobayashi. 2007. Today and Today. Scholastic.
*Classic haiku by Issa are arranged to create a lovely chronological story

10. Janeczko, Paul. Comp. 2007. Hey, You! Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things. HarperCollins.
*These “apostrophe” poems of address give a variety of objects a voice

11. Miller, Kate. 2007. Poems in Black and White. Front Street.
*Striking illustrations and lyrical poems address objects that are black and/or white

12. Mora, Pat. 2007. Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!: America's Sproutings. Lee & Low.
*Vibrant illustrations and pungent haiku (along with fun facts) introduce the origins of foods from across the Americas

13. Park, Linda Sue. 2007. Tap Dancing on the Roof; Sijo Poems. Clarion.
*Park brings the Korean form of sijo poetry to the forefront with clever rhymes and helpful background information

14. Prelutsky, Jack. 2007. Good Sports; Rhymes About Running, Jumping, Throwing, and More. Knopf.
*Participating as well as winning and losing in sports is highlighted in playful rhymes and illustrations

15. Sandell, Lisa Ann. 2007. Song of the Sparrow. Scholastic.
*Verse novel re-envisions a feminist telling of the “Lady of Shallott” classic

16. Schlitz, Laura Amy. 2007. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village. Candlewick.
*Poem portraits of a variety of interconnected characters in a medieval village

17. Sidman, Joyce. 2007. This is Just to Say. Houghton Mifflin.
*Poems of apology and forgiveness in the voices of a classroom of children

18. Smith, Charles R. Jr. 2007. Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali. Candlewick.
*A poem biography about boxer Ali told in a shout-out cadence

19. Spinelli, Eileen. 2007. Where I Live. Dial.
*Delicate poems and drawings capture the difficulties of moving and making life transitions

20. Vecchione, Patrice. 2007. Faith and Doubt; An Anthology of Poems. Henry Holt.
*Powerful poems about belief pack this rich anthology

21. Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2007. Birmingham, 1963. Wordsong.
*Photographs and poems trace the sad events of the church bombing in 1963

22. Wong, Janet. 2007. Twist: Yoga Poems. McElderry.
*Color-rich illustrations and metaphorical poems make yoga fun

23. Worth, Valerie. 2007. Animal Poems. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
*Worth’s descriptive poems and Steve Jenkins’ collage art create vivid animal portraits

24. Yolen, Jane. Comp. 2007. Here’s a Little Poem. Candlewick.
*Fun collection of poems perfectly placed and illustrated for very “little” children

25. Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2007. Reaching for Sun. Bloomsbury.
*Accessible verse novel about a girl growing up with cerebral palsy

PLUS: Hughes, Langston. (75th anniversary edition 2007). The Dream Keeper (and seven additional poems). Knopf.

Please indulge one last book plug, my own: Poetry People; A Practical Guide to Children’s Poets (Libraries Unlimited, 2007). It’s a resource guide for people who work with children and offers biographical information as well as ideas for sharing the poetry of 62 major poets writing for young people.

Happy 2008 in poetry!

Picture credit:

Friday, December 21, 2007

Do Rabbits Have Christmas?

I’m happy to report that poet Aileen Fisher is having a comeback! A selection of 15 of her poems originally published in 8 different poetry books from as long ago as 1946, have been gathered in this lovely picture book collection, Do Rabbits Have Christmas, with a forward by Karla Kuskin. The delicate illustrations by nature artist Sarah Fox-Davies are the perfect accompaniment, placed just so for each poem, whether as a small cameo image or a double-page spread. Her careful, naturalistic renderings of the animals, in particular, keep the images from veering into preciousness. And Fisher’s language is ever fresh and crisp, providing glimpses of moments with an intimate first person voice in lines that rhyme effortlessly. The subject is unabashedly Christmas, full of anticipation, wonder, speculation, and delight, with a focus on the weather, the woods, and small animals-- the mouse, the kitten, the chickadee, the rabbit. Whether your view includes a snowy landscape or not (it's 73 degrees here in Texas today!), the poetry evokes a thoughtful quietness and sparkly spirit that is irresistible. Here’s just a taste.

Before Christmas
by Aileen Fisher

We sing, and plan,
and watch the date,
and write some cards…
and wait and wait.

We look for presents
at the store
and make some, too…
and wait some more.

We wrap our gifts
and tie them straight,
and frost some cookies
on a plate,
and buy a tree
to decorate,
but most of all
we wait… and wait.

From Fisher, Aileen. 2007. Do Rabbits Have Christmas? Illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies. Henry Holt.

Pair this book with Valerie Worth’s out of print gem, if you can find it, At Christmastime (HarperCollins, 1992) illustrated by Antonio Frasconi.

And for more on award winning poet Aileen Fisher, check out my previous Sept. 9, 2006 posting, in honor of her birthday.

Join the rest of the Poetry Friday gathering at AmoXcalli.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Moving poetry

My apologies for disappearing! I’ve been going through a major life change: MOVING. In the space of a few weeks, we sold our home (in Grand Prairie, TX where we had lived for 18 years raising two kids) and moved into the big city (of Dallas, where we’re 10 minutes from my favorite theaters, movies, museums, and restaurants!). Each Friday has brought a new crisis: first no electricity for two days, then no Internet for four days! EEK! Things are headed toward normalcy now and it’s time to get back on track with poetry. I’ve actually been reading a lot of poetry during this time as part of the Cybils award (I’m on the poetry subcommittee; stay tuned for news); it’s the perfect antidote.

As I looked for a poem to fit my current circumstance, I remembered a lovely picture book collection that came out a few years ago: My House is Singing by Betsy Rosenthal, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Each poem captures an aspect of the “places and spaces that make a house a home” against a backdrop of Chodos-Irvine’s colorful, sculptural collages. Using a variety of poetic forms, including rhyming and free verse forms, Rosenthal touches on details that children notice in the laundry room, the smoke detector, the refrigerator, the vacuum cleaner, the kitchen, special cubby-holes, the doorbell, the back door, and more. The following poem example gives the book it’s title and captures some of my own thoughts my first night in my new home:

My House’s Night Song
By Betsy Rosenthal

Listen closely.
Can you hear?

Heater whooshing out
warm air.

Blinds flapping
Floors creaking.

Clocks ticking.
Faucet leaking.

Dishwasher clicking.
Pipes pinging.

Listen closely.
My house is singing.

From: Rosenthal, Betsy. R. 2004. My House is Singing. Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. San Diego: Harcourt.

It’s time for me to re-join the Poetry Friday Round Up-- which is hosted this week by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Picture: My new house