Each year the language specialists (Lektoren) at the International Youth Library (IYL), in Munich, Germany, select newly published books from around the world that they consider to be especially noteworthy. This list of books is compiled into the annual White Ravens list, which is introduced each year at the Bologna (Italy) Children's Book Fair.
The White Raven label is given to books that deserve worldwide attention because of their universal themes and/or their exceptional and often innovative artistic and literary style and design. The titles are drawn from the books that the IYL receives as review or donation copies from publishers and organizations around the world.
When I was attending the Bologna Book Fair (as part of my Bookbird editor duties), I had the opportunity to examine all the White Ravens books as the list was announced-- what a treat! I was able to study the poetry selections, in particular, and even photograph the books and last year had volunteers read poems from some of the poetry books in the different languages-- and I posted those mini clips. Such fun! I wasn't in Bologna this spring, but fortunately the White Ravens list is searchable online. So, I've done the homework and have pulled all the poetry selections here for you below-- there's such a range in tone, style, and content. (Annotations from the IYL.) In the 2012 list, you'll find 18 books of poetry for children from Australia, Austria, Belgium (including a CD), Canada, and Haiti-via-Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Slovenia, and the USA. Enjoy!
Here's the link to the complete current White Ravens catalog (2012).
You'll also find more info at the International Children's Digital Library, a searchable database of thousands of international books for young people, including the White Ravens catalog.
Blabey, Aaron (text/illus.)
The ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon
Melbourne [et al.]: Penguin / Viking, 2011. –  p.
Ghost – Fear – Loneliness – Friendship
The poor people of Twee, »seven miles from the sea«, are in uproar. A frightful ghost is haunting the village. Be it morning, midday, or the middle of the night, whenever the spooky spectre of Miss Annabel Spoon appears, she creates havoc among the population. How can they get rid of her? Young Herbert Kettle, elegantly clad in grey jacket and top hat, bravely sets out to save his neighbours and finds an unusual solution. Aaron Blabey’s exquisite picture book is told in six-line tail-rhymed stanzas and in gothic illustrations rendered in acrylics, pencil, and pen in shades of grey, brown, and olive. Both the catchy text and the dark pictures (in particular the pale ghost-lady with her dark-rimmed eyes and rigid posture) will remind readers of the classic nonsense poetry of Edward Lear and Edward Gorey. (Age: 4+)
Schawerda, Elisabeth (text)
Bansch, Helga (illus.)
Das Geheimnis ist blau
(The secret is blue)
Wien: Wiener Dom-Verl., 2011. –  p.
Colour – Association – Poetry
The fat toad on the cover notwithstanding, this book is not about amphibians. It is filled with poems about colour. The first, »Colour play«, reveals a spectrum subsequently differentiated. It describes turquoise water, yellow lemons, and a green garden: »Lift your head up, / under linden, beech and pine, / you can see, touch, smell, hear / all that which is green and fine«. Synaesthesia and personification occur frequently in the texts, while verse and rhyme forms vary. The illustrations are collages made from maps and newspaper clippings, and often also water-coloured pencil drawings. While the poems are about vibrant colours, the pictures themselves are slightly muted by the greyish undertone typical of Helga Bansch’s style. This lends them a delicate patina. (Age: 5+)
Dewitte, Jan (text)
Vlerick, Freya (illus.)
Rare snuiters. Een prentenen gedichtenboek
(Odd animals. A picture- and poetry book)
Gent : Poëziecentrum, 2011. –  p. + CD
Animals – Poetry
»Rare snuiters« is an extraordinary picture and verse book that is explicitly aimed at people with a visual handicap and children with dyslexia. The short, humorous poems are about animals, one for each letter of the alphabet, ranging from ‘Aap’ (monkey) to ‘Zwaan’ (swan). The top of each page contains a silhouette of the animal, set out in relief, and features the name of the animal in Braille. The poet even found a solution for tough letters (like X and Y), although this required some creativity; an example is the X-osaurgoat that lived long ago. The illustrations are large-planed and have an atmospheric, yet high-contrast colour scheme. This ensures that visually impaired people can view them as well. Moreover, all the images can be felt because set in relief. The photos of human eyes that have been incorporated into every image literally add a special touch. The poems themselves are not offered in Braille, but can be listened to via the included CD. (Age: 8+) H Special Mention
Regina, Sask.: Coteau Books for Teens, 2010. – 196 p.
Teenage angst – Coming of age – Bullying – Abuse – Poetry
This award-winning free verse novel demonstrates the power of poetry both in its form and content. Thanks to poetry assignments from English class, four Vancouver high school students give voice to their conflicted inner lives: to their dreams and nightmares, their hopes and disappointments. These short, intense poems address issues of abuse, bullying, racism, violence, fitting in, love, and following your dreams. Far from presenting abstract musings, they use tangible imagery to develop the cruel plot, which seems to unfold from the characters’ inner turmoil. The interspersed e-mails between a concerned guidance counselor and the old-school English teacher as well as comments the teacher makes on her students’ assignments show adults largely out of touch with the tough teenage world. (Age: 14+)
(2010 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature)
Various authors (text)
Haïti, mon pays. Poèmes d’écoliers haïtiens (Haiti, my country. Poems by Haitian students)
Montréal (Québec): Éd. de la Bagnole, 2010. –  p.
Haiti – Poetry
These powerful, evocative poems about Haiti, written by young people from the Southwest of that country, were written in 2008/2009 – before the severe earthquake of January 2010. They celebrate the beauty of the country, its (immaterial) riches and magic, yet also deal with poverty and the uprooted population. The striking large-format portraits of Haitian children and adolescents by Franco-Canadian illustrator Rogé accompany these hopeful texts. Dany Laferrière, the well-known Haitian author, justly writes in his introduction that »in Haiti, poets grow faster than trees from the earth«, and it is this youth that embodies the future of the sorely stricken country. (Age: 8+)
Beuchat, Cecilia (ed./text)
Hojas, Isabel (illus.)
Palabras, regalo palabras (Words, I give away words)
Santiago, Chile: Liberalia Ed., 2011. – 141 p.
Poetry – Language
Compiled by Chilean children’s book author and expert Cecilia Beuchat, this volume contains a marvellous selection of Spanish-language poems wonderfully well suited to reading aloud or to oneself. Beside examples of well-known poets such as Rafael Alberti, Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, one predominantly finds contemporary poems, which document the diversity and richness of the genre that plays such a crucial role in Latin American children’s literature. The editor is especially concerned to sensitise readers to the beauty and playful character of language. She has organised the poems into chapters and prefaces each chapter with an everyday word or a less usual, special one. Building on these, she binds images, feelings, and memories together, which she shares with readers in a short personal introductory text. Isabel Hojas illustrates the book in a wide range of manners. Her pictures, rich in form and colour, reveal very well the mood of each text. (Age: 8+)
CYPRUS (Greek) (Romanisation according to RAK-WB [German cataloguing rules])
Eleutheriadu, Nasia (= Eleftheriadou, Nasia ) (text)
Papatsaruchas, Basilēs (= Papatsarouchas, Vasilis) (illus.)
Stu synnephu tēn ankalē me chara kanē petali (Up in the clouds I pedal happily)
Strobolos: Parga, 2011. –  p.
Experience of nature – Perception – Poetry
This refreshing collection of poetry can get children excited about the little joys of everyday life and experiences with nature, which are for them so important and wondrous. It will encourage them to approach nature with curiosity, playfulness, and amazement and to perceive it with all the senses. Silver moonbeams trace paths into dreaming, cool water melons invite diving into, and there is sailing on the wide sea. Sunrays inhibit sleeping too long, and going to the candy cane playground is the most fun. The expressive illustrations are in dialogue with the verses, interpreting them and allowing for multiple meanings. Anyone reading, listening, and looking can thus access the poems in a way that is entirely their own. (Age: 4+)
Schmitz-Kuhl, Martin (text)
Kuhl, Anke (illus.)
Alle Kinder. Ein ABC der Schadenfreude (For all children. An ABC of schadenfreude)
Leipzig: Klett Kinderbuch, 2011 –  p.
Schadenfreude – Poetry
They aren’t the cream of the crop morally speaking, and they aren’t quite above board pedagogically speaking – but that’s exactly why these twenty-six malicious little stories, compiled in picture book form by Martin Schmitz-Kuhl and Anke Kuhl, are so much fun. A small taste?: »All the kids jump through the hoop / except Pat – he is too fat.« The short couplet with internal rhyme is not a new verse form, but with the help of their children, the Kuhl couple has conjured up fresh and surprising sayings. Anke Kuhl, who was awarded the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (German Children’s Literature Award) in 2011 for her book »Alles Familie!« (Everyone is family), translates their mischievousness into image-form. Big and little alike will laugh aloud and want to think up their own mean little stories, because ultimately he who laughs last still laughs best. (Age: 5+)
Schneider, Antonie (text)
Pin, Isabel (illus.)
Kartoffeln in Pantoffeln (Potatoes in slippers)
Berlin: Aufbau, 2011. –  p.
Vegetables – Word play – Poetry
In »Kartoffeln in Pantoffeln«, the protagonists are asparagus, artichokes, and – oh crumbs – spinach. True, greens may not be the favourite food of little chip lovers; yet Antonie Schneider and Isabel Pin serve their miniature vegetables so lovingly and passionately that even fervent advocates of junk food cannot but devour them. The anthropomorphic vegetables often find themselves in unexpected situations. Thanks to a sophisticated dramatic arc, the texts oscillate between tragedy and partly absurd comedy. The same is true for Isabel Pin’s carefully composed illustrations. Carrot- and broccoli-adventures tempt readers to gaze at the pictures, create their own poems, and maybe even re-enact the tales; and the prospective protagonists can simply be cast on the readers’ plates at lunchtime. (Age: 4+)
Rigó, Béla (text)
Perger, Zsófia (illus.)
Nálatok laknak-e állatok? (Do animals live with you?)
Budapest: Ulpius-ház K., 2011. – 73 p.
Family – Child – Animals – Poetry
This book contains playful, imaginative children’s poems from the pen of renowned Hungarian children’s book author Béla Rigó. The book’s title, which calls to mind an old poetry collection set to music, reveals that the anthology’s theme is transformation and metamorphosis. In the two central sections of the book – »Picture postcards for Grandma« and »Titi’s poem for Grandpa« – the author portrays two families using irony and a masterful use of language, focusing especially on the experiential world of the children. The most beautiful poems are devoted to the topics of birth and death. The granddaughter says to her grandmother: »I will become earth and you will become a flower«. The lively illustrations – colourful pencil drawings reminiscent of children’s drawings – lend much imagination to the text. (Age: 5+)
Del Tufo, Chiara (ed.)
Vairo, Arianna (illus.)
Un paese bambino. Poesie per il 150° dell’Unità d’Italia (A fledgling country.
Poems for the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification)
Bologna: Stoppani, 2011. –  p.
Italy/1861-2011 – Children’s rights – Poetry
Young illustrator Arianna Vairo’s original style sets the tone of this beautiful poetry anthology. Fifteen of Italy’s most important poets were invited to put dreams, freedom, war, rights, immigration, good etiquette and friendship to paper. With great care, they select special words: hushed words, words of recollection, of trains and of hopes, of expectations and movement – words lined up next to each other, dedicated to the children, their country and their future. Notable names in the table of contents include Roberto Piumini, Janna Carioli, Matteo Marchesini, Alessandro Riccioni, Giusi Quarenghi, Bruno Tognolini, Giovanna Zoboli and all others. (Age: 8+)
Riccioni, Alessandro (text)
Baladan, Alicia (illus.)
Cielo bambino (Children’s sky)
Milano: Topipittori, 2011. –  p.
Alessandro Riccioni is a masterful, sensitive and profound poet. His words skip lightly across the page. The emotion-laden pictures of Alicia Baladan at times are wonderfully child-like and at times full of allusion. For instance, they variously refer to the films of Georges Méliès, to the extraordinary journeys of Jules Verne, to the novel »Saturnin Farandoul« by Albert Robida and to a wonderful, fanciful amusement park. With a sophisticated simplicity, this poetry collection describes a sky rife with encounters, a magical sky that changes with the decades, a sky in which clouds and sheep chase each other, where space shuttles and moored balloons circulate, thousands of stars shine, and the sun and moon, light and darkness alternate. (Age: 5+)
Lieshout, Ted van (text/illus.)
Driedelig paard. Blokgedichten, beeldsonnetten en tekeningen (Horse in three parts. Block poems, picture sonnets, and drawings)
Amsterdam: Leopold, 2011. – 87 p.
This volume contains many different kinds of poetry, verbal poems, visual poems, and block poems, which combine both: the text block as visual poetic form and the verbal content. The combination of poetical forms and media provides for an exciting reading experience. In the first part, a boy writes a letter to his grandmother, and she writes back to him in the last part. In between, there are lots of other texts, ranging from complaint letters to newsletters to scribbles. Together they form a humorous panoply that tweaks reality and fiction. Different characters are writing each time, yet slowly it becomes clear that all of them are contributing to the story about the boy and his family. This book is exquisitely designed, featuring different fonts, colour illustrations of objects and page-filling photos of strictly structured tomatoes, spoons, and radishes, for example. (Age:12+)
Kaldestad, Per Olav / Bramnes, Hanne (ed.)
Various artists (illus.)
Sølvbåt og Stjernevind. Den nye barnediktboka (Silverboat and Starwind. A new children’s book of rhyme)
Bergen: Mangschou, 2011. – 183 p.
Small but mighty: in recent years Bergen publishing house Mangschou has distinguished itself through its ambitious projects. It is certainly an ambitious idea to produce a companion to the collection of verse »Den store dikt- og regleboka«, an old favourite in Norway. Well-known artists like Hilde Myklebust and Cathrine Grøndal, Øyvind Torseter and Inger Lise Belsvik were enlisted for »Sølvbåt og stjernevind«. The book thus makes possible a stroll through the landscape of current Norwegian authors and illustrators. First and foremost, though, this is an exceptional compendium of illustrated children’s verse, at once modern and timeless. Its scope reaches from two-line poems to ballads, from coloured pencil drawings to collage. Thanks to its diversity, it has what it takes to become a classic. (Age: 4+)
Givargizov, Artur (text)
Jaskina, Natal’ja (illus.)
Kak-to ja letel s rjabiny (Somehow I tumbled down the rowan tree)
Moskva: Izd. dom Meščerjakova, 2011. –  p.
(Series: Stich i štrich)
Rogue – Trick – Poetry
Typically Givargizov! Obstreperously, brashly, and meatily as usual, one of the most important Russian children’s book authors talks about children’s daily lives in anecdotic poems. Readers will laugh at little Sergej, who almost tumbled from a rowan tree and now greets passers-by while dangling upside-down from a branch with his shirt round his ears. Givargizov’s well-known humorous dialogues are also prevalent here, e.g. in the prank call from a pupil who overslept, to the school’s director. Young illustrator Natal’ja Jaskina (born 1985), who already illustrated some titles for the Russian-Austrian publishing house Meščerjakov, creates enchantingly lively settings for this poetry. The reduced palette of matt colours and the black outlines of pictorial elements are reminiscent of illustrations from the 1960s. (Age: 7+)
Pavček, Tone (text)
Bricelj, Suzi (illus.)
Po morju plava kit. Izmišljeno resnična pesnitev (A whale swims in the sea. An imagined true poem)
Dob pri Domžalah: Miš, 2010. –  p.
Whale – Faithfulness – Integrity – Self-esteem
The great Tone Pavcek died in 2011. For this verse narrative, in which he displays all his talent one last time, he has created wonderfully vibrant verses that effortlessly vary in tone from humorous to serious. The tale about a whale in the bay of Piran is told in an anecdotal style but, at the same time, it also issues a warning. The whale is loved and courted by the people – not least because they hope to increase tourism. When the initial euphoria turns into disinterest, the whale disappears into other seas. Wistful but also full of dignity, he returns one last time, then leaves forever. This parable-like story, accompanied by Suzi Bricelj’s tender pictures, was nominated as picture book of the year 2011 – and rightly so. (Age: 5+)
Gerstein, Mordicai (text/illus.)
Dear hot dog. Poems about everyday stuff
New York, NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers,
2011. –  p.
Anthropomorphism – Everyday object – Poetry
Bear and books, cup and crayons, socks and scissors have one thing in common: They are all inanimate everyday objects. Not so in this colourful collection of poetic poems! The quiet, pondering texts written from the viewpoints of two boys and a girl directly address the objects as if they were people or animals; e.g. a toothbrush turns into a close friend: »All night / dozing in your holder / you wait for me. / I give you toothpaste / for breakfast/ mint / your favourite...« Clearly enjoying their daily routines and small adventures, the three young protagonists in award-winning author and illustrator Mordicai Gerstein’s book breathe new life into familiar things. The bright acrylic illustrations with thin wriggly outlines add an atmosphere of exuberance and joy to the calm poems. (Age: 4+)
Salas, Laura Purdie (text)
Bisaillon, Josée (illus.)
BookSpeak! Poems about books
Boston [et al.]: Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt, 2011. –  p.
Book – Poetry
Books are usually there to be read. They affect their
readers through their stories – but never speak out loud. In this colourful collection of poems, however, books and everything book-related finally get their say: The Index stresses its singular importance; the Book Plate poses a kind of riddle; the Cliffhanger demands »… Please, author, write / a sequel fast!«; and the book’s Middle complains about its current state trying to persuade either The Beginning or The End to trade places with it just this once – all in vain. Accompanied by Québécoise illustrator Josée Bisaillon’s versatile mixed-media illustrations created from collages, drawings, and digital montage, the quirky poems will fascinate and amuse young book aficionados and inspire them to compose their own bibliophile odes and ballads. (Age: 6+)
Join the rest of the Poetry Friday fun at Jama's Alphabet Soup. See you there!