Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Joyce Sidman wins 2013 NCTE Poetry Award

You probably have already heard that the wonderful Joyce Sidman was announced as the next recipient of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children at last month's conference. I am so happy for Joyce and have been wanting to post the news, but wanted to do it justice too.

So, here's my two cents worth. First... about the award:

The National Council of Teachers of English established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1977 to honor a living American poet for his or her lifetime achievement in works for children ages 3–13.  The award was given annually until 1982, at which time it was decided that the award would be given every three years.  Then, in 2008 the Poetry Committee updated the criteria and changed the time frame to every other year. The recipients of the award are:

2013    Joyce Sidman
2011    J. Patrick Lewis
2009     Lee Bennett Hopkins
2006     Nikki Grimes
2003     Mary Ann Hoberman
2000     X. J. Kennedy
1997     Eloise Greenfield
1994     Barbara Esbensen
1991     Valerie Worth
1988     Arnold Adoff
1985     Lilian Moore
1982     John Ciardi
1981     Eve Merriam
1980     Myra Cohn Livingston
1979     Karla Kuskin
1978     Aileen Fisher
1977     David McCord

And about Joyce Sidman (from Poetry People):

Joyce Sidman was born on born June 4, in Hartford, Connecticut. She is the middle sister of three, and spent summers at camp in Maine.  From an early age, she felt motivated to write, and started writing as far back as elementary school. She discovered poetry in high school, encouraged by a sympathetic teacher.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in German from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and a teaching certificate at Macalester College in Minnesota. Joyce lives in Wayzata, Minnesota, with her husband near the edge of a large woodland.  When she isn't writing, she enjoys teaching via week-long poetry-writing residences in the Minnesota schools. Her hobbies include gardening, identifying birds, insects and frogs, and reading and baking cookies.

Much of Joyce Sidman’s poetry centers around the subject of the natural world and is marked by poetic innovation and an elegance of expression. Often she weaves together scientific information alongside poetic descriptions. One such example is her collection, Just Us Two: Poems About Animal Dads (Millbrook 2000). Sidman offers eleven poems that depict the special relationship between a father and his young, be they wolves, frogs or penguins. The poems include accurate information as well as an emotional hook and are colorfully illustrated with cut paper collages. Connect this with nonfiction picture books such as Animal Dads (Houghton Mifflin 1997) by Sneed B. Collard III, illustrated by Steve Jenkins or with more poetry via Animal Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2007) by Valerie Worth also illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Make the leap to human fathers with Javaka Steptoe’s anthology, In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers (Lee and Low 1997) or Mary Ann Hoberman’s poems in Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems (Little Brown 1991). Children can choose their favorite “dad” poem and tape record it and illustrate it as a gift for a father, grandfather or other special man in their lives.

Sidman has three other nature-themed collections that are parallel in form and layout and make up what she calls her "ecosystem trilogy": Song of the Water Boatman: Pond Poems illustrated by Beckie Prange, (Houghton Mifflin 2005), Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow illustrated by Beth Krommes (Houghton Mifflin 2006), and Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (Houghton Mifflin, 2010). In Song of the Water Boatman, we learn about the diverse life of ponds through eleven poems in various forms, including haiku, free verse, and cumulative rhymes. Each poem is accompanied by a prose paragraph with further scientific information. A glossary of science terms make it even more useful for instruction. Sidman’s Butterfly Eyes focuses on the ecosystem of the meadow with poems posed as riddles, followed by narrative explanations. Once again a helpful glossary is provided. Dark Emperor is about the forest at night—owls, moths, porcupines-- and offers a parallel layout with beautiful linoleum prints in a double-page spread for each of 12 poems, alongside an accompanying prose paragraph. This marriage of lyrical poetry, science-focused topics, and beautifully executed art has become a Sidman (and collaborating illustrator) trademark.

All together, these collections introduce us to creatures of the insect world through descriptive poems and beautiful illustrations. Bring a bug in a jar (with air holes) for children to study and describe. They can create thumbprint insect characters or draw pictures to accompany their writing.  If the local natural history museum has guest speakers available, invite them to visit and bring inspect specimens to show.

For a completely different collection, look for Joyce Sidman’s book, Eureka! Poems About Inventors (Millbrook 2002), with sixteen poems describing a range of people who have created something new through imagination, investigation, and pure persistence, with subjects such as scientist Marie Curie and the inventor of the Frisbee. Link these poems with the fascinating profiles of incidental inventions in Charlotte Foltz Jones’ Mistakes That Worked (Doubleday 1994) and Accidents May Happen (Delacorte 1998) or Judith St. George’s humorous nonfiction book, So You Want to Be An Inventor? (Puffin 2005). Look for J. Patrick Lewis’ poems about famous accomplishments in A Burst Of Firsts (Dial 2001) for another connection.

These are just a few details and ideas for sharing Sidman's work-- and we haven't even covered her clever concrete poem book,  Meow Ruff, or her popular poetry "apology" guide, This is Just to Say, or her brilliant book of color and season poems, Red Sings from Treetops, or the philosophical and probing Ubiquitous-- each a unique gem in its own right. And don't forget Swirl by Swirl, poetic, if not poetry per se, a gorgeous window into the presence of the swirl shape in nature.

Check out Joyce Sidman’s web site for in-depth guides full of activities for using her books with children. She provides information, photographs, links, and even printable resources like a lovely bookmark with an original poem about books to share.

Joyce Sidman's books for young readers (so far):
  1. Sidman, Joyce. 2000. Just Us Two: Poems about Animal Dads. Ill. by Susan Swan. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook.
  2. Sidman, Joyce. 2002. Eureka! Poems about Inventors. Ill. by K. Bennett Chavez. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook.
  3. Sidman, Joyce. 2003. The World According to Dog: Poems and Teen Voices. Ill. by Doug Mindell. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  4. Sidman, Joyce. 2005. Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. Ill. By Beckie Prange. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  5. Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. Ill. by Beth Krommes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  6. Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry. Ill. by Michelle Berg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  7. Sidman, Joyce. 2007. This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  8. Sidman, Joyce. 2009. Red Sings From Treetops; A Year in Colors. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  9. Sidman, Joyce. 2010. Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors. Ill. by Becky Prange. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  10. Sidman, Joyce. 2010. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. Ill. by Rick Allen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  11. Sidman, Joyce. 2011. Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature. Ill. by Beth Krommes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

I had the privilege and pleasure of spending a week at the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota not too long ago studying Joyce's work and poring over the original manuscripts and notes that helped shape her books. I'm working on creating a teaching resource that shares some of the back-story behind her works for educators and students. Stay tuned and I'll keep you posted on when that's ready. Meanwhile, CONGRATULATIONS, Joyce, on this wonderful achievement in earning this award.


laurasalas said...

What a great addition to a list of astonishingly talented award recipients. I'm so happy for Joyce, whose work seems to be getting always (impossibly) better. I love, love, love her nature-based poems, though I have to say my all-time favorite of hers is THIS IS JUST TO SAY. Go, Joyce!

Janet Wong said...

I thought I knew Joyce's work, but I didn't know a third of these books. Thank you, Professor Vardell! (I'm eager to see what other facts about Joyce you reveal in our IRA session with her and Amy Ludwig VanDerwater in April!)

skanny17 said...

Thank you, Sylvia, for this invaluable post about Joyce Sidman. Her books and poetry appeal to young and old, I think. Getting to your session at IRA may be worth the price of my ticket!! I will have to give this serious consideration!!! Janet F.

vezenimost said...


Thank you for the wonderful post about Joyce's work.

I love Joyce’s way of expressing her love for nature through the wonderful poetry she writes. I think that the combination of her brilliant poetry with facts about the natural world she describes, accompanied by the beautiful illustrations is a just a fantastic way to attract readers and satisfy many reading tastes at once. I’ve equipped my library with all of her books that were available and I shared them with my students and my colleagues. One fifth grade class loved Joyce’s books so much that they, together with their teacher and me, came up with a collaborative project inspired by Joyce’s book Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. Because they are studying ecosystems now, in their classroom they will write their poems related to ecosystems and do the research with me in the library. We are also collaborating with the art teacher to work with the students on the illustrations for their poems and information pages. We all are very excited about this project and we are considering publishing a book if everything goes as planned.

Congratulation to Joyce and thanks for inspiring my students, my colleagues, and me with her outstanding work.

BJ Lee said...

Thank you, Sylvie, for this wonderful write-up on Joyce! I'm a huge fan and have poured over each of her books. Red Sings From Treetops is perhaps my favorite - an exquisite book!

Charles Waters said...

A well deserved honor for a humble, talented woman whose work has inspired so many. SIDMAN POWER!!!!!!