Friday, December 26, 2008

Best Poetry of 2008

For my final entry this year, I'd like to offer my short list of favorite poetry books published for young audiences in 2008. This year, I tried to track ALL the poetry produced for young people and tallied about 75 titles! Impressive, I think, considering 50 titles per year has been closer to the norm, IMO. And there is an interesting variety, with picture book collections dominating, and new trends in poetry morphed with biography growing strong. I'm also seeing more experimentation with poetic form/topic and book layout which is fun for those of us who like to provide diverse models for aspiring writers and artists.

We also have new poet distinctions to celebrate this year with the announcement of the second Children's Poet Laureate (Mary Ann Hoberman) and the 15th recipient of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award (Lee Bennett Hopkins). So, all in all, I call it a good year for poetry and hope you will join me in building on this momentum by pushing poetry even further in 2009. Seek out these wonderful titles and more, buy multiple copies, and donate them to your local public and/or school library. Then read your favorites aloud to the kids you know (or don't know!).

Although I didn't get my hands on every single one of the books published this year, I did my best, and chose these two dozen to highlight, in particular. I also thought it would be fun to showcase a variety of categories, including poetry written by kids, novels in verse, and even nonfiction works about poets and poetry. My list is personal and idiosyncratic, I grant you, but I offer it for your consideration. And note: I did a bit of research and found that you could purchase hard cover copies of this whole list for only $382-- and have a wonderful mini-library of 2008 poetry for young people that runs the gamut from the hilarious (Frankenstein monster parodies) to the transcendent (Billie Holiday's literally lyrical life). What a bargain! Here's my list with the briefest of annotations. Best wishes to all for a health, happy, poetry-filled 2009!


Alarcón, Francisco X. 2008. Animals Poems of the Iguazú / Animalario del Iguazú. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
*Animal spirits, Spanish/English, vivid, energetic art

Ashman, Linda. 2008. Stella, Unleashed. New York: Sterling.
*Fun and frolicking, frisky rescue dog, dog point of view

Beck, Carolyn. Buttercup’s Lovely Day. Custer, WA: Orca Books.
*Dawn to dusk day in the life of a contented cow, with lyrical illustrations

Giovanni, Nikki. Ed. 2008. Hip Hop Speaks to Children. Sourcebooks.
*Amazing range, African American voices, fabulous audio CD

Greenberg, Jan. 2008. Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World. New York: Abrams.
*Poetry inspired by art from all around the world, multilingual

Holbrook, Sara and Wolf, Allan. 2008. More Than Friends; Poems from Him and Her. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
*Teen boy and girl perspectives, fun sidebars on poetic form and experimentation

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2008. America at War. New York: McElderry.
*Poets on war, historical perspective, mural-like art, poignant and powerful

Lawson, Jonarno. 2008. Black Stars in a White Night Sky. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
*From silly to serious, playful to absurd, poignant to wry

Lewis, J. Patrick. 2008. The World’s Greatest: Poems. San Francisco: Chronicle.
*Fun facts and factoids become focus of clever poems in varied formats

Nye, Naomi Shihab. 2008. Honeybee. New York: Greenwillow.
*Poem gems, vignettes and observations are political, personal, and powerful

Rex, Adam. 2008. Frankenstein Takes the Cake. New York: Harcourt.
*Hysterically funny riffs on monsters in poems, parodies, and amazing art

Soto, Gary. 2008. Partly Cloudy; Poems of Love and Longing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
*Half and half, he said, she said, young love poems, with crossover character connections


Franco, Betsy. 2008. Comp. Falling Hard: 100 Love Poems by Teenagers. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.

*More teen love from teen perspectives, VERY varied and compelling

Michael, Pamela, Ed. 2008. River of Words. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed.

*Eco-themed poems by kids, international writing contest, inspiring and challenging


Engle, Margarita. 2008. The Surrender Tree. New York: Holt.

*Cuban history, true story, heroic woman, multiple viewpoints

Frost, Helen. 2008. Diamond Willow. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

*Alaskan setting, girl growing up, mystical ancestors, great dogs, new form

Herrick, Steven. 2008. Naked Bunyip Dancing. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.

*Classroom characters, inspiring teacher, hilarious talent show

Nelson, Marilyn. 2008. The Freedom Business. Asheville, NC: Front Street.

*True story, primary source, slave narrative, evocative art

Smith, Hope Anita. 2008. Keeping the Night Watch. New York: Henry Holt.

*Absent father returns, son rebels, family dynamics shift

Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2008. Becoming Billie Holiday. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.

*Poems channel music and music history, biography through poetry, spunky girl

Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2008. 42 Miles. New York: Clarion.

*Divorce and division, dual identities, girl growing up, quirky art


Bryant, Jen. 2008. A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams. New York: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

*Biographical picture book, doctor + poet, poetic illustrations

Lawson, JonArno. 2008. Inside Out: Children's Poets Discuss Their Work. London: Walker.

*Poems plus creation commentary from two dozen international poets

Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry; How to Write a Poem. New York: Greenwillow.

*How to, helpful tips, behind the scenes glimpses, hilarious and outrageous

Find more Poetry Friday fun at the Miss Rumphius Effect.
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Helen Frost NEA Poetry Fellow

I’m excited to share a bit of poetry news—Helen Frost, author of Keesha’s House, Spinning through the Universe, The Braid, and this year’s Diamond Willow (a 2009 Texas “Lone Star” list book), has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in Poetry! (There were 42 applications accepted out of 1000 applications submitted this year.) What a victory for children’s poets, since most of these awards go to writers of poetry for adults.

She used The Braid both as her eligibility-establishing publication and as her work sample. When I asked her about her plans for the coming Fellowship year, she responded:

"In my novel-in-poems, The Braid, published in 2006 (Frances Foster Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux), I wrote poems in the voices of two sisters who were separated during the Highland Clearances in 1850, one going to Cape Breton, Canada and the other staying on the Isle of Barra, in the Western Isles. Readers often ask me if the sisters were ever re-united. I would like to explore the idea that six or seven generations later, the descendants of the two sisters meet, perhaps by an American going to Barra. The American, and possibly the resident of Barra too, would be of mixed heritage, bringing many cultural influences to the meeting."

Wouldn’t that be terrific? I reviewed The Braid two years ago (July 19, 2006 New: THE BRAID), and just loved it. It was one of my favorite poetry books of 2006, in fact.

Helen also reported, “Once a fellowship is awarded, you're allowed to use it in any way you want to (you're not bound by the project you proposed in the application, because of course writing takes a lot of unpredictable twists and turns). But, surprisingly, this is a pretty accurate description of what I'm working on now; it will be a YA novel-in-poems--I am really looking forward to the uninterrupted writing time this fellowship will allow me in 2009.”

Here's the Web site for a listing of all the poetry recipients. As far as I can see, she is the ONLY poet writing for young people to receive this distinction. She'll receive $25,000 to support a "creative writing fellowship." Congratulations, Helen!

Join the rest of the Poetry Friday crowd at Author Amok.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Biography + Poetry in BOOK LINKS

Once again, I’d like to call your attention to the ALA magazine Book Links and my most recent “Everyday Poetry” column. In this issue, I focus on biographies told through poetry, a big new trend, IMO. Here is a brief excerpt:

If there’s a twenty-first century trend in poetry for young people, it may well be the marriage of poetry and biography. There are over a dozen recent biographical poetry books available for young people, with many focusing on subjects who are African American, Latino and/or women. Perhaps the poetic form allows the subject’s voice to emerge in a more personal way or perhaps this genre format simply allows for more creative experimentation. Whether the focus is on a key event in one life history or a cradle-to-grave complete biography, there are many excellent works that weave together history, biography, and poetry.

Individual verse biographies
Like the “novel in verse,” another trend in poetry is the biography told through a series of connected poems or poetic vignettes particularly appropriate for older children and young adults. Carole Boston Weatherford calls this a “fictional verse memoir” in her new work, Becoming Billie Holiday. Marilyn Nelson set the trend in motion with her award winning biographical poetry book, Carver: A Life in Poems, a blending of fact, poetry, and images of primary source material. Others by Nelson are fact-based, moving poetry collections in a variety of poetic forms:

Fortune's Bones: The Manumission Requiem
A Wreath for Emmett Till

The Freedom Business

Carmen T. Bernier-Grand has also used the verse format for her biographical works, César; ¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! about activist César Chavez and Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life! about artist Frida Kahlo. Add to this roster of innovators Margarita Engle whose recent verse biography, The Surrender Tree, features Cuba’s legendary healer Rosa la Bayamesa, told from multiple points of view during several wars for Cuba’s independence.

Older readers can research primary source documents to help them visualize and conceptualize historical times. One excellent resource is Jackdaws Publications, a source of full-size facsimiles of actual letters, diaries, telegrams, newspapers, study maps and many other authentically reproduced documents from various eras. Create displays to showcase biographical poems alongside these contextual artifacts and realia. Weaving biography and poetry together makes sense. For poetry lovers, it’s way to absorb history, and for all readers, the poetic format provides a unique entrée into stories of people of the past.

I also wrote about collective poetry biographies and picture book poem biographies, with examples of each. And the most fabulous feature is a new original poem by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. It’s “Dear Diary” from the point of view of Anne Frank, capturing a snapshot moment with haunting details and lyrical language. Don’t miss it!

Next month’s column is about pairing poems and award books. We all tune into the major awards (especially the ALA awards announced at the end of January) and try to keep up with what the experts recommend as outstanding literature. Why not make a poetry connection here? In this column, I showcase the ALA multicultural award winning books of 2008 by connecting each with a work of poetry that extends the topic, theme, or tone in interesting ways. Watch for it.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Poetry at the NCTE conference

I’d like to post one last time about the recent NCTE conference in San Antonio. I was pleased and surprised how many sessions were focused on poetry. Here’s the scoop—

*As you know, the NCTE Poetry Award committee decided on the 15th recipient of the award: Lee Bennett Hopkins. That was the highlight of the weekend! That same committee also led a session discussing some of their favorite poetry books of 07 and 08. Their “poetry notables” list for 07 was published in Language Arts in July. The committee talked about why they selected the books they chose, read aloud favorite poems from each, and discussed ways to share the books with kids and even sample responses from young people.

Committee chair (and author) Ralph Fletcher reminded us that poetry should not be “immune from discussion” and cited the need for two kinds of poetry for kids: poetry that is fun, playful, and comforting (he shared examples from Good Sports by Jack Prelutsky, and poetry that will haunt and stretch kids (sharing examples from John Franks’ How to Catch a Fish). Committee member and poet Janet Wong read poems from two of her favorites: Linda Sue Park’s Tap Dancing on the Roof and this year’s America at War compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins (with a generous nod to my review on my blog here).

Barbara Ward enjoyed the nonfiction connection and environmental theme of Polar Bear, Arctic Hare by Eileen Spinelli, the archival photos and powerful poems of The Brothers’ War by J. Patrick Lewis, and the concrete poem collection, Blue Lipstick by John Grandits, noting its particular appeal to middle school kids. Gail Wesson Spivey admitted her reluctant, but enthusiastic, conversion to appreciating Joanne Ryder’s Toad by the Road and the poems and paintings of Carmen Bernier-Grand’s Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life!. She pointed to Nikki Giovanni’s Hip Hop Speaks to Kids as a favorite of the current 08 crop. Kathleen Armstrong shared Bugs by David Harrison with its science connection and appealing trim size. She also loved Joyce Sidman’s This is Just to Say (who didn’t?!) and shared response poems that kids—and their MOMS!-- had written. They were lovely!

Jonda McNair enjoyed the multiple functions of Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico! by Pat Mora—its poetry, its facts, its food theme. She also celebrated the facts-plus-humor of Douglas Florian’s comets, stars, the moon, and mars. Georgia Heard, herself a poet (with a new collection of list poems coming in 09, Falling Down the Page), talked about the three criteria she considers when selecting poetry: authenticity-- a true, real, point of view, language that is beautiful, skillful, playful and engaging, and coherence—does the collection hang together, like a house—is there a front door, rooms you can walk through, from room to room, and out the back. She cited two examples she felt were outstanding, Lee Bennett Hopkins’ anthology full of mystery, information and many poets, Behind the Museum Door and Jane Yolen’s collection, Here’s a Little Poem, a gem for the very young child.

When pressed for their favorites of THIS year (2008), they cited:
Planet Pregnancy
On the Farm
Side by Side

Becoming Billie Holiday

The Freedom Business

Voices fro
m Afar
America at War

Hip Hop Speaks to Kids

Official list to come later next year…

I also chaired an “Author Strand” session featuring Jane Yolen, Brod Bagert, and John Grandits. Brod began with an energetic and rousing performance of many of his poems from several different collections, including his newest 2008 title, School Fever. He talked about his poetry beliefs including his notion of the “fundamental communication of beauty and truth” whether writing for children or adults. He also advocated for the importance of HEARING poetry aloud (a cause dear to my heart) and argued that children should hear 10,000 poems in their growing up years. Love that number!

John Grandits included the visuals of his concrete poems (from Technically, It’s Not My Fault and Blue Lipstick) as he dryly read them aloud. He endorsed the necessity for “shape and motion” in poetry—“not just the object of the poem, but the movement of the object.” What a fun and meaningful way to envision the chemistry of language, image, shape, and motion in synch with the words on the page.

Jane Yolen closed the session reading from some of her 70+ (!) poetry collections, endorsing the importance of range in poetry for young people, saying “children’s poetry is not only about children.” Good reminder! She mentioned some new upcoming collections she’s written or edited that we can look forward to soon:

Animal Epitaphs with J. Patrick Lewis
Switching on the Moon, a companion to Here’s a Little Poem
The Girl’s Bible, with poems about Old Testament women

Weren’t those two fantastic sessions? Each had a packed room and eager audience and I was pleased to be a part of them. There were also a few other sessions on poetry at the conference, but I had scheduling conflicts and couldn’t attend them all. If any of you did, please share the highlights! I love it when professional conferences include this important topic—and it seems to be popping up more and more.

For more Poetry Friday entries, go to Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

More on LBH and the 2009 NCTE Poetry Award

What do these people have in common?
Nikki Grimes, Mary Ann Hoberman, X. J. Kennedy, Eloise Greenfield, Barbara Esbensen, Valerie Worth, Arnold Adoff, Lilian Moore, John Ciardi, Eve Merriam, Myra Cohn Livingston, Karla Kuskin, Aileen Fisher, and David McCord…

Each has received the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Now it’s time to add the name of LEE BENNETT HOPKINS to that distinguished roster!

In 1977, NCTE established this award to honor a living American poet or anthologist for his or her lifetime achievement in works for children ages 3–13. The award was given annually until 1982, at which time it was decided that the award would be given every three years. NCTE wanted to recognize and foster excellence in children's poetry by encouraging its publication and by exploring ways to acquaint teachers and children with poetry through such means as publications, programs, and displays. As one means of accomplishing this goal, NCTE established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children to honor a poet for his or her aggregate work. The “aggregate work” of Lee Bennett Hopkins has been tremendous in both breadth and depth, as both poet and anthologist. Let’s consider just a few highlights of his extensive contribution.

There are several anthologists who have established excellent reputations for compiling numerous high quality collections of poetry for children. Lee Bennett Hopkins may be the most prolific of all, with over 100 books of poetry to his credit as both an anthologist and as a writer since 1969. Hopkins has also nurtured many new talents in poetry, commissioning up-and-coming poets to write poems for anthologies he compiles. A few of his most popular titles include Good Books, Good Times (HarperTrophy 2000), Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems (Simon & Schuster 1999), Opening Days: Sports Poems (Harcourt 1996), School Supplies: A Book of Poems (Simon & Schuster 1996), My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States (Simon & Schuster 2000) and Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More (HarperCollins 2005).

Curriculum Connections
Teachers and librarians find Hopkins’ work helpful because so many of his anthologies are organized around themes or topics that lend themselves to teaching school subject areas. For example, Hand in Hand: An American History through Poetry (Simon & Schuster 1994) offers a chronological view of American history through poetry, and Spectacular Science (Simon & Schuster 1999) includes science-related poems by writers from Carl Sandburg to Rebecca Kai Dotlich. He has also created an ongoing series of “I Can Read” collections of poetry that are perfect for young children who are beginning to read on their own.

Autobiographical Works
Lee Bennett Hopkins has also authored autobiographical writings. Two books about his own life and work include Writing Bug (Richard C. Owens 1993), part of a fun series that features single titles on 35 different authors, and Been To Yesterdays: Poems Of A Life (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press 1995) told through poems.

Lee Establishes Two Poetry Awards
Called the “The Johnny Appleseed of contemporary children’s poetry,” Hopkins established two major awards to encourage recognition of poetry for young people: the annual Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for a single volume of poetry (which was first awarded in 1992 to Sing to the Sun by Ashley Bryan (HarperCollins), and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, presented every three years by the International Reading Association to a new poet with two or fewer poetry books published. This award was first given in 1995 to Deborah Chandra for Rich Lizard And Other Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Other winners have included Kristine O’Connell George, Craig Crist-Evans, and Lindsay Lee Johnson. I’ve blogged about the most recent recipients of both these awards in the past and try to keep you posted on the latest recipient each year.

Frequent Speaker
Lee is often a regular presence on the conference circuit and has spoken at countless schools and libraries, too. He was at last year’s NCTE Poetry Blast in New York, for example, and I was tickled pink to bring him to Texas for our own Poetry Round Up at the annual conference of the Texas Library Association. His readings are always fun, moving, and inspiring and he motivates his audience to want to get on board and share poetry with the kids in their lives.

Professional Resource Books
Lee Bennett Hopkins has also been a major writer of professional books on poetry and literature for children. These include several gems such as Pass the Poetry Please (HarperCollins 1972, 1986, 1998), Books Are by People (1969), More Books by More People: Interviews with Sixty-Five Authors of Books for Children (1974), Do You Know What Day Tomorrow Is?: A Teacher's Almanac (1975), and Pauses; Autobiographical Reflections of 101 Creators of Children’s Books (HarperCollins 1995). He also wrote regular columns on poetry for Creative Classroom magazine and Teaching K-8. He was also kind enough to read and promote my own professional resource books (Poetry Aloud Here; Poetry People), offering poems and essays and endorsements. He’s as generous as he is prolific!

Award Presentation Coming
Lee will receive his NCTE award next November at the 99th NCTE Annual Convention to be held in Philadelphia in November 19-24, 2009. Mark your calendars now for Sat., Nov. 21—I think that’s when Lee will be formally presented the award at the Books for Children Luncheon. In the mean time, congratulations, Lee!

Poetry Friday is hosted by Lisa Chellman this week. Happy Thanksgiving, all!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I plan a more complete "tribute" to new NCTE Poetry Award winner, Lee Bennett Hopkins, very soon, but in the mean time, here is a gem to share. Lee has fielded questions about "why poetry?" so many times in his four-plus decades of working in schools he’s penned the following. Enjoy-- and let poetry into your lives!

Why Poetry?

by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Why poetry?


Why sunsets?

Why trees?

Why birds?

Why seas?

Why you?

Why me?

Why friends?

Why families?

Why laugh?

Why cry?

Why hello?

Why good-bye?

Why poetry?

That’s why!

Reprinted by permission of Curtis-Brown, NY, NY

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lee Bennett Hopkins to receive NCTE Poetry Award

Hot off the press!
Lee Bennett Hopkins will be the next recipient of the National Council of Teachers of English Poetry Award to be presented in November, 2009. It was just announced at the Books for Children luncheon yesterday at this year's NCTE convention in San Antonio. I'll write more on this and all things poetry from the convention shortly...

Meanwhile, congratulations, Lee. This is such a well deserved honor. Has anyone done more for the field of poetry for children than he has? As poet, anthologist, speaker, and poetry advocate extraordinaire? I don't think so!

Picture credit: Photo by Charles Egita from

Friday, November 14, 2008

From Louise in Maine

Last year (2007), I had the good fortune of participating in a wonderful poetry panel at the annual American Library Association conference in Washington, D.C. One of my favorite parts was the poetry jam at the end when we provided poems tucked into tiny jam jars for session participants to read on a volunteer basis, connecting poems in spontaneous ways with each other. Well, lo and behold, a children’s librarian from Maine was in that audience, and she has taken our idea and run with it! Here’s an inspiring report from Louise Capizzo, Children's Librarian, Falmouth Memorial Library in Falmouth, Maine.

As soon as I returned from ALA that summer, I initiated a poetry moment at a summer rec. program for grades k-2 where I tell stories each summer. Using an old pickle jar I labeled, "Poetry Moment,” I took a few minutes during each session to share a poem. The kids loved the ceremony of me reaching into my bag, pulling out the jar and twisting it open. I used a variety of poems, mostly by Dennis Lee, Jack Prelutsky, Joyce Sidman, some by Valerie Worth. A book that was very popular (I had to get my own copy from is Ed Young's High on a Hill: Chinese Riddles. They LOVE trying to guess what he is describing in those few poetic sentences. This year marked my third year going to the rec. program. The children who had moved into grade 3 lobbied for me to read to them again. And, do you want to know why? They wanted the Poetry Moments! Honest!

I had such a good time with tremendous feedback from teachers and the high school students who help out that I encouraged my husband, John, to try it at his place of employment. He is a cook at a day care center in Portland, Maine. He is the only male at that center. I will describe the program I set up.

Once a week, the same day each week, at lunchtime John places a jar on every classroom’s lunch tray. The jar has his picture on it holding one of the jars. Inside the jar is a poem that John has selected. A different poem each week. The classroom teachers have been instructed to read the poem while children are eating so that they can relate the whole poetry experience with the food so that they connect the poem with John. When all the food and dishes are placed on the trays to go back to the kitchen, the poetry jar goes along too. I don't think children are exposed to poetry very often, especially the very young. I felt that since John was the only male in the whole building, the children might be more receptive to liking poetry, if it came from someone they love because they love his food. All the classrooms, from the youngest to the 5 year olds will all be getting a poem. On the day the jars go out, John will also have a copy of the poem up in the kitchen so children walking thru on their way home can share the poem once again their parents. He's excited, the teachers are excited, and I am too.

Today was the first day John sent his poetry jars around to the classrooms. It was a big hit. One of the classrooms memorized the poem and after lunch, came down to his kitchen and recited the poem to him, complete with hand motions. The poem is "Way down south where the bananas grow, a flea stepped on an elephant's toe..."

My husband has been passing out a poem a week to his day care kids with great success. Then, while he was on vacation the classroom wrote John a poem because they missed his weekly poetry jars.

A Poem For John

John in the kitchen

John in the hall

We love John

He's the best cook of all!

John in the kitchen

John in a swirl
We think John's
The best cook in the world!

John in the kitchen

John in the cellar,

We think John's

A most wonderful feller!

Isn’t Louise’s story terrific? I love how it takes poetry into all kinds of places in unexpected ways and with such instantaneous results! Go, Louise!

For more Poetry Friday fun go to Yat-Yee Chong. Enjoy!

Picture credit: From Louise: “Here is my jar that represents my Poetry Moment. It isn't a pickle jar as I thought (the green top made me think it was) It is a Sunsweet Fat Free Lighter Bake Butter & Oil Replacement jar. Yes, Poetry is Fat Free!”

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hip Hop Today

I recently read on Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf that the poetry collection, Hip Hop Speaks to Children (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky), a collection of 51 songs and poems edited by Nikki Giovanni, is a huge hit. It’s #9 on the New York Times children’s picture book bestseller list with 30,000 copies already in print. And compiler Nikki Giovanni appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” last month to talk about it.

It’s been reviewed by many others already, with excellent commentary on the variety of poems, poets, illustrators, and voices represented. So… I’d like to focus on my favorite element: the AUDIO component-- the CD that accompanies the book. As a previous member of the Odyssey Award for Outstanding Audiobooks committee, I’m always seeking out quality audiobooks for young people, particularly poetry on audio. And here is a gem!

There are 36 (!) tracks, and each track is a stand-alone treat, moving from spoken word to music and lyrics back and forth in a varied and pleasing way. I would almost argue that one should begin with the audio alone first. There is nothing quite like hearing a poem read by the poet himself or herself. It etches itself into one's aural memory. Hearing the voice of Langston Hughes in an old recording of his own reading of his poetry is a window into time. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is here, alongside a modern re-interpretation of it. A few tracks provide Nikki Giovanni's commentary on the history or context for a particular poem or song-- I almost wished for more of that. What an amazing archive of music and poetry history this is for this and future generations.

My only complaint is that the volume varies a bit, but that's partly due to the inclusion of aging clips from more technologically simple days (a Langston Hughes recording from the 40's, I think) and partly due to a variety of readers (some close to the mic and others farther), but only the purist would quibble.

The range of selections is tremendous and provides a window into African American poem history, the blurring of music and poetry, and the voices of color that have contributed to poetry for young people for over half a century. As we consider the potentiality of an African American President for our country, this collection could not come at a better time. It's a celebration of sound and song in poetry for young people of all ages, colors, and political parties. It holds up for listening to over and over again, an excellent sign for any work!

My favorite nugget is Oscar Brown, Jr.’s “Dat Dere” (Track 18, with a short intro by Giovanni on Track 17; pages 26-27). I wish I could import the audio track, but I'm stumped. But here is the NPR podcast interview with Giovanni. I wish all the poems in the book were available on the CD; I wish there were more poetry books for children on audio; I wish we had more audio recordings of more poets writing for young people. Audio + poetry = unforgettable! Thanks, Sourcebooks. Keep it up!

[The publisher, Sourcebooks, has plans for more anthologies for kids next fall; another Poetry Speaks to Children anthology, edited by Elise Paschen, for middle-school readers, and The Tree That Time Built, edited by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, an anthology of poems celebrating science, nature and the environment, also for middle-school readers. Sounds wonderful! I hope there is a CD with each of these books, too.]

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Day After

Well, I had a wonderful time hosting Poetry Friday for the very first time and was thrilled to see 48 bloggers linked to my site yesterday—and to visit each one of their fascinating and varied blogs. I hope everyone had a fun, safe Halloween. And now it’s November! Eek! So much to do… but before I make my “to do” list, I’m tickled to have a wonderful day-after poem to share with you, with special permission from the poet, Lee Bennett Hopkins. It’s from his collection, Halloween Howls (HarperCollins, 2005).

1 A.M
by Lee Bennett Hopkins

No more reason







No more reason










Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Copyright c 1993 by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Isn’t that fun?
Now I’m wondering how many other “day after” poems I can find that capture the moments that follow big days, holidays, and other special events. Hmmm… there’s an interesting topic for a poetry collection! I can think of “Leftovers” by Jack Prelutsky about post-Thanksgiving turkey turkey turkey (from It’s Thanksgiving). Any others?

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Poetry Friday Round Up for Halloween

Welcome to Poetry Friday and my poetry-only blog, PoetryforChildren. I’m honored to host this week’s Poetry Friday Round Up. Please leave a link in the comments area. I'll be rounding up throughout the day. Meanwhile, enjoy this poem for the day by Jane Yolen—I shared this one many year’s ago with my son’s fourth grade class and it was their absolute favorite!

Magic House
by Jane Yolen

We should have known when we tasted the eaves,

Breaking them off like toffee

And cramming them into our mouths.

And the dear little windows, the color of coffee,

And chocolate doorknobs,

And windowpanes striped with mint.

We should have guessed at the chimney smoke,

White marshmallow fluff.

Taken the hint

From the marzipan bricks

And the fenceposts made of bone rubble.

But it was only when we saw the witch

That we knew we were in deep, deep trouble.

From: Livingston, Myra Cohn, comp. 1989.
Halloween Poems. New York: Holiday House. This poem can also be found in Ms. Yolen’s own collection, Best Witches (Putnam, 1989). This poem appears here with the permission of the author. It is not to be published elsewhere without her express permission.

Check out all these poetry-loving blogs today:

Gregory K at Gottabook: An original Halloween poem

Monica Edinger: Five Poems by Nina Lindsay

Julie Larios: An ode to "Pencil Box"

Cloudscome: A review of Hip Hop Speaks to Children at A Wrung Sponge

Stacey at TwoWritingTeachers: At the Pumpkin Patch

Lisa Chellman at UndertheCovers: An original “Hobgoblins” poem

Jim Danielson: “The Halloween Spell”

Sara at ReadWriteBelieve: An original JPL, “Whatever Happened to Oliver Tooke?”

AuthorAmok: Some “Poe-etry” for Halloween

Mary Lee at AYearofReading: “Questionnaire”

Diane at TheWriteSisters: “Witches Chant” to read aloud

Kurious Kitty: “Theme in Yellow” by Carl Sandburg

Tricia at MissRumphiusEffect: “Apple” from Spooky ABC

Laura Salas: A video reading of her original poem

Jama Rattigan: Halloween memories and “Theme in Yellow”

Terry at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub: An original poem, “Ouch”

Janet: A Preamble video

Fiddler at AHabitofReading: A Lucy Maud Montgomery poem

Carol at Carol’sCorner: A “Black and Gold” chant

Jennifer Knoblock at InkforLit: “Cemetery Walk” for All Saints Day

Jone aka MsMac at CheckitOut: An original poem by Jessica, 5th grader

Elaine Magliaro at WildRoseReader: An original political list poem
and at BlueRoseGirls: "Halloween" written by Mac Hammond

John Mutford at BookMineSet: An eerie poem by Ardath Mayhar

Linda at WriteTime: A ghost villanelle

Tracy Marchini: Song lyrics from the Decemberists

Stenhouse Publishers: A classic by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Adrienne at WhatAdrienneThinksAboutThat: "Isabel the Brave" by Ogden Nash

Yat-Yee Chong
: "I would like to describe" by Polish poet, Zbigniew Herbert

Alkelda the Gleeful at SaintsandSpinners: A Jack-o'-lantern song with video

Nadine C. Warner at KiddosandBooks: W.S. Gilbert's "The Yarn of the Nancy Bell"

Tiel Aisha Ansari at KnockingFromInside: “Teacup”

Shelburns at WriteforaReader: “Haunted House” by Jack Prelutsky

Little Willow at Bildungsroman: SPOOKY lyrics by Classics IV

Liz in Ink
: A Frances Chesterton poem on Day of the Dead

Becky at Becky’sBookReviews: A snippet of Macbeth by Shakespeare

Becky at Farm School: Valerie Worth's "Pumpkin"

Alyssa at TheShadyGlade: “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

Lorie Ann Grover at OnPoint: An original haiku called “Crows”

Eisha at 7-Imp: One of Edgar Allan Poe's worst poems (IHO)

Kevin Conder: A video of a zombie reading haiku poetry

Susan at ChickenSpaghetti: Citing the witches from Macbeth

Miss Erin: Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”

Sam Riddleburger: An oddball Halloween poem/riddle

Next week’s Poetry Friday round up will be at Check it Out.
In between, don’t forget to vote next Tuesday, Nov. 4.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Verse Novel: Planet Pregnancy

If you’re looking for a novel-in-verse spin on the “Juno” story, you might try Planet Pregnancy by Linda Oatman High, the story of an unexpected teen pregnancy from the point of view of the “unwed mother” in a voice and language that reflect teenspeak and adolescent angst.

Unfortunately, our protagonist, Sahara, lives in a conservative Texas town WITHOUT a sympathetic boyfriend—or many friends at all. She feels alone and scared, but ends up with her mom in her corner and a determination to raise her new daughter, Grace, on her own. Her wry sense of humor is reflected in the honest point of view, beginning with the section subheadings themselves:

Trimester One; Nice Girls Keep Their Legs Together
Trimester Two: The Great Date Rape

Trimester Three: Forever Is Ahead

The text runs quickly in short, narrow columns of poems that stream into each other. A sporadic rhyme scheme suggests a sense of rap or conversational rhythm. Small gray orbs punctuate the poems periodically to change the story direction or tone. Tiny patterns emerge, giving the poem structure (sometimes short, staccato lines) or impact. For example, for 10 pages (from pages 114-124), many of the “stanzas” begin with the words, “You need,” hammering the concerns and anxieties Sahara feels as she prepares for her baby’s arrival. Here’s the concluding bar of "Trimester Two":

You need
to work overtime

for the rest
of your life

to pay for

all the stuff,

but it

still won’t be

How will

I survive
and keep

me and the
kid alive?

High, Linda Oatman. 2008. Planet Pregnancy. Asheville, NC: Front Street, pp. 114-124.

For teen readers, this is a very accessible, fast-moving story that could lead to an interesting discussion comparing the book with the movie, Juno [teen pregnancy, body image, boyfriends, babies, expectations]. And dig that crazy cover which is so subtle I didn’t even get the pregnant silhouette at first. Follow up with Virginia Euwer Wolff’s Make Lemonade, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, or even Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, for parallel stories, characters, and conflicts.

For more Poetry Friday nuggets, go to Big A little a.


Friday, October 17, 2008

CPL#1 Prelutsky 08

As Jack Prelutsky passes the mantle of Children’s Poet Laureate to Mary Ann Hoberman, it’s a good time to take a quick look at some of his new poetry out this year:

My Dog May Be a Genius (Greenwillow)
Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry; How to Write a Poem (Greenwillow)

Billed as a collection of “more than 100 silly poems,” My Dog May Be a Genius is Prelutsky’s fifth collection of humorous poems in the vein of The New Kid on the Block, his best-selling collection of 100+ poems illustrated by cartoonist James Stevenson with understated comic genius on every page. With poems that are nearly childhood standards now, like “Homework! Oh, Homework!” and “Bleezer’s Ice Cream,” the music of Prelutsky’s verse is irresistible and continues in My Dog May Be A Genius with “bookend” poems such as “Homework, Sweet Homework” and “Sandwich Stan.”

Since the publication of New Kid, equally popular companion books followed, including Something Big Has Been Here (1990), A Pizza the Size of the Sun (1996), and It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles (2000). My Dog May Be a Genius is a fitting successor to this comic legacy and includes concrete poems, puns, and even two poems about reading and the library (and you know how I love those!). [Indices to titles and to first lines are also included.] Here’s one sample poem that I think kids will love. What about putting it on a valentine next February?

If You Were a Rhinoceros
by Jack Prelutsky

If you were a rhinoceros,

I still would
be your friend.
And if you were a platypus,

our friendship would not end.

I’d like you as a walrus,
camel, cat, or kangaroo.
It doesn’t matter what you are—
I’ll still be friends with you.

From: Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. My Dog May Be a Genius. New York: Greenwillow, p. 42.

Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry; How to Write a Poem is Prelutsky’s offering to young, aspiring poets out there and to readers of all ages who might be interested in the back story behind many of his popular poems and his poetry writing process. This reader-friendly volume (targeting ages 7-10) consists of about 20 autobiographical anecdotes, 20 stand-alone writing tips, connected with poems referenced in both. Each is written in his inimitable, humorous style incorporating his personal experiences as well as responses from kids over the years. He also introduces poetry terms and concepts such as voice, scansion, meter, etc. with helpful sidebars. Most of the poems trade on his humorous rhyming verse, but he includes haiku and concrete poems, too.

The book ends with 10 “Poemstarts” that offer kids a formula for building poems based on patterns. A glossary and index are additional tools included. Teachers will appreciate Prelutsky’s emphasis on keeping a poetry notebook (or journal) and on the need for constant rewriting. Librarians will appreciate his sending young readers to the library for the thesaurus and other tools. One note for parents: Prelutsky offers a smorgasbord of food pranks (and others) that he and his brother pull on their parents. It’s hilarious, but… :-) This is an excellent addition to books on poetry writing for young kids, particularly since it helps us get in the head of a poet, so to speak.

Here’s one tiny excerpt from his first essay, “My Father’s Underwear” which ends,
“One of the things that I did to make my father so mad at me was to pin his underwear up on the wall. Before I did that, though, I decorated it. You see, my father wore really boring white underwear, and I wanted to make it pretty, so I painted it with finger paint. THEN I pinned it to the wall. My father didn’t like that at all.

Once I put
a bug in his coffee cup, and another time I put breadcrumbs in his bed. I did lots of other stuff too. I made a list of all the things like that I could remember, then picked some of them to put in a poem called “I Wonder Why Dad Is So Thoroughly Mad.”

From: Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry; How to Write a Poem. New York: Greenwillow, p. 3-4.

And for a “greatest hits” collection of another hundred Prelutsky poems (+ 15 new ones) gleaned from many of his most popular collections, look for Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face and Other Poems (Greenwillow), illustrated by Brandon Dorman. The CD of selections read by Prelutsky himself is an excellent addition. Kids who’ve never had the opportunity to hear him perform his poetry will love these singing, yodeling, yelling renditions of his poems, many with accompanying music.

For more on Prelutsky, look for my birthday posting about him and his work on September 8, 2007, or my entry for him in POETRY PEOPLE; A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO CHILDREN'S POETS (Libraries Unlimited, 2007).

For more Poetry Friday treats, go to my fabulous former student's blog: Becky's Book Reviews.

Picture credits:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Second Children’s Poet Laureate Honored

I’m pleased to announce that the Poetry Foundation has selected the second Children’s Poet Laureate: Mary Ann Hoberman. At a lovely dinner last night at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in Chicago, I was honored to be in attendance when she was presented with her medal and made a beautiful acceptance speech. Her husband and four grown children (from Paris, New York, and LA) were there to support her, even joining in on reading a poem at the end of her talk, “The Witch and the Broomstick” from one of her You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You collections.

With 45 poetry books published, a National Book Award, and the NCTE Poetry Award for her body of work, Hoberman spoke about her life as a young writer, a child in a family that moved a lot, enabling her to place her memories geographically—ideal training for a poet, in her opinion. She loved fairy tales in particular and still owns her three favorite collections and planned to be a reporter when she grew up—even dashing about in a snazzy red MG thinking of herself as “Mary Ann Hoberman, Girl Reporter.”

However, as life took another turn, she found herself married and writing and proofreading on the side. She made up songs and verses for her babies (her oldest daughter confirmed this memory!), and while pushing the kids in a stroller, a phrase popped into her head: “all my shoes come in twos,” the nugget of which would become her first book, to be illustrated by her husband, Norman. She read a poem from this collection for the audience and talked about her emergence as a poet, rather than reporter or fiction writer, claiming that “the house of children’s poetry has truly provided a house for me.”

With a nod to other smart, humorous poets that she believes have led us “from didacticism into sunlight” in c
hildren’s poetry (Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, and A. A. Milne, “bookended by Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss”), she proceeded to delight us all with readings of several of her poems, including her “absolute favorite,” “Brother,” which she read a second time so fast it became a tongue twister, a favorite approach among child audiences, she grinned.

We joined in on “Snow,” and she observed that many of her poems are chant or song-like. She followed with “Yellow Butter,” hamming it up with a mouth-full-of-peanut-butter-style reading of the finale. On a somewhat more serious note, she acknowledged that some of h
er poems are inspired by the work of others, particularly by their rhythms. She cited Rudyard Kipling’s poems that accompany his Just-So Stories as one example and read “Anthropoids,” her tribute to Darwin.

I was blown away when she read a poem in my honor that I had mentioned was one of my all-time favorites by ANY poet, “Mayfly,” which she felt was also one of her personal best. Most of these poems came from The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems (which was generously provided for each guest), but her final poem was an original composition for the occasion—a “Villanelle for Children’s Poets” with the repeated lines, “the craft of children’s poetry is its art” and “nonsense at its heart,” among other gems. It was perfect and moved us all.

Once again, thank you to the Poetry Foundation, and particularly Penny Barr, for making children's poetry such
a priority. The Children's Poet Laureate receives a check for $25,000 and a lovely medallion featuring the cartoon Pegasus characterized by James Thurber encircled with the words "Children's Poet Laureate" on one side and a line of an Emily Dickinson poem on the other side, "Permit a child to join." The Children's Poet Laureate will serve as a consultant to the Foundation for a two-year period and will give at least two public readings during his/her tenure. Mary Ann says she has “about 50 ideas” of possible poetry projects, so stay tuned for more updates.

[Note: I wrote about the FIRST Children’s Poet Laureate on Sept. 29, 2006: Prelutsky is Poet Laureate. Jack (and his wife Carolyn) were also in the audience tonight as he passed the poetry torch and became “Poet Laureate Emeritus”-- in his words.]

Poetry Foundation head John Barr called poetry the “last source of magic” in our world today and we definitely felt the magic of poetry this evening!

For more poetry in general, join Poetry Friday, in progress, at Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Time for 2008 Cybils award nominations

It’s time again to nominate your favorite books for the Cybils Award, the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards. This year, awards will be given in nine categories including poetry, of course. Anyone can nominate books in these categories (one nomination per person per category). Nominated titles must be published between January 1st and October 15th of this year, and the books must be in English (or bilingual, where one of the languages is English).

To nominate titles, visit the Cybils blog between October 1st and 15th. A separate post is available for each category - simply nominate by commenting on those individual posts. If you are not sure which category to choose for a particular book, a questions thread is also be available. The Cybils were founded by Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold in 2006. This year's winners will be announced on February 14th, 2009.

Kelly Fineman reminds us: When deciding if something belongs in the poetry category, ask yourself "Is this a collection of poems?"
* A picture book that is written in rhyme belongs over in the picture book section, not here.
* Poetry collections for older kids and teens belong here as well.
* A novel written in free verse belongs with all the other novels for the appropriate age range.

I have been honored to participate in this process each year in the poetry category. Interestingly, poet Joyce Sidman has won the poetry award BOTH years for:
*Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
*This Is Just To Say; Poems Of Apology And Forgiveness (Hougton Mifflin, 2007)
Who will be next?

If you’re looking for poetry to nominate this year, I’ve been trying hard to compile a comprehensive list of this year’s poetry for young people (and review each title here—although I’m behind!) and will share my list-in-progress. Please let me know if you spot any poetry books that I’ve missed. (NOTE: My list is very inclusive and embraces verse novels and poetry-linked books that aren’t eligible in the poetry category, but are eligible in other categories. FYI)

Poetry for Young People 2008 (so far)

1. Adoff, Jaime. 2008. The Death of Jayson Porter. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion.
2. Alarcón, Francisco X. 2008. Animals Poems of the Iguazú / Animalario del Iguazú. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
3. Ardelius, Gunnar. 2008. I Need You More Than I Love You and I Love You to Bits. Asheville, NC: Front Street.
4. Ashman, Linda. 2008. M is for Mischief. New York: Dutton.
5. Ashman, Linda. 2008. Stella, Unleashed. New York: Sterling.
6. Beck, Carolyn. Buttercup’s Lovely Day. Custer, WA: Orca Books.
7. Bryant, Jen. 2008. A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams. New York: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
8. Bryant, Jen. 2008. Ringside 1925; Views From the Scopes Trial. New York: Knopf.
9. Cheng, Andrea. 2008. Where the Steps Were. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
10. Dickinson, Emily. 2008. My Letter to the World. Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. New York: Kids Can Press.
11. Elliott, David. 2008. On the Farm. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
12. Engle, Margarita. 2008. The Surrender Tree. New York: Holt.
13. Fehler, Gene. 2008. Beanball. New York: Clarion.
14. Field, Eugene. 2008. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. Illustrated by Giselle Potter. New York: Schwartz and Wade Books.
15. Frank, John. 2008. Keepers: Treasure-Hunt Poems. New York: Roaring Brook.
16. Frost, Helen. 2008. Diamond Willow. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
17. Gerber, Carole. 2008. Winter Trees. Ill. by Leslie Evans. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
18. Ghigna, Charles. 2008. Score! 50 Poems to Motivate and Inspire. New York: Abrams.
19. Giovanni, Nikki. Coll. 2008. Hip Hop Speaks to Children. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.
20. Greenberg, Jan. 2008. Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World. New York: Abrams.
21. Greenfield, Eloise. 2008. Brothers and Sisters: Family Poems. New York: Amistad/HarperCollins.
22. Harley, Avis. 2008. The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
23. Harrison, David. L. 2008. Pirates. Ill. by Dan Burr. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
24. Herrick, Steven. 2008. Naked Bunyip Dancing. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
25. High, Linda Oatman. 2008. Planet Pregnancy. Asheville, NC: Front Street.
26. Holbrook, Sara and Wolf, Allan. 2008. More Than Friends; Poems from Him and Her. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
27. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2008. America at War. New York: McElderry.
28. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2008. Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees. New York: HarperCollins.
29. Iyengar, Malathi Michelle. 2008. Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color Brown. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press
30. Katz, Alan. 2008. Oops. New York: Margaret K. McElderry.
31. Larios, Julie. 2008. Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
32. Lawson, Jonarno. 2008. Black Stars in a White Night Sky. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
33. Lewis, J. Patrick, and Janeczko, Paul B. 2008. Birds on a Wire. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
34. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2008. The World’s Greatest: Poems. San Francisco: Chronicle.
35. LeZotte, Ann Clare. 2008. T4. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
36. Maddox, Marjories, 2008. A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
37. Michael, Pamela, Ed. 2008. River of Words. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed.
38. Mora, Pat. 2008. Join Hands! The Ways We Celebrate Life. Photographs by George Ancona. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
39. Nelson, Marilyn. 2008. The Freedom Business. Asheville, NC: Front Street.
40. Nye, Naomi Shihab. 2008. Honeybee. New York: Greenwillow.
41. Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face and Other Poems. New York: Greenwillow.
42. Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. My Dog May Be a Genius. New York: Greenwillow.
43. Prelutsky, Jack. 2008. Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry; How to Write a Poem. New York: Greenwillow.
44. Reibstein, Mark. 2008. Wabi Sabi. Ill. by Ed Young. New York: Little, Brown.
45. Rovetch, Gerda. 2008. There Was a Man Who Loved a Rat; And Other Vile Little Poems. New York: Philomel.
46. Salas, Laura Purdie. 2008. Lettuce Introduce You: Poems About Foot (A+ Books). Minneapolis, MN: Capstone.
47. Sanderson, Ruth. 2008. Mother Goose and Friends. New York: Little, Brown.
48. Sierra, Judy. 2008. Beastly Rhymes to Read After Dark. Ill. by Brian Biggs. New York: Knopf.
49. Singer, Marilyn. 2008. First Food Fight This Fall. New York: Sterling.
50. Singer, Marilyn. 2008. Shoe Bop! New York: Dutton.
51. Smith, Hope Anita. 2008. Keeping the Night Watch. New York: Henry Holt.
52. Soto, Gary. 2008. Partly Cloudy; Poems of Love and Longing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
53. Wassenhove, Sue Van. 2008. The Seldom-Ever-Shady Glades. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
54. Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2008. Becoming Billie Holiday. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
55. Wesiburd, Stefi. 2008. Barefoot: Poems for Naked Feet. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
56. Weston, Robert Paul. 2008. Zorgamazoo. New York: Razorbill/Penguin.
57. Winters, Kay. 2008. Colonial Voices, Hear Them Speak. New York: Dutton.
58. Wong, Janet. 2008. Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
59. Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2008. 42 Miles. New York: Clarion.
60. Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2008. Steady Hands: Poems About Work. New York: Clarion.

For more this Poetry Friday, go to Two Writing Teachers.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Celebrate Soto and Mora for Latino Heritage Month

In honor of Latino Heritage Month (September 15- October 15), I’d like to highlight the latest poetry by two of my favorite poets, Latino or otherwise, Gary Soto and Pat Mora.

Gary Soto’s new collection, Partly Cloudy; Poems of Love and Longing, looks at love in 100 poems, the first half from the girl’s point of view (“A Girl’s Tears, Her Songs), and the second half from the boy’s point of view (“A Boy’s Body, His Words”).

These unrhymed, free verses swing from funny, to serious, some sad, some ironic, some hopeful, some angry. I like the idea of pairing or matching boy and girl poems—either based on similar feelings or tone or by contrasting them—does one reflect the rejection of the other? Could they be cross referencing each other? The voices reflect young, perhaps first love—many are identified as 13-14 years old. Kids as young as middle school age will relate to these emotions and experiences, as well teens and older readers. Here’s just a taste; first from a boy, then from a girl:

Natural Talent
by Gary Soto

You brought out a can of chicken noodle soup,
And set its contents in a pot
Over the stove’s collar of blue flames.
“Wow,” I said, “you can cook.”
The refrigerator’s bulb shone on your handsome face
When you brought out a block of cheese—
You deftly cut little squares
And placed them onto saltines.
“Where did you learn all this?” I asked,
And you shrugged your shoulders.
I even liked how you turned on the kitchen faucet
With your elbow— you had to keep
Your fingers clean—and whittled little pieces
Of salami. We ate looking at each other,
Me so obviously in love. I asked, “Do you iron?”
You nodded—god, you have shiny hair!
After we ate, you asked me to take…
To take off my blouse! “Slow down,” I said,
Hands on my hips. Then I understood.
You gave me a sweatshirt to wear
While you sewed on my loose fourth button.
Where did you learn this,
Multi-tasking lover boy of mine?

p. 13

Beautiful Trouble
by Gary Soto

They say you have a tattoo of a butterfly
On your thigh, but how will I know?
That you can uncurl cigarette smoke at will,
That you can cuss in six languages,
That your last boyfriend is using a whole box
Of Kleenex to wipe away his river of tears.
These are rumors, just rumors.
But I can see. You’re dressed in beautiful trouble,
The skirt that swings and the low-cut blouse,
And I may as well mention the red smile,
The ring on your loveliest toe,
And the glance in a compact mirror,
Seeing me watch you.
When you raise your hand in class,
Your bracelets ring. You seldom get the answer
Right, but who cares!
My dad, a deacon in the church, warns,
“Watch out for girls who cause trouble.”
Indeed, I watch every day as you swing
Down the hallways, the little roll of muscle
In your calf, and somewhere up higher,
The rumor of a butterfly.

p. 58

Soto, Gary. 2008. Partly Cloudy; Poems of Love and Longing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

More love poetry for young people is on its way in two collections by Betsy Franco and Pat Mora coming out later this year or early next year. I can’t wait!

Speaking of Pat Mora, her new poetry book this fall is Join Hands! The Ways We Celebrate Life. It’s a poem picture book illustrated with color photographs by George Ancona of kids in constant motion. A single pantoum poem bounces across the pages, with repeated lines appearing across each of the four line stanzas. (A diagrammed poem at the end explains this repetition visually.) This reiterative, circular Malaysian poem form plays out like a playground chant as you read the book aloud, inviting children to participate in the suggested movement and actions: masquerade, parade, dance, skip, prance. The poem begins:

“Join hands!” is what we say.
We sing canciones, too.

We plan a hoopla day.

We strut and ballyhoo.

Kids are pictured in a variety of scenes, settings, and garb, suggesting multiple multicultural connections: Native dancing, flamenco, mariachis, etc.

Join the Poetry Friday gathering at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Picture credits: Charlesbridge;