Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guinness World Record Poet

I am excited to announce that Lee Bennett Hopkins has been awarded a Guinness World Record! The certificate reads:


With 113 titles to his credit
as of July 2011
Lee Bennett Hopkins (USA)
is the world's most prolific anthologist of poetry for children. Mr. Hopkins, a noted poet in his own right, has compiled collections based on a variety of topics, including animals, holidays, the seasons, and difficult emotions.



Congratulations, Lee!
And hurray for poetry!


I am also pleased to share that my doctoral student and school librarian Beth Enochs deserves a bit of credit here for working with Lee to gather the data, research the process, and pursue this so-worthy certification. The photo is hers as well! She is a poetry advocate herself and wrote an excellent thesis on poetry in the school library! Thank you, Beth, for helping us promote poetry for young people in all these ways!

Friday, July 15, 2011

5 year blog anniversary!

I can’t believe it’s been five years since I launched this blog focused entirely on poetry for young people. Thank you, readers, for your support and encouragement. I have learned so much from taking on this medium and from you all. The poetry community is such a wonderful place to play!

So what is the traditional fifth anniversary gift? Wood! To celebrate my anniversary, I’ve created a “mash up” of two of my favorite “tree” poems, with apologies to Joyce Kilmer (“Trees”) and Robert Frost (“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”). Wishing you all a bit of shade this summer!


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree;
A tree that looks at God all day,
The darkest evening of the year;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair
Who intimately lives with rain.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Image credit: 

Sylvia Vardell

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Blast with Marilyn Singer

I took my handy dandy FlipCam with me to the 8th annual ALSC Poetry Blast and made short one minute (more or less) movies of the poets reading their works to share with you. Next: Marilyn Singer.

When asked what writers influenced her poetry, Marilyn Singer answers, “When I was a kid, every night my dad sang the hit songs of the day to me. So I grew up loving all those great lyricists such as Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, and Larry Hart. I'm a really big Cole Porter fan. Anybody who could write an internal rhyme, like ‘flying too high with some guy in the sky is my idea of nothing to do’ is aces in my book. And although I write poems and not song lyrics, I like to think that Cole and company are somewhere in my head, always encouraging me to sing.”



The author of over 90 books, Marilyn Singer says that writing in many genres prevents her from ever being bored. However, she likes writing poems best of all. Her first poetry collection, Turtle in July, was cited by Time magazine as one of the best children’s books of 1989. Her subsequent poetry books have been well-received by audiences and critics alike. Most recently, her highly acclaimed Mirror Mirror, which features the reverso, a form she created, made many Best of 2010 lists, is a finalist for fourteen state, city, and international awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet, was named an ALA Notable, and won the Cybil Award in Poetry. She had the pleasure of narrating the audio book version, along with actor Joe Morton, for Live Oak Media.


An avid swing dancer and bird watcher, Marilyn currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and Washington, CT with her dance partner/husband, Steve Aronson, and their pets, and she co-hosts Poetry Blasts all over the place.

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Marilyn co-hosted THIS blast (along with Barbara Genco) and ended this wonderful evening with readings from two new works. Here, she shares several gems from Twosomes. Enjoy!

Image credit: 

Sylvia Vardell

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

A Blast with Janet Wong

I took my handy dandy FlipCam with me to the 8th annual ALSC Poetry Blast and made short one minute (more or less) movies of the poets reading their works to share with you. Next: Janet Wong.

Here's the short, lovely intro written and presented by host and poet Marilyn Singer and used with permission.

Janet Wong reveals: “Something that not everyone knows is that I used to hate poetry. Actually, in fourth grade I really hated poetry. And I don't think it was because I knew poetry. I think it was because I hated having to memorize poems. I have a terrible memory... I also hated having to read poems and pick them apart, analyze them, try to find the right answer. That really, really bothered me. And so I thought I hated poetry, but I think what I hated was poetry homework.” 



The good news is that Janet Wong changed her mind about poetry.

A former lawyer, she gave up a lucrative career as Director of Labor Relations at Universal Studios Hollywood to become a full-time children’s writer. Her poems and stories have been featured in print as well as some unusual venues such as during a car-talk radio show and on 5,000 subway and bus posters as part of the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority's "Poetry in Motion" program. In April 2003, Janet was one of five children’s authors invited to read at The White House Easter Egg Roll. She has also served on the Commission on Literature of the National Council of Teachers of English.


Her books have won numerous awards such as the Stone Center Recognition of Merit, Claremont Graduate School for both A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems, and Good Luck Gold and Other Poems, which in, 1998, also received the International Reading Association's Celebrate Literacy Award, Foothill Reading Council. Along with Sylvia Vardell, Janet has recently embarked on a new venture, editing and producing PoetryTagTime, an e-book anthology.

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Janet reads her poem, "Scutes," from PoetryTagTime here.





Image credit: 

Sylvia Vardell

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

A Blast with Alan Katz

I took my handy dandy FlipCam with me to the 8th annual ALSC Poetry Blast and made short one minute (more or less) movies of the poets reading their works to share with you. Next: Alan Katz.

Here's the short, lovely intro written and presented by host and poet Marilyn Singer and used with permission.

Question: How would you describe perfect happiness?

Answer by Alan Katz: Perfect happiness is the moment when all my kids have done their homework and are busy with pre-bedtime activities that are personally satisfying and enriching for them, yet not overly noisy. I've never actually experienced that moment, but I hear it's wonderful.



Alan Katz says that he’s “majored in silliness” for more than thirty years. During that time, he’s written for a bunch of Emmy-nominated TV shows such as The Rosie O’Donnell Show, Taz-Mania, Disney’s Raw Toonage, and Goof Troop, several editions of the Grammy Awards and Tony Awards, Kids Are People Too, and a slew of Nickelodeon projects including Whoopi’s Littleburg. He’s also authored many articles and created hundreds of comic books, trading cards, web videos, and other special projects for kids and their parents.


Oh—and he’s written books, too. Lots of them, including Oops!; Don’t Say That Word; and Take Me Out of the Bathtub, winner of four state awards and the Publisher’s Weekly Cuffie Award for Funniest Book.
 A resident of Connecticut, Alan says that his “proudest achievement is the brilliance of Simone, Andrew, Nathan, and David, the children my wonderful wife Rose and I ‘co-authored.’ They have taken me to new heights of silliness, and they are the reason I'm a happy man.”

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Here, Alan shares his poem, "The English Teacher," a clever riff on teaching and punctuation!


Image credit: 

Sylvia Vardell

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A Blast with Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

I took my handy dandy FlipCam with me to the 8th annual ALSC Poetry Blast and made short one minute (more or less) movies of the poets reading their works to share with you. Next: Tracie Vaughn Zimmer.

Here's the short, lovely intro written and presented by host and poet Marilyn Singer and used with permission. Tracie Vaughn Zimmer proclaims: “I'd like to be a Poetry Preacher--I truly believe that poetry can transform children's reading skills (fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension), but even better than all that, it grabs the hand of its reader and changes the way we see the world.”




Someday, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer would like to live in Brooklyn, NY or on a remote Caribbean island. But for now, she’s happy to be in Ohio, around the corner from her twin sister. A literacy specialist and English teacher, she has presented at schools and conferences across the country, but now teaches for Lakota, in the same district where she grew up. She has written hundreds of guides about children’s and young adult books, as well as six critically acclaimed books of her own, most recently Cousins of Clouds. Among her works, 42 Miles was voted the best book for grades 4-6 by children in Alabama during the 2009-10 school year, and Reaching for the Sun won a Schneider Family Award.


When asked what advice she offers to young writers, Tracie says, “Read. Everyone says it, but it's true. Reread the books that haunt you and figure out why (and keep a journal or blog about what you learned). Carve out time to write until it is a habit then you won't be. Able. To. Stop. (Like me with Hershey's Kisses.)”

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Tracy read from two works-- her latest (and one of my favorites of 2011), Cousins of Clouds as well as from Steady Hands. In honor of ALA (she calls it "pandering," but I thought it was perfect!), here is her "Librarian" poem from Steady Hands.

Image credit: 

Sylvia Vardell

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

A Blast with Mike Artell

I took my handy dandy FlipCam with me to the 8th annual ALSC Poetry Blast and made short movies of the poets reading their works to share with you. Next: Mike Artell.

Here's the short, lovely intro written and presented by host and poet Marilyn Singer and used with permission.

When asked about his humorous books, Mike Artell says, "I was always a funny kid… but in the 5th grade, my teacher actually laughed at a funny poem I wrote. At that moment, I realized how important my sense of humor was to me. I believe the value of humor in books is the same as in conversation: sometimes we want to have a serious discussion with someone about something, but (hopefully) more often our conversations are light and fun... and I think that’s what books are like. Some books are serious and thought provoking—others are just meant to be fun.”

Author, illustrator, TV cartoonist, conference speaker, musician, storyteller and humorist, Mike Artell speaks to thousands of school kids and major business, educational, healthcare and association conferences each year. Because of his work with children, he was recognized by the Northshore (Louisiana) Chapter of the International Reading Association for "exemplary service for the promotion of literacy." 
Among his many award-winning books, Petite Rouge, A Cajun Red Riding Hood, was named by the National Association of Elementary School Principals as its 2009 Read Aloud Book of the Year. It has also become a musical theatre production which has been staged at many theatres across the U.S. and in England.

His astronomy book, Starry Skies, was named a Best Science Book for Children by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Mike has also co-written and performed Calling All Children to the Mardi Gras, a CD of original music, which has been awarded a Parents’ Choice Foundation award.
 A New Orleans native, he lives in Covington, LA with his wife, a middle school librarian.

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Here is Mike reading a clever poem from a work in progress that riffs on his Cajun/Southern dialect, too!

[I tried to load a video of Mike reading the entire text (at audience urging!) of his rhyming picture book, Petite Rouge, A Cajun Red Riding Hood complete with Cajun dialect-- a totally engaging N'awlins experience, HOWEVER, Blogspot would simply not cooperate, despite multiple tries. Sorry-- because it is truly a gem!]

Image credit: 

Sylvia Vardell

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

A Blast with Nikki Grimes

I took my handy dandy FlipCam with me to the 8th annual ALSC Poetry Blast and made short one minute (more or less) movies of the poets reading their works to share with you. Next: Nikki Grimes.

Here's the short, lovely intro written and presented by host and poet Marilyn Singer and used with permission.

Nikki Grimes believes that poetry has “a magical element to it in terms of slipping past the intellect...There is surprise in poetry with the image, or with the last line that you're not looking for... There's always the ‘Aha!’ There's a catching of the breath that happens, and I hear it all the time from audiences when I read. They're constantly caught off-guard, and poetry does that. Before you've had a chance to think about it, you're weeping, or you're taken back to that moment in your own childhood that you didn't even know was so close to the surface. That doesn't happen very much in prose, but it happens all the time with poetry.”




A foster child who grew up in various parts of New York, Nikki Grimes found that reading and writing were her survival tools. When she had no one else to talk to, she wrote poems and stories about the things that troubled her. As an adult, she became a world traveler, speaking in international schools in such countries as Russia, China, and Tanzania . She once sang on the stage of the Stockholm Philharmonic in Sweden (where magazines refer to her as a singer who also writes!). 


A prolific award-winning author and California resident, Nikki has penned such titles Bronx Masquerade, winner of the 2003 Coretta Scott King Author Award; Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, Jazmin's Notebook, Meet Danitra Brown, and Talkin’ about Bessie, all Coretta Scott King honor books. In 2005, she received the Golden Dolphin Award by the Southern California Children's Book Association, recognizing her body of work, and in 2006, the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children.


She says, “Poetry is just natural for children... From the ABC’s to Mother Goose to patty cake to jump rope rhymes, poetry is already a part of their lives, so you’re just building on that foundation. It’s already there.”

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Here Nikki reads the title poem from her new work, Planet Middle School.


Image credit: Sylvia Vardell



Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 01, 2011

A Blast with Joyce Sidman

I took my handy dandy FlipCam with me to the 8th annual ALSC Poetry Blast and made short one minute (more or less) movies of the poets reading their works to share with you. Next: Joyce Sidman.

Here's the short, lovely intro written and presented by host and poet Marilyn Singer and used with permission.

When asked where she gets her ideas, Joyce Sidman states: “I firmly believe (lecture coming . . .) that everyone needs ‘pondering time.’ Time alone, without noise and distraction. This is when ideas come-- when things sort themselves out, when you see visions and solutions. Not just for writing, but for life. My pondering time happens during walks in the woods, where I watch the seasons change and let my thoughts wander. The natural world sustains and inspires me. I could never live in a city for long.”




Born in Connecticut, but now a resident of Minnesota, Joyce Sidman says she’ll always be a Yankee at heart. From an early age, she felt compelled to write—especially, poetry. As she says, “Poetry is so vivid and sleek--like a race car. No extra words. I love using image and metaphor; it's such a powerful way of explaining your thoughts and feelings (as in poetry=race car).”


She’s driven that race car right into our libraries. Her beautiful books such as The World According to Dog, Butterfly Eyes, This is Just to Say, and Ubiquitous, include two ASPCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Award winners, three Cybils winners, and several ALA Notables and Lee Bennett Hopkins Award winners and honor books, as well as Caldecott Honors for Song of the Water Boatman and Red Sings from Treetops.

This year, poets everywhere celebrated her Newbery Honor for Dark Emperor.
 When asked if she’s famous, Joyce replies, “Yes—to my dog. And to my children, on good days. And there's a lady I met at the library who says my poetry makes her cry (but I'm not sure if that's good or bad).”

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Here Joyce reads the title poem from the Newbery honor book, Dark Emperor. Watch for the little baby outburst in the middle which Joyce handles with aplomb!


Note: Three more poets and videos will be featured in both the next two days.



Image credit: Sylvia Vardell



Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

A Blast with Kristine O'Connell George

I took my handy dandy FlipCam with me to the 8th annual ALSC Poetry Blast and made short one minute (more or less) movies of the poets reading their works to share with you. Next: Kristine O’Connell George.

Here's the short, lovely intro written and presented by host and poet Marilyn Singer and used with permission.

Kristine O’Connell George tells us: “I live with my family in a rural area in the Santa Monica Mountains of southern California and often find poetry in my own backyard. The owl roosting in our 300-year old native oak, the packs of coyotes howling at night, the neighborhood peacocks, and the frog who lives on our front porch all seem to find their way into my work. Someday, I think I'll write about the raccoon who played with the dog's toys in the yard at 2 a.m. Or the skunk family . . .”


Kristine O’Connell George says she "fell in love with children's poetry" in 1989 during a children's poetry writing class taught by esteemed poet and teacher Myra Cohn Livingston for the UCLA Writer's Program. She went on to create many books of her own, to serve as poetry consultant for PBS's Storytime, and to win the IRA/Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, among numerous other honors. 


Her works include The Great Frog Race, winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award; Old Elm Speaks, which received the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Golden Kite Award; Little Dog and Duncan, recipient of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award; and Hummingbird Nest, which, in addition to another Claudia Lewis Award, also received the ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award and the John Burroughs Nature Award.


In addition to writing, Kris says she has more hobbies than free time: tennis, golf, hiking, photography, collage, watercolors, gardening, sewing, and, of course, reading. She proudly declares: “I am never bored."

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Kris shared several entries from her latest book, Emma Dilemma, conveying the lovely story-in-poems that emerges across the poems. Here we see Jessica (Emma's big sister) comforted by her parents when she feels responsible for her little sister's accidental broken arm.

Image credit: 

Sylvia Vardell

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

A Blast with Stephanie Calmenson

I took my handy dandy FlipCam with me to the 8th annual ALSC Poetry Blast and made short one minute (more or less) movies of the poets reading from their works to share with you. First up, Stephanie Calmenson.

Here's the short, lovely intro written and presented by host and poet Marilyn Singer and used with permission.

Stephanie Calmenson says: “I began my professional life as an early childhood teacher and had the pleasure of reading to children and discovering which books captivate them... Though I now spend my days at home in front of a computer instead of in a classroom, I still think of myself as a teacher, speaking to children through my books. Before beginning a book, I always ask the same question: What will this book give to a child? Will it be a love of language? A feeling of being valued? A trip to a new place? An introduction to numbers or letters? A belly laugh to ease a difficult growing-up day? When I'm satisfied with the answer, I begin to write.”



Former teacher, editor, and Director of the Parent Magazine Book Club, Stephanie Calmenson grew up in Brooklyn, NY, never imagining that she’d become a writer. Today, she’s the author of over 100 books for young children, ranging from concept books to poetry to nonfiction works about canines. Some of her popular titles are Dinner at the Panda Palace, a PBS Storytime book; The Principal’s New Clothes, a Read-Aloud Handbook favorite; Good for You!, a Texas Library Association 2002 2x2 Reading List selection; and Rosie—A Visiting Dog’s Story, about her late, great therapy dog, which has been featured in the New York Times and Sesame Street and CTW Magazines, as well as on Fox TV.


She currently lives in NYC with her husband and their adorable long-haired dachshund, Harry, the star of his own book, May I Pet Your Dog?

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Here's a clip of Stephanie reading about "Rosie," her beloved therapy dog.
[There was actually a baby in the audience who cooed and hollered at all the right places throughout the evening! Baby loved Stephanie's playful and rhythmic poems, in particular!]

Image credit: 

Sylvia Vardell

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

A Blast with Poetry at ALSC

I'm back from the annual convention of the American Library Association in New Orleans and eager to share the magical time we had at the EIGHTH annual Poetry Blast sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and hosted by poet Marilyn Singer and librarian Barbara Genco on Monday, June 27, 5:30-7:30pm (it's always Monday night of the ALA convention, fyi). I've attended every one of these 8 celebrations and each one is an extraordinary amalgamation of poetic voices, styles, forms, and fun. Nine poets read from their work including (pictured here from left to right) Kristine O'Connell George, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, Nikki Grimes, Marilyn Singer, Stephanie Calmenson, Mike Artell, Janet Wong, Alan Katz, Janet Wong, and (seated) Joyce Sidman, and (librarian and host) Barbara Genco.

Marilyn keeps an excellent Facebook fan page for the ALSC-- Fans of the ALSC Poetry Blast-- so be sure to check that out, too. She has kindly given me permission to borrow her well-written poet intros from there, so I can repost them along with the short film clips I made of each poet reading Monday night at the Blast-- to follow in individual postings. So, here goes...

Make a note now to attend the 9th Poetry Blast in Anaheim, California next June 25, 2012!

Thanks also to the publishers who brought the poets to New Orleans: Abrams, Charlesbridge, Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Dial/Penguin, HarperCollins, Holt/Macmillan, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Zondervan.


Image credit: 

Sylvia Vardell


Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.