Saturday, January 31, 2009

Poetry and Multicultural Awards

My “Everyday Poetry” column in the January issue of Book Links looked at last year’s major multicultural awards and paired each winner with a book of poetry, including the Coretta Scott King award, Pura Belpre award, American Indian Youth Literature award and Asian/Pacific American award. There wasn’t room for everything I wanted to include, so I’ll share the rest with you here.

Batchelder Award (for a book first published outside the U.S.)
Brave Story, a big, fat fantasy novel for older kids written by Miyuki Miyabe and translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith, blends dark realism with a fantastical quest as the protagonist strives to mend family relationships. Match with the deceptively simple, Today and Today, in which illustrator Brian Karas arranges 22 haiku by the Japanese poet Issa to form a family story across a year’s span. [This year's winner is also a work of fantasy from Japan!]

John Steptoe New Talent Award
(for a new African American author or illustrator)
Brendan is grappling with many things in first-time author Sundee T. Frazier’s smart, contemporary novel, Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It. As we look for poetry connections, we can focus on Brendan’s struggle to understand the perception of others toward his biracial identity with the poetry of Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff. [This year's "New Talent" winner is illustrator, Shonda Strickland, for her illustrations for the poetry book, Bird, by Zetta Elliott.]

The Américas Award (for books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the U.S.)
Young Adult Literature
Laura Resau’s Red Glass, weaves a shy girl’s inward journey for self-understanding through her trip from Tucson to Guatemala and back. References to specific poems by Pablo Neruda and e e cummings are woven throughout the narrative, offering a perfect opportunity to seek out the full text of each poem and read it out loud as Sophie does. Or look for more works by Neruda and cummings in A Family of Poems; My Favorite Poetry for Children collected by Caroline Kennedy.

Children’s Literature

Pat Mora’s picture book, Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Que Rico!: America’s Sproutings, is full of pungent haiku (along with fun facts) introducing the origins of foods from across the Americas. Match this with Alma Flor Ada’s alphabet book, Gathering the Sun, a bilingual collection of poems about migrant farm life with selections like "Arboles/Trees" and "Betabel/Beet."

I love the rich writing coming from parallel cultures—don’t you?

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Remembering Kate and Kathy

The children’s literature world is reeling this week after learning of the death of two of our finest--uber-librarians Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz, who were killed in a car accident as they drove to the airport following the ALA Midwinter conference in Denver. We were just there together. We just spoke, laughed, and enjoyed the book award news. And now they’re gone. It seems impossible.

So many colleagues are expressing their condolences and sharing lovely memories on listservs and blogs ( I felt it was appropriate to pause for a poem in their memories. (They were both public—not school—librarians, but each had a powerful influence on many, many young people—and people of all ages!)

School Librarian
By Kristine O’Connell George

Mrs. Thompson knows I love sad stories.

The books she lends me

come with

hidden bookmarks—

folded tissues tucked into

the sad parts.

We have definitely hit a sad part here.
But we also remember the legacy of these two special women.

From: George, Kristine O’Connell. 2002. Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems. New York: Clarion Books, p. 35.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Tales from a White House Puppy by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Last Friday, I posted "A Puppy for the White House" by J. Patrick Lewis, an original, unpublished poem he wrote alongside his friend, poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich, in response to her challenge to "Write me a poem from a puppy's point of view for the new position in the White House. I'll do the same thing. Let's don't share until we're both done. We'll call it a poetry game in honor of the Obama girls and the new puppy they will be choosing :)." What fun!

Now, I'd like to showcase Rebecca's poem, which she says takes place after the dog has settled into the first term. Fun thought! This time, I've experimented with VizzVox in trying to incorporate both images AND audio in creating an audiovisual poem presentation for Rebecca's poem, "Tales from a White House Puppy." Enjoy!

Just in case there's a technical glitch, here is the poem in its entirety, used with permission.

Tales from a White House Puppy
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

It's all brand new to me, this place
on Pennsylvania Avenue.
My girls are sweet, the cook is jolly.

The treats are tops, and what a view.

The White House rocks on holidays,

strings of lights, real Christmas trees.

I was in charge of bows and holly,
Allowed to nap through ritzy teas.

My days are packed with pooch surprise

at 1600 on the Avenue.
A princely place for a pup, by golly.
The girls are calling! -- Toodle-oo.

And for more Poetry Friday, thank you, Laura Purdie Salas!
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural interlude

Poet Carole Boston Weatherford has created a beautiful video-poem tribute, "American Baptism," in honor of this amazing Inaugural day. Pause and enjoy. I'm looking forward to Elizabeth Alexander's poem at the ceremony today, too. Wonderful how we turn to poetry as we take in the moment. And what a moment!

Check back on Friday for the second half of my "White House Puppy" poems: Rebecca Kai Dotlich's poem to bookend J. Patrick Lewis's "A Puppy for the White House."

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Puppy for the White House by J. Patrick Lewis

A Puppy for the White House
by J. Patrick Lewis

“Please pick me!” whimpered a beagle puppy.

“Not that froufrou teacup poodle yuppy.

I'm the dog who’s every kid’s idea

Of lap-land love. Ask Sasha and Malia.

I know just what you're thinking, Mrs. Obama.

Forget it, Lhasa apsos are such drama

Queens, Chihuahuas can be Shihtzuphrenic.

Who knows? I might be hypoallergenic!

Melancollies? Basset hounds? Depressing.

Pick me for snappy West Wing window dressing,

Licking hands of heads of state and royalty—

I'll bark the K-9 kibble oath of loyalty,

Your second mascot! Like the American eagle.

No Boston Secreterrier.

Get a beagle!"

Poets Rebecca Kai Dotlich and J. Patrick Lewis challenged each other to write a poem (without sharing with each other) from a puppy's point of view for the new position in the White House in honor of the Obama girls and the new puppy they will be choosing. Here's Pat's. Rebecca's is coming up next... next Poetry Friday, Jan. 23.

And for more Poetry Friday fun, visit Karen Edmisten.

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Poet Michael Rosen on children in Gaza

I just received word that the British poet and writer Michael Rosen, 2007 British Children's Laureate, read a new poem last weekend at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, in London. The Tanjara blog has video of the actual reading which included children reading the names of 30 children who have died in that conflict. This is a tragic situation no matter what your point of view, and this acknowledgement of the price children pay is particularly poignant. The poem begins:

In Gaza, children,
you learn that the sky kills
and that houses hurt.
You learn that your blanket is smoke
and breakfast is dirt.

You learn that cars do somersaults
clothes turn red,
friends become statues,
bakers don't sell bread.

Read the rest of the poem at The Tanjara.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Write like Sonya Sones Contest

For those of you who work with young people, I have news about an exciting opportunity. Poet Sonya Sones wrote me about a new contest for kids 13-18 that the publishers are running to promote the publication of her novel in verse, What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know, just out in paperback.

Here’s the lowdown.

The winner of the What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know (WMGDK, love that abbreviation!) writing contest will win a free six-week online writing class from Gotham Writers' Workshop. And the winning entry will be posted on Sonya’s Web site. Also, 10 runners-up will receive a year's subscription to Teen Ink and an autographed copy of Sones’ book, WMGDK .

To enter the contest all they have to do is read What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know, and when they get to the very last poem, write a continuation of the story. Keep it short but sweet - ten pages or less. And, of course, write it in the same style as What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know - in a series of poems. Read more about how to submit entries right here.


I reviewed WMGDK when it first came out (May 18, 2007 More about Verse Novels: Sonya Sones) and loved the fresh voice, fast pace, and “sharp humor" and "honest anguish.” It was since selected for YALSA’s 2008 list of Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Here’s another nugget from the book:

Sophie Takes Hold of My Hands

in front
of everyone--
sending supersonic shockwaves all through me.

And we just sit here,
grinning at each other like Muppets,
knees pressed together under the table,
eyes locked...

Until the bell rings.
"Check, please," I call,
snapping my fingers at an imaginary waiter.
This makes Sophie laugh.

And the sound of that laugh,
and knowing that I'm the one who made it happen,
makes me feel sort of all-powerful,

immortal, even.

This is one of a sequence of six poems from the book (WMGDK) that Sonya has posted on her Web site. Check 'em out because you’ll really get a better sense of the verve of her oeuvre! :-)

Join the rest of the Poetry Friday gang at Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day site.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Poetry of 2009 + Jean Little's Birthday

For this first posting of the new year, I thought I’d play “Janus” and look forward to the new poetry we can anticipate in 2009, since my last posting was a look back at all the poetry of 2008. I’ve been seeing several glimpses, with advance copies, publisher catalogs, emails, etc., and I’m very excited about what’s coming: a new Florian creation (on dinosaurs!), several Langston Hughes poem celebrations, something from Children’s Poet Laureate, Mary Ann Hoberman, a poem-a-day book by J. Pat Lewis, some poetry about work, animals, nature, and plenty of humor! Here’s the first list of the year! MUCH more to come…

Poetry Books Coming in 2009
1. Agee, Jon. 2009.
Orangutan Tongs; Poems to Tangle Your Tongue. New York: Disney-Hyperion.
2. Florian, Douglas. 2009.
Dinothesaurus. New York: Simon & Schuster.
3. Foxworthy, Jeff. 2009.
Silly Street. Illus. by Steve Bjorkman. New York: HarperCollins.
4. Heard, Georgia. 2009.
Falling Down the Page; A Book of List Poems. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
5. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2009.
All Kinds of Families. New York: Little, Brown.
6. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2009. City I Love. Ill. by Marcellus Hall. New York: Abrams.
7. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2009. Incredible Inventions. Illus. by Julia Sarcone-Roach. New York: HarperCollins.
8. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2009. Sky Magic. Ill. by Mariusz Stawarski. New York: Dutton.

9. Hughes, Langston. 2009. My People. Ill. by Charles R Smith Jr. New York: Simon & Schuster.
10. Hughes, Langston. 2009.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers. Ill. by E. B. Lewis. New York: Disney-Hyperion.
11. Iyengar, Malathi Michelle. 2009.
Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color Brown. Illus. by Jamel Akib. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
12. Katz, Alan. 2009. Going, Going, Gone!: And Other Silly Dilly Sports Songs. New York: Simon & Schuster.
13. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009.
Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year. Ill. by Ethan Long. New York: Little Brown.
14. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009.
Skywriting: Poems in Flight. Ill. by Laszlo Kubinui. Minneapolis, MN: Creative Editions.
15. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009. Spot the Plot! A Riddle Book of Book Riddles. Ill. by Lynn Munsinger. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
16. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009.
The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse. Ill. by Serge Bloch. New York: Simon & Schuster/Atheneum.
17. Nesbitt, Kenn. 2009. My Hippo Has the Hiccups with CD: And Other Poems I Totally Made Up. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.
18. Paul, Ann Whitford. 2009.
Word Builder. New York: Simon & Schuster.
19. Ruddell, Deborah. 2009. A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk. New York: Simon & Schuster.
20. Sidman, Joyce. 2009.
Red Sings from Treetops; A Year in Colors. Illus. by Pamela Zagarenski. New York: Harcourt Houghton Mifflin.
21. Weinstock, Robert. 2009. Food Hates You, Too. New York: Disney-Hyperion.
22. Wilson, Karma. 2009.
What's the Weather Inside? New York: Simon & Schuster.
23. Wolff, Virginia Euwer. 2009.
This Full House. Harper Teen/The Bowen Press.
24. Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2009.
Steady Hands: Poems About Work. New York: Clarion.

Dana, Barbara. 2009.
A Voice of Her Own; Becoming Emily Dickinson. New York: HarperCollins.
Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. Bella & Bean. New York: Simon & Schuster.

+ Poet Birthday Today! Today is also Canadian author and poet Jean Little’s birthday. Blind from birth, many of her works focus on characters with disabilities. I remember reading her first book, Mine for Keeps (1962) about a girl who had cerebral palsy, when I was a little girl and I just loved it! Jean Little is known primarily for writing fiction, but has one book, in particular, that blends fictional vignettes and poetry from the point of view of a spunky ‘tween that is wonderful-- It’s Hey World, Here I Am! One of my favorite poems about poetry is from this book. It’s cranky and hilarious and captures a moment that many of us may have experienced!

After English Class

By Jean Little

I used to like “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

I liked the coming darkness,
The jingle of harness bells,

Breaking—and adding to—the stillness,

The gentle drift of the snow . . .

But today, the teacher told us what everything stood for.

The woods, the horse, the miles to go, the sleep—

They all have “hidden meanings.”

It’s grown so complicated now that,
Next time I drive by,

I don’t think I’ll bother to stop.

From: Little, Jean. 1989. Hey World, Here I Am! New York: Harper & Row.

Start the year off right with Poetry Friday, hosted this week by A Year of Reading.

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