Friday, April 11, 2008

Juanita Havill and GROW

Time to plug my TLA poetry panel again. Coming to Texas next week: Juanita Havill. In 1986, Juanita Havill introduced readers to a young African-American girl named Jamaica in her first published picture book, Jamaica's Find. She was a hit! Over a dozen years later, together with sometime-friend Brianna, brother Ossie, and assorted teachers and classmates, Jamaica has continued to entertain readers in at least six picture book stories. Juanita Havill has authored at least 10 other picture books, as well as three novels for young readers. Her work has been recognized with several Child Study Children's Book Awards from Bank Street College, Children's Choices citations, and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer award. Her previous poetry collection, I Heard It from Alice Zucchini, and Other Poems about the Garden, (Chronicle Books, 2005) was described as a “a bountiful harvest of lyrical poems” by School Library Journal, with “flawless rhythms and storytelling narratives.” Her newest work, Grow, A Novel in Verse, continues the garden theme in a verse novel about a girl struggling with who she will be and become, nurtured by a neighbor who works to create a garden in a public space. As they plant and weed and tend the garden, neighborhood relationships evolve and grow, too. Here’s a sample poem:

Bolting Lettuce
by Juanita Havill

Some of the big early tomatoes
are red,
round, and juicy.
Radishes picked
and crunched,
their spicy cool

in my mouth.

If we give it

half a chance,

the lettuce

will bolt.

(Berneetha’s word.)

When she tells me

about bolting,

I think I feel

what the lettuce feels.

People have finally quit

pulling the leaves off
here and there,

cutting me down to size.

They let me have my head,

let me grow, grow, grow
into what
I’ve been wanting

to be all along—

a flower.

From Grow, A Novel in Verse (Peachtree, 2008; p. 123-124)

Check out my previous posting on April 29, 2007 for Children’s Poetry for National Garden Month for more poetry books about gardens and gardening.

For even more poetry connections, go to the Poetry Friday Round Up hosted by Cloudscome at A Wrung Sponge.

Picture credit: Amazon


Cloudscome said...

I have always secretly enjoyed that phrase "the lettuce bolted" as if it tried to escape the garden or our table, and succeeded. I am printing this poem out to pass around for our Poetry in Your Pocket day at school. Thanks!

I like those Jamaica books too. I'll work on adding more of Havill's books to our collection.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Wonderful! It's a great word and image for kids-- glad to help it find an audience. Enjoy.