Tuesday, March 31, 2009

National Poetry Month Eve

Some of my blogging colleagues have come up with amazing plans for National Poetry Month starting tomorrow. I'll be posting daily in April, for the third consecutive year. This year, I'm planning a poetry-book-review-a-day on new 2009 poetry books for kids, with sample poems, activities for kids, and poet interview tidbits. Should be fun! Meanwhile, here’s the lowdown on a few other poetry-centric blogs and their plans for April, just FYI.

Gregory K. Pincus, at Gottabook has created a tremendous resource for April with original poems by many well-known children’s poets for every single day, calling it “30 Poets/30 Days.” Here's the alphabetical list of the poets he will featuring: Arnold Adoff, Jaime Adoff, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Douglas Florian, Betsy Franco, Kristine O'Connell George, Charles Ghigna, Nikki Giovanni, Joan Bransfield Graham, Nikki Grimes, Mary Ann Hoberman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, X. J. Kennedy, Julie Larios, J. Patrick Lewis, Pat Mora, Kenn Nesbitt, Linda Sue Park, Ann Whitford Paul, Gregory K. Pincus, Jack Prelutsky, Adam Rex, Jon Scieszka, Joyce Sidman, April Halprin Wayland, Janet Wong, and Jane Yolen. Won’t that be amazing?!

For National Poetry Month, Dr. Patricia M. Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect will be posting interviews with children's poets each day. Her distinguished roster includes: Kenn Nesbitt, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Avis Harley, Ann Whitford Paul, Joyce Carol Thomas, J. Patrick Lewis, Janet Wong, Joseph Bruchac, Ralph Fletcher, Steven Schnur, Jane Yolen, Linda Ashman, Julie Larios, Adam Rex, Marilyn Singer, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Georgia Heard, Joyce Sidman, Paul Janeczko, Arnold Adoff, Jaime Adoff, Joan Bransfield Graham, Bobbi Katz, Kristine O'Connell George, Jorge Argueta, Carole Boston Weatherford, Betsy Franco, Lisa Westberg Peters, Laura Purdie Salas, Calef Brown, Marilyn Nelson, Helen Frost, Sara Holbrook, Douglas Florian, Mary Ann Hoberman, and Pat Mora. She’ll be incorporating mini reviews and activities alongside the interviews, too.

Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader will be giving away children's poetry books as prizes again this year. She has a variety of posting plans including theme-related posts on haiku, cats, dogs, birds, and geography; interviews with Alice Schertle, Julie Larios, Kris George, Linda Ashman, book reviews, and perhaps a poetry research report. Check out her new solo blog called Political Verses, too.

Anastasia Suen at Pencil Talk will be collecting school poems written by children throughout April and posting one each day. Of course there are many other blogs that will be celebrating poetry in all kinds of ways during the month of April. See you online!

Roses are red,
blogs are sublime

Let the postings begin,

it’s poetry time!

Image credit: library.otterbein.edu

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poetry from around the world

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!


Friday, March 20, 2009

World Poetry Day + A/V Poetry

One of my students stumbled upon a mention of World Poetry Day that was new info to me. Apparently, it’s that time again: March 21. According to the ReadWriteThink curriculum Web site, “Believed to have its origin in the 1930s, World Poetry Day is now celebrated in hundreds of countries around the world. This day provides a perfect opportunity to examine poets and their craft in the classroom. In 1999, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) also designated March 21 as World Poetry Day."

I’m heading off to Bologna, Italy today for my very first trip to the world famous Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I’ll be attending in my role as the new (co) editor of Bookbird, the journal on international children’s literature, and I’m hoping to learn, learn, learn. I also hope to find some wonderful, new international poetry for young people. Wouldn’t that be fun?

In the mean time, I’d also like to share an excerpt from my March Book Links “Everyday Poetry” column focused on multi-media options for poetry. If you’re looking for fresh ways to approach poetry with young people, you might consider multi-media methods for experiencing the visual and aural qualities of poetry. Using popular Internet sites, CDs, and a variety of software, you can lead kids in exploring the imagery, emotion, and language of poetry in ways that are creative, playful and multi-sensory.

VIDEO-- Look to the Internet for many examples of poetry in various visual formats. On Teacher Tube.com, you can find school-friendly video vignettes of young people reading poetry aloud, including their own original poetry, as well as teachers presenting a variety of poetry lessons…. Nearly everyone enjoys searching You Tube.com for fun, but it can also be a great site for poetry resources. One new trend is the video book talk or book trailer. Some are created by the poet, some by the publisher, and some by fans—a project possibility for kids, teachers, and librarians.

There are several places to find audio adaptations of poetry for young people. Many are available as CDs accompanying print books…. Many poetry-related web sites include audiofiles among their links, such as The Academy of American Poets, Poetry Magazine.com, Poets and Writers, Inc., LibriVox.org for amateur recordings of books in the public domain, and the Favorite Poem Project …. More and more children’s poets are making audio recordings of themselves reading their own poetry available on their personal web sites…. As children experiment with technological tools of all kinds, they can be very savvy about finding creative ways to express themselves through poetry.

For examples of many of these sites and sources, check out the rest of the column. And once again, we have a lovely poem to accompany the column—a spring gem by Bobbi Katz. It’s beautifully formatted on the Book Links page for educator use.

Onion Snow
by Bobbi Katz

I wake to heavy quiet this April morning:
a special weighted sound.

Outside my window snowflakes fall

softly, softly feathering the ground-
softly, softly bearding the daffodils.

Grandma always called it onion snow.

Arriving when wild onions have started to grow,

those foolish fat flakes don't seem to know

they are too late for winter
and misfits in spring.

"Come listen to that onion snow!"

she would have said.
"Have you ever heard
such a silence??”

Copyright c 2008 by Bobbi Katz; used with permission.

Linda, a blogging colleague is also sharing her thoughts about this Book Links column at Write Time. Check it out.

Join this week's Poetry Friday crew at Wild Rose Reader. Thanks for hosting, Elaine!

Image credit: http://www.bookfair.bolognafiere.it/bcbf09_index.asp?m=107&l=1&ma=356;ala.org

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Magic and Luck for Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is a good day to focus on poetry about magic, luck, superstitions and beliefs, dreams and nightmares. I gathered just a few poetry books on these topics for my list below. And brand new this year is another gem from—guess who?—Lee Bennett Hopkins. (He is having a very good year!)

Sky Magic is a new 2009 anthology due out next week with 14 poems about the sky, sun, moon, and stars illustrated by Mariusz Stawarski. It’s a gorgeous book, another perfect pairing of artist and anthologist. Every single poem gets its own full color, double page spread with a color drenched landscape showcasing each poem. Poets include new names and old, such as Sarah Hansen, Lyn Littlefield Hoopes, Ashley Bryan, Alice Schertle, Ann Whitford Paul, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Tony Johnston, Georgia Heard, David McCord, James Guthrie, Carl Sandburg, and even Tennessee Williams. Here’s one sampling of the lyrical language of these selections:

by Avis Harley

In the language of stars
lie stories of old
brilliant legends

Spelling out sagas,
spilling out light,
a mythical manuscript
filling the night.

From: Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2009. Sky Magic. Ill. by Mariusz Stawarski. New York: Dutton, p. 22.

Beautiful! What a great read aloud collection, for breakfast table or bedtime sharing, as the poems begin with sunrise and end with sunset, in suitable-for-framing scenes in deep blues and violets, vibrant orange and gold.

Poetry about Superstitions, Beliefs, Luck, Magic, Dreams, and Nightmares
Berry, James. 1991.
Isn’t My Name Magical?: Sister and Brother Poems. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Field, Edward. 1998. Magic Words: Poems. San Diego, CA: Gulliver Books/Harcourt Brace.
Grimes, Nikki. 2000.
Shoe Magic. New York: Orchard.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2009.
Sky Magic. Ill. by Mariusz Stawarski. New York: Dutton.
Kennedy, X.J. 1989.
Ghastlies, Goops, & Pincushions: Nonsense Verse. New York: McElderry.
Larios, Julie. 2008.
Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Mado, Michio. 1998.
The Magic Pocket. New York: McElderry.
Prelutsky, Jack. 1976. Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep. New York: Greenwillow. Reprinted, New York: Mulberry Books, 1993.
Schertle, Alice. 1999. A Lucky Thing. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
Schwartz, Alvin. 1992.
And the Green Grass Grew All Around: Folk Poetry from Everyone. New York: HarperCollins.
Wong, Janet S. 1994.
Good Luck Gold and Other Poems. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Wong, Janet S. 2003.
Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Wong, Janet S. 2000.
Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams. New York: Margaret K. McElderry
Yolen, Jane. 1996. Sacred Places. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.

I’m happy to note a fun addition to my list of poems about superstitions with a new voice from Britain: Graham Denton, a writer, anthologist and small press publisher of poetry for children in the UK who has authored the poetry collection, Silly Superstitions (Macmillan Children's Books). Check it out!

Join the Poetry Friday gang at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Thanks, Tricia!

Image credits: www.funtrivia.com

Friday, March 06, 2009

LBH interview for City I Love

I’m a city gal. I love the hustle and bustle of cities, people walking everywhere, cars and cabs honking, shops and restaurants of all kinds, museums and theaters—all of it. So, when I saw Lee Bennett Hopkins’s new collection of poetry, City I Love, I was excited to see it, get it, and read it. And I think it’s completely wonderful.

There are 18 original Hopkins poems (that’s right, this is not an anthology of many poets this time) and I recognized a few of Lee’s poems from years gone by, alongside many new gems. Together, they create a wonderful cityscape of the sights, sounds, and smells in a variety of poetic forms from rhyming to free verse to haiku.

Add to that the genius of the book’s art and design. New Yorker artist Marcellus Hall is an inspired choice as illustrator and he has created a backdrop that provides a story frame that grounds the poems without limiting them one bit. The end pages show a world map with 18 cities labeled across multiple continents. Upon close examination, one sees that each of these cities is the locale for one of the poems. Identifying which is which is so fun!

Plus, a backpack-carrying brown dog and a blue Parisian pigeon appear on each page, having adventures and encounters that young readers will pick up on before the grownups do.

The poetry starts with a city anthem and ends with a kind of city lullaby. In between, we celebrate city summers and city winters, city skyscrapers and big bridges, city sounds and city lights, taxis and subways, and city zoos and merry-go-rounds. The first person voice is strong and immediate and the language is spare, rhythmic and lyrical. Here’s a sampling:

City Lights
by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Blazing lights

















Lee was kind enough to answer a few quick interview questions to give us a bit of backstory on this wonderful new collection of his own writing. Enjoy.

What prompted this particular poetry book with its focus on cities? How did you decide on that theme? And on doing a solo collection, rather than an anthology?

It is odd. I lived near or in cities my entire life. I worked on CITY I LOVE after moving to Cape Coral, Florida, a rather suburban little place on earth. I guess I had to leave New York City to do this collection. There are very few books of poetry reflecting city life. I knew I had to do this book. Cities are a vibrant part of America, of the world.

This collection has a lovely variety of forms and rhythms and structures— even a haiku poem. Was this a conscious element in writing the new poems and selecting the previous ones? Can you describe that writing/selection process?

I love experimenting with form...rhyme, free verse, list poems, haiku, et. al. Since city life is so diverse I thought it would be a good idea to include a diverse amount of poetic form.

I wish I could describe my writing process. Frankly I don't know how it all comes about. It just does, thankfully! It all begins with imagery -- looking up at a skyscraper being built and seeing men and women eating from lunch boxes atop a girder...trying to get a taxi cab in the rain...observing many faces on a subway...wishing I could pet a seal...being dazzled and amazed at city lights at night. It is the imagery th
at comes first, then the writing process. Oft times a verse will come full-blown; other times it is working with a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus...two of the best tools a poet can have.

Did you have any input on the selection of the illustrator or on any of the art? What do you think about the artist’s interpretations of the poems and the connecting “travel” thread?

Like most books, authors have little input as to an illustrator. A writer writes, an artist draws. It is usually up to an editor to select an artist. When I first saw sketches from Marcellus Hall for CITY I LOVE, I knew he was the right artist. A jazz musician living in the midst of New York City? What could be better? Poetry and music belong together. It was the idea of my brilliant editor, Tamar Brazis at Abrams, in consultation with Marcellus, to bring the text out of New York City and focus on cities around the world. What an inspired idea! And why not? There are pigeons in Paris, bright lights in Tokyo, snow in Moscow, balconies on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and "mile-long skyscrapers" in the midst of glorious New York.

Adding that winsome pooch and his companion bird to every page brings added fun and excitement to the whole of the book.

CITY I LOVE is my ode to cities everywhere. It also seems like an omen coming out this year, the year I receive the National Council of Teachers of English Excellence in Poetry for Children Award... an Award I shall cherish for many reasons including coming from its founder, Bee Cullinan, who established the Award in honor of her young son w
ho was tragically killed, and having been present at the beginning of the Award while serving on the Board of Directors at NCTE in the late l970's, and having Chaired the Award Committee twice, the years Aileen Fisher received the Award (l978) and Valerie Worth (1991).

I am shamefully awed and proud to be among such a distinguished list of poets, each of whom I know personally and love.

Finally, here’s a little mini-guide of 5 activities to accompany this wonderful book.
1. Start with the map. Identify each of the cities (and it’s country and continent). Challenge the kids to figure out which poem is set in which city. Use the poem references and landmarks pictured.

2. Here are a few choral reading options. Several of the poems have a repeated line that can be a “refrain” for the kids to join in on, including:
• “Sing a Song of Cities” (“Cities will sing back to you.”)
• “Subways are People” (“Subways are people.”)
• “City I Love” (“In the city I live in—city I love”)
In “Taxi” and “Get ‘Em Here” there are lines in quotes for kids to shout out.
For the poems “City” and “Subways are People,” break the kids into two groups to read them aloud antiphonally, in a back-and-forth way. Record the read alouds.

3. Create jazz dog and Parisian pigeon cut-out characters of your own as poem puppets to pair with the read aloud, display with the book, and use to inspire new poems about new cities.

4. Challenge the kids to work in pairs or as a group to compose a poem about THEIR city or town, noting the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, landmarks, and feelings that the kids associate with their homeplace. Create a collage illustration or mural to go with the poem.

5. For more place-based poetry, be sure and look for Lee’s anthologies with a focus on geography including Got Geography! (Greenwillow 2006), My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States (Simon & Schuster, 2000), Home to Me: Poems Across America (Orchard, 2002). For more pictures and more poems on cities and landmarks, find J. Patrick Lewis’s books, A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme (Dial Books 2002), Monumental Verses (National Geographic, 2005), and Castles, Old Stone Poems (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press 2006) co-authored with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, as well as Diane Siebert’s Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art (Chronicle Books 2006) and Jane Yolen’s Sacred Places (Harcourt Brace, 1996).

For more poetry Friday fun, check out: Picture Book of the Day. (Thanks, Anastasia!)

Image credit: search.barnesandnoble.com;www.theforestryservice.com

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Celebrating Cybils

I’ve gotten bogged down recently and behind on my poetry news. Please forgive me! I may be the very last person to toot the Cybils horn, but I wanted to anyway. I've had the honor of being invited to participate in the poetry category every year, this year as a judge in the final step. (My fellow judges were a delight and and have also blogged about our process and our choice. Thanks!)

For anyone new to the Cybils, it’s a loose acronym for Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards, focused on celebrating books that exhibit both literary quality and kid appeal. They begin with nominations open to absolutely anyone. Then five nominating committee members read the nominated books (with different committees in multiple categories, from poetry to fiction to nonfiction to graphic novels). Then another panel of five judges selects a single winner.

This year’s Poetry judges included:
Panelists (Round I judges)
Kelly Fineman; Writing and Ruminating
Elaine Magliaro; Wild Rose Reader
Bruce Black; Wordswimmer
Laura Purdie Salas
Julie Danielson; Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Judges (Round II):
John Mutford; The Book Mine Set
Gregory K. Pincus; Gottabook
Jama Rattigan; Alphabet Soup
Liz Garton Scanlon; Liz in Ink
Yours truly (Sylvia Vardell; Poetry for Children)
[A special thank you to Poetry panel Organizer Kelly Fineman at Writing and Ruminating.]

This year’s best poetry book for young people is Honeybee by Naomi Shihab Nye, a poetic hybrid of delicious poetry and lyrical prose poems on wide-ranging themes blending science and observation alongside personal memoir and political challenge. There are ideas buzzing here that young people have probably felt in their gut, but may not have verbalized. Isn't this what poetry is supposed to do?

And just to round up the entire Cybils poetry celebration, here’s the history, with 17 wonderful and varied poetry gems to find, buy, read, share, and promote!

2008 Cybils (31 initial nominations)
by Naomi Shihab Nye (WINNER)
America at War edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Imaginary Menagerie
by Julie Larios
More than Friends: Poems from Him and Her
by Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf
On the Farm
by David Elliott

2007 Cybils (42 initial nominations)
This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness
by Joyce Sidman (WINNER)
Animal Poems
by Valerie Worth
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry edited by Jane Yolen
Poems in Black and White by Kate Miller
Twist: Yoga Poems
by Janet S. Wong
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath
by Stephanie Hemphill

2006 Cybils (26 initial nominations)
Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow
by Joyce Sidman (WINNER)
Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex
by Douglas Florian
by Walter Dean Myers
Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art by Diane Siebert

For more on all the Cybils winners.

Next? Nominations open Oct. 1, 2009 for the 2009-10 contest. It will be here before you know it!

And I’m sure everyone has already joined the Poetry Friday round up, but just in case, go here: Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.

Image credit: www.schoollibraryjournal.com