I’m posting from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair where I have been immersed in the amazing literature for children being published in countries all across the world. I thought I was a bit of an expert in this area—until I came here! How humbling it is to mix with publishers, promoters, authors, illustrators, and others who create and support this field of literature for kids in Korea (a featured country), Italy (our gracious host), Spain (in four languages no less) and beyond. And of course, there is poetry in every place, too.
I was representing Bookbird, the journal of international children’s literature at the IBBY booth (the International Board on Books for Young People) and I met many, many people who share the same goals as we do (literacy and literature for all). The booth next door featured the International Youth Library based in Munich, the site founded by Jella Lepman (creator of IBBY too) and they were showcasing their recently announced “White Ravens” list, their selection of the best 250 books from over 48 countries (in 32 languages) published in the last year or so. This may be the ultimate “best children’s books in the world” list!
And what is the best children’s poetry in the world? Here’s the list of nearly a dozen books gleaned from their roster. (Although I examined each one, I couldn’t read them all, of course, since only 4 are in English. How I wish I could!)
Wright, Danielle (Ed). 2008. My Village; Rhymes from Around the World. Wellington, NZ: Gecko Press
*Bilingual rhymes presented in various languages and English in a colorful, inviting, multicultural context
Sayer, Viv (Ed). 2008. Poems of Love and Longing. Llandysul: Pont Books.
*Perfect small teen-friendly size with a range of mostly serious poems by ten British poets
Cheng, Andrea. 2008. Where the Steps Are. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.
*Verse novel for younger readers about a class and their yearlong efforts to save their school
Weston, Robert Paul. 2008. Zorgamazoo. New York: Little, Brown.
*A new kind of zany novel-in-verse featuring Lemony Snicket-type adventures in Dr. Seuss-like rhyming stanzas
Rimbaud, Arthur. 2008. Les poings dans mes poches crevees. Choix de poemes. (My hands in my torn coat pockets. Anthology of poems) Paris: Gallimard Jeunesse,
*Excerpts from classic Rimbaud poems grouped in helpful categories and illustrated with delicate color sketches
Giarratana, Sbrina. 2008. Amica terra. (Friend earth). Firenze:Fatatrac.
*Gorgeous, deep colors saturate double-page spreads with an earth poem on the right hand side
Tognolini, Bruno. 2008. Tiritere. (Twitter). Modena: Panini.
*Sturdy and colorful board book of verses for the very young child
Colasanti, Marina. 2008. Poesia em 4 tempos. (Poetry in four time). Sao Paolo: Global.
*Delicate watercolor illustrations accompany short poems in this paperback collection.
Lujan, Jorge. 2007. Oh, los colores! (Oh, the colors!). Mexico, DF: Ed. SM.
*Inviting picture book collection of one-color-per-poem works ala Hailstones & Halibut Bones.
P.S. I just found out that Groundwood has published a bilingual (English/Spanish) edition of this book: Lujan, Jorge. 2008. Colors! Colores! Illustrated by Piet Grobler. Translated by John Oliver Simion and Rebecca Parfitt. Groundwood Books / Libros Tigrillo. ISBN 0-88899-863-5
Tuwim, Julian. 2007. Wiersze dla dzieci. (Poems for children). Warszawa:Wytwornia.
*Amazing, poster-sized book of selected poems by noted Polish poet juxtaposed against wild, surrealistic art
Neydim, Necdet. 2008. Sen islik calmayi bilir misin? Siirler. (Can you whistle? Poems). Istanbul: Gunisigi Kitapligi.
*What a fun paperback collection of everyday poems in big print with just-right pen and ink and watercolor sketches
(Please forgive the absence of proper diacritical marks—or ignorant errors—as I am posting without all my usual tools handy.)
And of course I must share a sample poem. This one, in particular, touched me. It’s from the British collection, Poems of Love and Longing and is the final entry in a mini-group of poems that conclude the book.
by Susan Richardson
Spirit, use me today,
not in some miracle
that would make others marvel
and would make me proud.
Not in the word of wisdom
that would stay in the mind
and make me always remembered.
Not in the heroic act
that would change the world for the better
and me for the worse.
But in the mundane miracles
of honesty and truth
that keep the sky from falling
In the unremembered quiet words
that keep a soul on the path
And in the unnoticed acts
that keep the world moving
slowly closer to the light.
Sayer, Viv (Ed). 2008. Poems of Love and Longing. Llandysul: Pont Books, p. 66.
The complete annotated list of these and all the 250 titles is (or will soon be) available on the IYL Web site (ijb.de). Read more about this amazing repository of 600,000 of the world’s children’s books in a historic castle in Germany. (They also offer fellowships for scholars who want to study there!)
This week’s Poetry Friday gathering is hosted by poet Julie Larios at The Drift Record. Thanks, Julie!
Image credit: ijb.de; NEW IMAGE WILL BE POSTED WHEN 2009 COVER IS AVAILABLE