The year 1992 was a big one for poetry for young people, with more and more significant collections of poetry for young readers by poets of color in the U.S. and around the world being published including:
• Michio Mado’s The Animals: Selected Poems (1992) from Japan,
• Joseph Bruchac’s Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back (1992), a milestone work of Native American poetry for children which followed Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve's collection of poems by Native young people, Dancing Teepees: Poems of American Indian Youth (1989).
• and Naomi Shihab Nye’s This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World (1992), a landmark compilation of world poetry for young people still in print.
Myra Cohn Livingston, the Grande Dame of poetry for young people, may have set the stage with her ground-breaking anthology for young adults, A Tune Beyond Us published by Harcourt, Brace back in 1968.
Contemporary Connections: IYL White Ravens poetry
I always look for the latest “White Ravens” list that comes out every spring from the International Youth Library in Munich. They include their favorites from countries around the world and in many genres. This year, their poetry selections featured the 16 titles below (annotations provided by IYL).
Herbauts, Anne (text/illus.)
De quelle couleur est le vent? (What colour is the wind?)
[Bruxelles] [et al.]: Casterman, 2011. –  p.
(Series: Les albums Casterman)
Wind – Colour – Poetry
Early morning, the little giant leaves his home to find the wind and to learn more about its colour. Every being in its surroundings (dog, wolf, tree, window) gives the little giant a new answer. The topic of the book is inspired by Anne Herbaut’s encounter with a blind child who asked: what colour is the wind? In this picture book she attempts to answer the poetic question in various ways, which ultimately must remain open-ended. This is because things that one feels sometimes remain invisible and colourless even for the sighted. This is an extraordinary and tactile-focused book, made with a love for detail. It is lamentable that only the title was printed in Braille and not the entire text. (Age: 6+)
Various authors (text)
Bacon, Joséphine (transl.)
Mingan, mon village. Poèmes d’écoliers innus (Mingan, my village. Poems by Innu students)
Montréal: Éd. de la Bagnole, 2012. –  p.
Mingan Indian Reservation – Innu – First Nations – Poetry
Together with the French poet Laure Morali and the Innu poet Rita Mestokosho, the illustrator Rogé held a writing workshop on the Mingan Reservation, which is located in the nearly inaccessible northern region of Québec. Many Innu children of the Teueikan School there took part in the workshop. Out of it came poetic prose texts and short poems that stand up forcefully and hopefully to the contemporary worries of Innu society. Rogé presents fifteen of the selected poems from this writing workshop in French translation and includes portraits of the young poets. Unfortunately, the original Innu texts do not appear alongside the French, but only at the very end of the book after the poets Morali and Mestokosho have been intro-duced. (Age: 8+)
Lin, Huanzhang (text)
Li, Qingyue (illus.)
Zai xin li zhong yi ke shu (Plant a tree in your heart)
Chengdu: Sichuan shao nian er tong chu ban she
(= Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Books Publishing House), 2012. – 183 p. + CD
(Series: Zhongguo er tong wen xue ming jia jing pin chang xiao shu xi)
Nature – Language – Poetry
Lin Huanzhang is one of the most esteemed writers of modern Chinese children’s verse. With his talent and creativity, the Taiwanese poet has contributed much to Chinese children’s literature. Many of his poems demonstrate the unique rhythm and expressiveness of children’s poetry in the Chinese language. This book is a collection mainly of his poems as well as of a few animal stories and essays about his own childhood. Lin’s works show a close kinship with nature. Not only do they explore a wide variety of natural imageries, but they also convey a profound respect and love for the natural world. (Age: 5+)
Kratochvíl, Miloš (text)
Sýkorová-Pekárková, Eva (illus.)
Pes nám spadla. Bláznivé basnicky (We let the dog drop. Crazy poems)
Praha: Mladá fronta, 2012. – 93 p.
Animals – School – Anecdote – Poetry
»Follow us into the Kratochvíl universe!« The present anthology could begin with that line. It represents a journey through Miloš Kratochvíl’s world of frequently animal-related verse-anecdotes. The anthology contains well-known as well as brand new poems. Laughing is guaranteed, since the author is a master at inventing funny occurrences and knows exactly how to parse these into crisp rhymes. In four segments one encounters: a sparrow that organises a worm grill party, a child that plays the violin so badly that all birds fall unconscious out of the trees, and a pitiable mouse who has to share an apartment with four cats. All these tales are freshly and wittily illustrated by Eva Sýkorová-Pekárková. (Age: 4+)
Malý, Radek (text)
Čech, Pavel (illus.)
Listonoš vítr (co prinesl a co mi šeptal) (The Postman Wind [what he brought and what
he whispered to me])
Praha: Albatros 2011. –  p.
Autumn – Mood – Poetry
Put the currently reigning Czech children’s poet and one of the most captivating illustrators of the country together and have them make a children’s book about autumn – the result is sure to be a hit. In fact, in 2012 »Listonoš vítr« won the most significant Czech literary awards in the children’s book category, »Magnesia litera« and »Zlata stuha«. The book charms with poignant poems about the rustle of leaves and of paper, the festival of the fall forest, chestnuts, pumpkins, and the special mood of the season. Paired with Pavel Čech’s occasionally quite mystical illustrations, Radek Malý succeeds in presenting the hazy autumnal atmosphere of colourful leaves, crisp air, and melancholic fogginess in a sensuous and arresting manner. (Age: 6+)
Chedid, Andrée (text)
Corvaisier, Laurent (illus.)
Le Chedid. Poèmes (The Chedid. Poems)
Paris: Mango Jeunesse, 2012. – 40 p.
(Series : Album Dada)
Very shortly after the death of the great francophone poet and two-time Prix Goncourt award winner Andrée Chedid (1920-2011), Mango Jeunesse Publishers put out this selection of her most beautiful poems with illustrations by Laurent Corvaisier. Andrée Chedid was born in Cairo, grew up in the Egyptian capital and went to school there, then lived for many years in Lebanon, before coming to and staying in Paris. The poet was equally at home in the Arab as in the French world. Her poems bear witness to the tense as well as enriching encounter between the two cultural poles. Chedid’s poems always speak of wonder and of the resilience, i.e. the creative power of human brings, to withstand existential threats such as loneliness, violence and war. (Age: 9+)
Morpurgo, Clare / Morpurgo, Michael (ed.)
Gill, Olivia Lomenech (illus.)
Where my wellies take me. A childhood scrapbook with poems and pictures
Dorking: Templar, 2012. – 97 p.
Countryside – Girl – Walk – Animals – Nature – Poetry
Inspired by the love for poetry of former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare and by their happy childhood memories, this magnificent collaboration takes readers on a walk with little Pippa. Setting off from her aunt’s village home, the girl ambles along a country lane, across bridges, past fields and pastures, admiring the flora and fauna on her way. Cleverly embedded into the enchanting story of Pippa’s countryside ramble are the Morpurgos’ favourite poems by well-known poets such as Ted Hughes, William Blake, Edward Lear, and Grace Nichols. Olivia Lomenech Gill’s exquisite scrapbook-like design, including handwritten text, mixed-media collage pictures, a map of Pippa’s walk, etc. make this anthology-cum-diary a truly enjoy-able read for readers of any age. (Age: 6+) l
Kyritsopulos, Alexēs (= Kyritsopoulos, Alexis) (text/illus.)
Ligo akoma ... Ena paramythi empneusmeno apo ta poiemata tu Giōrgu Sepherē (Just a little more … A fairy tale inspired by Giorgos Seferis’s poems)
Athēna: Ikaros / Museio Mpenakē (= Museum Benakis), 2012. –  p.
(Series: An diabaza … poietes tes genias tu ‘30)
Optimism – Courage – Solidarity – Zest for life – Sea
In dialogue with the poets of 1930s Greece, Alexis
Kyritsopoulos cooks up an allegorical fireworks display for children in his signature style, making poems sparkle through images and images glow through words. Kyritso-poulos found inspiration for this book in verses by the poet Seferis that talk of sea waves and marble that shines in the sun. Encouraged by his grandfather, a child sails fearlessly and eagerly through Scylla and Charybdis into the open sea, dives into the colours of the sun, and meets mermaids and dolphins. In the end, the child returns from the journey that »entwined mountains and bore stars« back to his grandfather’s garden, where children fly kites that blossom »like vulnerable souls« high up in the sky. (Age: 5+)
Funazaki, Yoshihiko (text)
Ajito, Keiko (illus.)
Koko ni iru (I feel you)
Tokyo: Popurasha (= Poplar-sha), 2011. – 31 p.
Death – Grief – Poetry
Illustrator Keiko Ajito is a master at depicting the spiritual state of girls in real stories and fairy tales. Her black-and-white images are delicate and floating. They avoid background detail and thus seem quietly symbolic, sometimes even eerie. For this poem, too, the illustrator draws a girl who has lost those she loves most. Her deep-set eyes reflect pain and emptiness, but there is also hope. Memories and love can give the one in mourning the feeling that the departed are still present in the souls of those who remain, giving them the power to go on. With poetic intensity, the text and pictures provide consolation to overcome loss and grief. (Age: 11+)
Nam, Ho-s1p (= Nam, Hoseop) (text)
Ko, Chjan-gyu (= Ko, Chankyu) (illus.)
Ppl e ssoyptta (= Bule ssoyetda) (Stung by a bee)
S1ul-si (= Seoul): Chjangbi (= Changbee Publishing), 2012. – 134 p.
Aging – Death – Everyday life – Poetry
This book includes forty-nine poems for children that deal with the lives of ordinary people – especially neighbours, both young and old. Although written for young readers, the poems do not only address the interests of children. Also, they do not only show the bright side of the world. Rather, the poet attempts to share every aspect of life, dealing with children’s common environments, the people next door, and their plain and unpretentious daily lives, thus blurring the boundaries between adults and children. He also addresses the issues of aging and death, inviting children to feel more empathy towards the world and towards people, and to realise that the world is a place in which everyone, young or old, must face sadness, joy, aging, and even death. (Age: 7+)
Écormier, Joëlle (text)
Gaboriau, Claire (illus.)
Un cœur de sardine (A sardine heart)
Saint-André (Réunion): Océan jeunesse, 2012. –  p.
Pet – Sardine – Poetry
A capricious sardine lives all alone in a tin on the kitchen counter. Robert (named after the well-known canning factory on the island of La Réunion) peers into a dim future, for his sardine mates have already disappeared into the frying pan. Does the same fate await him? Facing these bad prospects, »pet« Robert is not easy to keep in a good mood. His homesickness for the Atlantic, for instance, can only be cured with grandiose stories – complete with fictional starry sky, silvery »light show«, and the works. At worst, Robert barricades himself in his tin, annoyed. Claire Gaboriau’s boldly shining illustrations emphasise the affectionate humour of Joëlle Ecormier’s quick rhymes. (Age: 5+)
Baltvilks, Janis (text) / Petersons, Reinis (illus.)
Biki – Buki
Riga: Liels un mazs, 2012. –  p.
(Series: Biki Buks; 001)
Reinis Petersons (born 1981) is one of his country’s busiest illustrators and is nominated for the 2013 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. In 2012 he joined five colleagues (Juris Petraškevičs, Kristine Jurjane, Liga Kičena, Edmunds Jansons, Marija Liduma), all exemplary representatives of contemporary Latvian children’s book illustration, in illustrating the first volumes of the charming book project known as »Biki Buks«. Each of these six small-format bookspresents a popular Latvian children’s poem written between the years 1940 and 1990, illustrated in a new and fresh form. In this case, the poem featured is Janis Baltvilks’s »Biki-Buki« from the year 1987. One hundred poems, all still well remembered by different generations of readers, are planned to be showcased in this series. (Age: 3+)
Mahy, Margaret (text)
Duder, Tessa (ed.)
Elliot, David (illus.)
The word witch
Auckland, N.Z. [et al.]: HarperCollins, 2012. – 168 p.
The late Margaret Mahy, great dame of New Zealand children’s literature, was renowned not only for her many children’s and young adult books but also for her innumerable poems. This collection of sixty-six of her rhymed works includes funny and popular classics such as »Dashing Dog«, the tongue-twisting »Bubble Trouble«, or the limerick »My Sister«, as well as lesser-known texts such as »When I am Old and Wrinkled Like a Raisin«. All the poems are beautifully illustrated by David Elliot with atmospheric drawings in various sizes and different hues of colour that perfectly capture the texts’ peculiar moods. Originally published in 2009, the book now features a CD with twelve poems recited by the author herself. The performed poems, enhanced with subtle background sounds, sparkle with Mahy’s wit and make this a special treat. (Age: 4+)
Rusinek, Michał (text)
Rusinek, Joanna (illus.)
Wierszyki domowe (At home poems)
Kraków: Znak emotikon, 2012. – 176 p.
House – Home – Living room – Poetry
Reading this Polish »Children’s book of the year« enables one to see
one’s home with new eyes. Michał Rusinek (born 1972) shows how much potential for inspiring witty, refreshing, and simply extraordinarily good poems individual rooms in a house have, even the basement workshop and the garden. The washing machine in the laundry room might be a substitute TV, the front door a rampart against outside calamities (storms! vampires!) and the dark staircase a chamber of horrors à la Tim Burton. Thanks also to Joanna Rusinek’s (born 1978) poignant illustrations, »Wierszyki domowe« evokes a wonderfully weird feeling of being at home in one’s well-familiar house, but at the same time viewing it as an unknown, alien seeming site. (Age: 5+)
Benedetti, Mario (text) / Zabala, Javier (illus.)
Barcelona [et al.]: Libros del Zorro Rojo, 2012. –  p.
(Series: Libros de cordel)
Libros del Zorro Rojo presents another pearl of Spanish-language literature in the form of a picture book. It is based on a text of the famous Uruguayan author Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), which is taken from his 2008 publication »Vivir adrede« (Conscious living). In the style of a prose poem, Benedetti describes the beauty of trees, their agreeableness and modesty in a discreet, almost tender manner. Trees bear mute witness to the speechlessness that defines relations between humankind and nature. Spanish illustrator Javier Zabala has created airy, transparent pic-tures to accompany the text, using a mixed-media technique of ink, water colour, and paper collage. With a few lines, brush strokes, colour splotches, and abstract shapes he grows delicate, magical landscapes, which translate the subtle poetry of the text in a congenial manner. (Age: 6+)
Lin, Fangping (text)
Lin, Xiaobei (illus.)
Ai hua hua de shi (Painting with poetry)
Taibei shi: Xin yi ji jin chu ban she (= Hsin Yi
Publications), 2012. –  p.
(Series: Wen xue jiang xi lie)
Chinese characters – Visual poetry – Poetry
This charming book is filled with »poems that love to paint« – as the Chinese title reads. Chinese characters
are arranged to create »concrete poetry«, visual depictions of the topics addressed. These images proliferate joyfully amid colourful drawings, while verbal images add even more layers of meaning. Chinese characters flutter through peach-hued pages, snacking on flowers, or swim past mermaids, who sweep blue oceans clean. Are these poems umbrellas or candy canes topped by mountain peaks? Are these mountains of verse a giant’s green fingers stretching towards the shining gold ring of sun? Are those drunken girls wearing shoes of poetry adorned with bows of red wine? The old idea of using the typography of a poem to shape its subject is realised here in most enchanting ways. (Age: 6+)
Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2013. All rights reserved.
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