Friday, June 13, 2008

New Review for Father's Day: KEEPING THE NIGHT WATCH

In honor of the upcoming Father’s Day on Sunday, I’d like to highlight a new poetry book by Hope Anita Smith, Keeping the Night Watch (Henry Holt, 2008). It’s her second book for young people, a companion to her first work of poetry, The Way a Door Closes (Henry Holt, 2003). In the first book, an urban African American family copes with the departure of the father when hard times have hit. It’s a compelling work for ‘tweens and teens with sensitive illustrations by E. B. Lewis. In this companion volume (which can stand on its own, by the way), the father has returned. You might think it would be a happy, easier time, but this transition brings it’s own difficulties and challenges as the father tries to re-integrate into the family. In particular, the voice of the poetry is that of the oldest son in the family of 3 kids, and he’s bitter and angry. He has stepped up and served as the “man of the house,” blossoming in responsibility, and “keeping the night watch” as the title suggests. He struggles with giving up this role and with forgiving his father’s failure. Here’s one example poem that captures these feelings:

Showdown at the O.K. Corral
by Hope Anita Smith

When Daddy left,
our house was empty,
too big for the rest of us.
We couldn’t fill up all the space.
Now that he’s back,
I can’t find a place to fit.
There isn’t enough room for me.
Daddy looks the same,
but something’s different.
He takes up too much space.
He’s in my space.
His eyes are constantly
waving the white flag of surrender,
but I am like a gunfighter in the Old West.
I walk around with my words drawn,
ready to fire.
Because this house isn’t big enough
for the two of us.

From: Smith, Hope Anita. 2008. Keeping the Night Watch. New York: Henry Holt, p. 13.

Smith is the recipient of the 2008 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award and her first book garnered several recognitions, including:
  • NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, 2008
  • Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, 2008
  • Bank Street Claudia Lewis Award, 2008
  • Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library, 2008
  • Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book, 2008
This new work is sure to be just as successful.

And here are some more books for young people with poems about fathers and father figures:
Appelt, Kathi. 2004. My Father’s Summers: A Daughter’s Memoirs. New York: Henry
Fletcher, Ralph J. 1999. Relatively Speaking: Poems about Family. New York: Orchard.
Grimes, Nikki. 1999. Hopscotch Love: A Family Treasury of Love Poems. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Grimes, Nikki. 1999. My Man Blue: Poems. New York: Dial Books.
Grimes, Nikki. 2002. When Daddy Prays. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman.
Hoberman, Mary Ann. 1991. Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems. Boston: Joy Street Books.
Livingston, Myra Cohn, comp. 1989. Poems for Fathers. New York: Holiday House.
Moss, Jeff. 1997. The Dad of the Dad of the Dad of Your Dad. New York: Ballantine.
Sidman, Joyce. 2000. Just Us Two: Poems about Animal Dads. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.
Steptoe, Javaka, comp. 1997. In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers. New York: Lee & Low Books.

For more Poetry Friday gems go to Cloudscome at A Wrung Sponge.

Picture credit:


Andromeda Jazmon said...

Lovely poem expressing the tension between father and son. I'm so glad you reviewed this book. I'm looking for it for our library in the fall. You have a nice book list here too. Thanks!

Joyce said...

Sylvia, thanks for featuring this book. I reviewed THE WAY A DOOR CLOSES for the late, great Riverbank Review and loved it. Looking forward to getting my hands on this one! (Joyce Sidman)

Sylvia Vardell said...

Hi, Joyce. Thanks for stopping by-- and thank you for YOUR book of "dad" poetry, too!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Hi, Cloudscome! Thanks, as always, for your comments. Glad you found this post helpful!

Anonymous said...

I loved THE WAY A DOOR CLOSES. Thanks for blogging about this one. Off to put it on reserve right now!

bsh said...

Lovely poem!... I like it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sylvia,

I thought you might want to add Lee Bennett Hopkins' title, BEEN TO YESTERDAYS to your list of books about fathers. Anita Hope Smith's book reminded me of Lee's poignant images of the departed father.
Best regards,
Michele Krueger

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll be sure to add that one!