Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy birthday, Lee

I love “nonfiction” poetry—poems that tell true stories, so to speak, so I was eager to see Lee Bennett Hopkins’s new anthology, Incredible Inventions illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach (HarperCollins, 2009). And I was not disappointed. As the title suggests, the 16 poems feature a variety of inventions including jigsaw puzzles, blue jeans, roller coasters, drinking straws, basketball game, fig newtons, ferris wheels, the escalator, hair brushes, crayons, popsicles, band-aids, traffic signals, kitty litter, Velcro, and running shoes. Kid-friendly topics, for sure!

The featured poets include Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Joan Bransfield Graham, Drew Lamm, John Sullivan, Sandra Gilbert Brueg, Elizabeth Upton, Kristine O’Connell George, Constance Andrea Keremes, Ann Whitford Paul, J. Patrick Lewis, Alice Schertle, Marilyn Singer, Maria Fleming, Fran Haraway, and Lee himself. For me, there were several new names in this group. Very promising voices! Which one to share as a sample? I think kids will enjoy this tribute to their favorite garment: Blue jeans!

Ode to Blue Jeans
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

See them strolling

in their jeans
from subway ads

to magazines.

Rock ‘n’ rollers.

Construction crews.
loves their blues.

Faded, torn,

shabby, new,
with cowboy boot

or tennis shoe,

ranchers, writers,
racers, teens,

the world’s in love

in love…

with JEANS.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. (Comp.) 2009. Incredible Inventions. Illus. by Julia Sarcone-Roach. New York: HarperCollins, p.6.

This is a first book for the illustrator Julia Sarcone-Roach and her paintings for each poem are energetic and expansive, covering the page from edge to edge. The gorgeous blue painting for “The Ferris Wheel” is my favorite—it’s positively Van Gogh-ish!

You definitely need to check out the notes in the “Behind the Inventions” section along with the poems because here you get the factual background information that expands or confirms the details shared in each poem. Plus, I discovered that the poem inventions are presented in chronological order, with a fun cartoon timeline showing each item's origin dated from 1766 (jigsaw puzzles) to 1964 (running shoes).

For a related 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’ nonfiction books Mistakes That Worked (Doubleday 1994) and Accidents May Happen (Delacorte 1998) or Judith St. George’s humorous nonfiction picture book, So You Want to Be An Inventor? (Puffin 2005). Seek out J. Patrick Lewis’s poems about famous accomplishments in A Burst Of Firsts (Dial 2001) or the fun facts and factoids in the clever poems of The World’s Greatest: Poems (Chronicle, 2008) for another invention connection.

And for the record, on this day in history…
Lee Bennett Hopkins was born!
Happy birthday, Lee!

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Linda said...

I didn't know about this collection. Thanks for sharing it with us. The blue jean poem is great, but then everything Rebecca Kai Dotlich writes is excellent!

Sylvia Vardell said...

It's just out, but I think it will be a big hit. And I agree about Rebecca's work-- and Lee's! :-)

Katie @ said...

The Ode to Blue Jeans has been resonating in my mind since you posted it a couple of days ago. I really like it. Thanks for the heads up! I can't wait to see more of Rebecca's work. Lee's, too!

Sylvia Vardell said...

So glad you enjoyed that poem and posting. You should definitely check out more of Rebecca's poetry-- it is wonderful. Her own collections are terrific, as are her many poems in Lee's other collections. Auf widersehen!

laurasalas said...

This sounds fantastic--I just put it on reserve, too. What a joyful pile of poetry books I'll have waiting when I get back home.

As I was reading the beginning of your post, I was thinking about Joyce Sidman's Eureka!, and I was happy to see you included that and other possible companion books. What a fun discovery unit these books would make!

(Can you tell I'm catching up on some blog reading?)

Sylvia Vardell said...

Yes, there is a lovely pile of spring poetry out this year-- and I've seen promo on many other titles I'm eager to see later this year, too!

And thanks for taking the time to respond in your blog catch-up-a-thon! :-)