Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Poetry for Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History Month, an opportunity to seek out poetry by or about girls and women. Of course “girlpower” poems can be fun to share any day of the year, but we deserve our month, too. Here’s one of my favorite poems for the tired feminists out there, young and old. Told from the point of view of a feisty girl named Kate, she knows her own potential, but chooses to take a day off, so to speak. Even activists need a break now and then!

by Jean Little

TODAY I will not live up to my potential.
TODAY I will not relate well to my peer group.
TODAY I will not contribute in class.
I will not volunteer one thing.
TODAY I will not strive to do better.
TODAY I will not achieve or adjust or grow enriched
or get involved.
I will not put my hand up even if the teacher is wrong
and I can prove it.

TODAY I might eat the eraser off my pencil.
I’ll look at clouds.
I’ll be late.
I don’t think I’ll wash.


[from Hey, World, Here I Am!]

Children’s poetry books that feature poems about strong girls and women:
Adoff, Arnold. 1979. I Am the Running Girl. Harper.
Bush, Timothy. 2000. Ferocious Girls, Steamroller Boys, and Other Poems in Between. Orchard.
Franco, Betsy. 2001. Things I Have to Tell You: Poems And Writing by Teenage Girls. Candlewick.
Glaser, Isabel Joshlin. 1995. Dreams of Glory: Poems Starring Girls. Atheneum.
Grimes, Nikki. 1994. Meet Danitra Brown. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Hollyer, Belinda. 2006. She's All That! Poems About Girls. Kingfisher.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1973. Girls Can, Too! A Book of Poems. Franklin Watts.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Heroes and She-roes: Poems of Amazing and Everyday Heroes. Dial.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Vherses: A Celebration of Outstanding Women. Creative Editions.
Little, Jean. 1990. Hey, World, Here I Am! HarperTrophy.
Mora, Pat. 2001. Love to Mama: A Tribute to Mothers. Lee & Low.
Morrison, Lillian. 2001. More Spice Than Sugar. Houghton Mifflin.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. 2005. A Maze Me; Poems for Girls. Greenwillow.
Paul, Ann Whitford. 1999. All by Herself: 14 Girls Who Made a Difference. Harcourt Brace.
Philip, Neil, comp. 2000. It’s a Woman’s World: A Century of Women’s Voices in Poetry. Dutton.
Singer, Marilyn. 1996. All We Needed to Say: Poems About School from Tanya and Sophie. Atheneum.
Smith, Charles R., Jr. 2003. Hoop Queens. Candlewick.
Williams, Vera B. 2001. Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart. Greenwillow.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Announced

The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, sponsored by Penn State University, was announced yesterday and I am pleased to share that news. The winner?
Jazz by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers (published by Holiday House)

You may remember that I wrote about this book previously when it received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator honor citation, was selected as one of the five poetry books nominated for the Cybils Award, and appeared on my very own list of the “Best Poetry for Children in 2006.” Clearly, it is a terrific book! As I noted previously, it’s a vibrant picture book poetry collection that is a celebration of jazz music and history and a tribute to New Orleans. The language is vivid and participatory and the art is obviously prize winning—sprawling and expressive. It also includes a helpful “Introduction,” “Glossary of Jazz Terms,” and a “Jazz Time Line.” And the illustrations in Mardi Gras colors of green, golds, and purples just leap off the page, the perfect accompaniment to the lively language. It was a challenge to choose only one poem to lure you into the book, but here’s just one I love and think kids will enjoy it, too:

by Walter Dean Myers

We got jiving in our bones, and it won’t leave us alone—we’re really moving
jiving / bones
We got pride in our stride, and we know it’s all the style—we’re steady grooving
pride / stride
This piano’s hard and driving, and the tones are getting to me—hear them talking
driving / tones
There’s a glide to the ride, and the feeling’s coming through me—the bass is walking
glide / ride
I hear singing in my heart, yes, it’s rhythm, yes, it’s art, no use in stalling
singing / heart
I got jump in my feet, and I’m turning up the heat, left hand hauling
jump / feet
I’m out here swinging from the start, can’t get no higher
swinging / start
We got bump in the beat where the crazy rhythms meet. This band’s on fire!

Doesn’t that poem just beg to be HEARD? To be chanted, sung, or shouted out loud? Involve the kids in bringing the poem to life—first by chanting the two word phrases after a narrator reads each primary line, then by calling out alternating lines, or adapting all the lines for multiple groups. Then follow up with adding piano, drum, horns or homemade instruments while saying the lines. Listen to recordings of jazz greats. Add movement, dance, even hip hop!

The award committee also selected three Honor books:
Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky (Greenwillow Books)
The Braid
by Helen Frost (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) [See my previous entry about this book on July 19.]
Tour America; A Journey Through Poetry and Art by Diane Siebert (Chronicle Books)

The LBH award committee also recognizes a new, up-and-coming poet. The Lee Bennett Hopkins/IRA Promising New Poet Award was given to Joyce Lee Wong for Seeing Emily (Abrams). I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read that book yet-- somehow it slipped under my radar-- but I’ve ordered it and will write more about it as soon as I can. Congratulations to Joyce Lee Wong, too.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sidman is Cybils Poetry Book Winner

Congratulations to Joyce Sidman for winning the first ever Cybils Bloggers’ prize for children’s poetry this year for Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow (illustrated by Beth Krommes) published by Houghton Mifflin. I also included it in my personal list of the best children’s poetry of the year, describing it as "full of “exquisite riddle rhyme pairs that explore the plants and animals of the meadow along with informative prose paragraphs and a glossary.” I’m a big fan of all of Sidman’s poetry and have written about her and her work in my upcoming book, POETRY PEOPLE, A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO CHILDREN’S POETS (due out this summer with Libraries Unlimited). Here’s an excerpt.

"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…. Sidman has two nature-themed collections that are somewhat parallel in form and layout: Song of the Water Boatman: Pond Poems illustrated by Beckie Prange, (Houghton Mifflin 2005) and Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow illustrated by Beth Krommes (Houghton Mifflin 2006). 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. Pair this with Hey There, Stinkbug! by Leslie Bulion, (Charlesbridge 2006%2

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Love poetry for kids

If you’re looking for “love” poems for Valentine’s Day, you won’t have much trouble. Poets have been pouring out their hearts for centuries. “How do I love thee, let me count the ways” wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her sweetheart, Robert Browning. Young readers feel this same longing and often gravitate to very emotional “love” poetry—both in their reading and in their writing. You might even be surprised how popular these can be with adolescent readers (both boys and girls). Ralph Fletcher has created an entire book of love poetry for young readers called I Am Wings; Poems About Love, dividing this small collection into two sections: “Falling in (love)” and “Falling out (of love).” One of the most notable poems is “Owl Pellets” which compares dissection in biology to the pain of rejection. I love that one!

By Ralph Fletcher

A month ago
in biology lab
you sat close to me
knee touching mine
your sweet smell
almost drowning out
the formaldehyde stink
which crinkled up
your nose
while i dissected a fetal pig.

Now I take apart
this owl pellet
small bag that holds
skin and hair and bones
little skeletons
what the owl ate
but couldn’t digest
and coughed back up

You sit with Jon Fox
ignore me completely
laugh at his dumb jokes
let your head fall onto
his bony shoulder
while i attempt
to piece together
with trembling hands
the tiny bones
of a baby snake

Certain things
are just about
to swallow.

From I Am Wings: Poems about Love (pp. 34-35)

Just giving a poem—any poem-- is a lovely Valentine gesture, but if you’re looking for poetry for young people specifically ABOUT Valentine’s and all kinds of love, here’s a select listing of a dozen gems:

Ralph Fletcher’s I Am Wings: Poems about Love (later combined with Buried Alive in the book, Room Enough for Love)
Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Good Morning to You, Valentine: Poems (illustrated by Tomie de Paola) and his more recent, Valentine Hearts: Holiday Poetry (an I Can Read Book)
Jack Prelutsky’s It’s Valentine’s Day (available on audiocassette, too)
Arnold Adoff’s Love Letters
Eloise Greenfield’s Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems
Nikki Grimes’ Hopscotch Love: A Family Treasury of Love Poems
Pat Mora’s Love to Mama: A Tribute to Mothers and its “partner” book, Javaka Steptoe’s anthology, In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers
Myra Cohn Livingston’s Celebrations (which includes Valentine’s and more)
Gary Soto’s A Fire in My Hands (has many poems about young love, like "Oranges")
Ed Young’s beautifully illustrated, Voices of the Heart

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Connecting Poetry and Picture Books

If you’ve read my book, Poetry Aloud Here, you know I’m a big fan of connecting poetry books with other genres. I recently had the opportunity to practice what I preach and wrote a piece for Book Links on connecting poems and picture books, in particular. It’s entitled “Linking picture books and poetry; A celebration of Black History Month." Here’s a brief excerpt…

Combining Picture Books & Poetry
Why combine picture books and poetry? There are several reasons. First, after reading aloud a picture book there is often a natural lull. Sometimes children jump in with responses or questions, or sometimes there’s a call to “read it again.” Following up the reading with a carefully chosen poem is one way to extend the story experience. Pairing a poem with a picture book can deepen children’s understanding of the story’s theme or extend their knowledge of the topic. Conversely, the story can provide context for the poem. It can even lead to a “compare and contrast” discussion, as children ponder what they glean from each text. Practically speaking, it doesn’t take long to read a poem, but the impact can be very strong. Often, children will “pocket” a rousing refrain or rhythmic phrase from the poem to enjoy on their own. That’s the beauty of poetry—it appeals to both the ear and the heart. When combined with a beautifully illustrated and powerfully written picture book, the eye and mind are engaged, too.

Take the plunge. Read a book and then share a connected poem. Or open with a poem to set the stage for a story. Use the poetry connection to share picture books with older readers who may enjoy this new spin. Share the poem out loud—like the story—and invite your listeners to participate in multiple choral readings. You will be joining in an ancient tradition of oral literature steeped in African roots of singing, chanting, testifying, and storytelling.

Here’s just one sample pairing:
Picture Book: McKissack, Patricia C. Goin’ Someplace Special. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 2001. 40p. Simon & Schuster/Anne Schwartz, $16 (978068981881)

K–Gr. 5. Experiencing the segregation of the 1950s in Nashville, a young African American girl finds the library is a welcome haven, one of the few integrated places in the community.

Poetry Link: “At the Library.” From It’s Raining Laughter by Nikki Grimes. Photos by Myles C. Pinkney. 2004. 32p. Boyds Mills Press, paper, $10.95 (9781590780770).

Extend this Coretta Scott King Award–winning story by sharing Nikki Grimes’ poem “At the Library,” which depicts another “brownskin girl” who finds adventure and escape in the pages of library books.

The complete article is available at the Book Links web site. Check it out!