If you’re spending time with family this weekend, Eloise Greenfield’s new poetry collection, Brothers and Sisters: Family Poems (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2009) is a lovely gem to share. This picture book anthology includes 25 poems arranged in three categories: “Brothers,” “Sisters,” and “Brothers and Sisters” with 7-9 poems in each section and this fun opening poem:
Brothers and Sisters
by Eloise Greenfield
Brothers and sisters
can be dear,
can be company,
can bring cheer,
can start arguments,
can make noise,
can cause tears,
can break toys,
can be few
or can be many,
make me wish
I didn’t have any.
Helpful, funny, and good one day,
next day, they get in my way.
Still, I think no matter what,
I’d rather have them
Greenfield, Eloise. 2009. Brothers and Sisters: Family Poems. Ill. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. New York: Amistad/HarperCollins, p.5.
The poem topics run the gamut of authentic kid experiences from wrestling, playing, and laughing, to dealing with new siblings and rivalries, looking up and down to older and younger family members, growing up with teens, being mad and making up, relating to grandparents and aunts and uncles, older members looking back, and family fun, and making plans for the future. The first person child’s voice rings true through every poem, with half of them rhyming and half in free verse.
Greenfield’s frequent collaborator, Jan Spivey Gilchrist illustrates each page with watercolor paintings of kids and families in everyday situations. As I looked back over the images, I realized that they represent a range of African American faces and families—lovely and grounded—and the poems add details of names and moments—and still it all reflects and transcends race and culture to speak to all kinds of kids and families.
Pair this with Eloise Greenfield’s family-centered and classic FIRST poem collection Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems (HarperCollins 1978) or Nikki Grimes’ celebratory Hopscotch Love: A Family Treasury of Love Poems (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard 1999). Greenfield also teamed with her mother to create Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir, an autobiographical work that describes the childhood memories of Greenfield, her mother, and her maternal grandmother. Plan a poetry picnic for sharing these and other family poems outside spread out on a tablecloth.
In her poetry, Eloise Greenfield tries to involve children in their own worlds. In Night on Neighborhood Street (Dial 1991), Greenfield brings her young readers into the happenings around them examining the life of an urban community. The volume's seventeen poems show children in typical situations, including attending church and playing games with their families. Link this book with Carole Boston Weatherford’s collection, Sidewalk Chalk; Poems of the City (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press 2001) with poems about the laundromat, local diner, city market, barbershop or Lilian Moore’s Mural on Second Avenue and Other City Poems (Candlewick 2005) which features poems about the city park, shop windows, skylines and bridges, and construction sites. Invite the children to list places they enjoy in their communities. What poems might they write to celebrate their favorite spots?
Remember Eloise again on May 17, coming soon, on her birthday.
Also note: National Library Week is April 12-18
Image credit: cdn.harpercollins.com