Friday, December 11, 2009

Favorites of 2009

The year is drawing to a close and although I’m scrambling to finish my semester, I thought I’d pause to gather a list of some of my favorite poetry books of the year. I think it’s been a great year for poetry for young people with a tremendous variety of subject matter and format and heaps of quality and innovation. I wrote about trends I observed this year on David Harrison’s blog (featured last week), and about the organizing thread of TIME in many poetry books this year. Today, I’ll offer my list of 18 of my favorite poetry books for young people this year-- the most unique, most distinctive, most appealing books of poetry, in my opinion. As a group, they offer a mini-library of what’s new and great about poetry for kids: in form, in format, in look, in impact, in humor, in emotional power, etc. I’ve blogged about most of these previously, as well as many other terrific titles and I’d love to hear about other people’s favorites. Here you go…

Argueta, Jorge. 2009. Sopa de frijoles/ Bean Soup. Ill. by Rafael Yockteng. Toronto, ON: Groundwood.
*It’s bilingual (Spanish/English), it’s a recipe, it’s poetry plus cooking full of metaphors and similes and beans

Burg, Ann. 2009. All the Broken Pieces. Scholastic.
*Spare, moving verse novel about a boy wrestling with his identity as a Vietnamese child growing up in the US post war

Florian, Douglas. 2009. Dinothesaurus. New York: Simon & Schuster.
*Classic Florian wordplay and information-rich poems about dinosaurs and delectable dinosaur names

Franco, Betsy. 2009. Curious Collection of Cats. Ill. by Michael Wertz. San Francisco, CA: Tricycle Press.
*Clever concrete poems about cats and their idiosyncrasies envisioned in popsicle colored art

Frost, Helen. 2009. Crossing Stones. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
*Four teens’ lives interweave against a backdrop of WWI, influenza, and women’s emerging roles and rights

Hoberman, Mary Ann and Winston, Linda. 2009. The Tree That Time Built; A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.
*Fascinating exploration of the parallel ways scientists and poets observe and understand the natural world

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2009. City I Love. Ill. by Marcellus Hall. New York: Abrams.
*Poems can be about cities, too, and here is a playful cityscape of sights, sounds, and smells from cities around the world

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2009. Sky Magic. Ill. by Mariusz Stawarski. New York: Dutton.
*Color-drenched collection of day-to-night poems perfect for breakfast table or bedtime sharing or in between

Hughes, Langston. 2009. My People. Ill. by Charles R Smith Jr. New York: Simon & Schuster.
*A nearly theatrical re-interpretation of the classic Langston Hughes poem through Smith’s bold sepia-toned photography

Katz, Bobbi. 2009. The Monsterologist; A Memoir in Rhyme. New York: Sterling.
*Ingenious scrapbook design and moveable art showcase clever poems about monsters and the evil genius who knows them best

Lewis, J. Patrick. 2009. The House. Illus. by Roberto Innocenti. Minneapolis, MN: Creative Editions.
*Brilliant combination of sensitive, insightful poetry and exquisite fine art tells the story of one house across the centuries

Mordhorst, Heidi. 2009. Pumpkin Butterfly; Poems from the Other Side of Nature. Honesdale PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
*Subtle, lilting nature poems from Fall to Summer full of metaphor and imagery

Rosen, Michael J. 2009. The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems. Ill. by Stan Fellows. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
*Who knew haiku could be so gorgeous, informative and inspiring? Birds, seasons, and illustrations all come together beautifully.

Ruddell, Deborah. 2009. A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk. New York: Simon & Schuster.
*Forest life across the seasons in funny-to-contemplative poems

Salas, Laura. 2009. Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School! New York: Clarion.
*Life at school portrayed through children personified as wild animals, a perfect parallel

Schertle, Alice. 2009. Button Up! Wrinkled Rhymes. Ill. by Petra Mathers. New York: Harcourt.
*Smart, engaging “mask” poems personify articles of clothing

Sidman, Joyce. 2009. Red Sings From Treetops; A Year in Colors. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
*Personified colors and color words lead us through the seasons of nature in elegant, evocative poetry

Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2009. Steady Hands: Poems About Work. New York: Clarion.
*Thoughtful, descriptive poems about jobs and careers, from the usual to the unique

As award committees deliberate about their choices, as teachers select books to read aloud with kids, as librarians develop their book collections, as parents and grandparents shop for their children, I hope they’ll all include POETRY on their wishlists. There are so many wonderful works worthy of consideration and sure to hold up in repeated readings over and over again. Just $200 (app.) would buy this entire collection of my recommended list (for example) of the best poetry of 2009, a fabulous year’s worth of reading for all ages—adults included!

Join the rest of the Poetry Friday crowd hosted by Random Noodling.

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.

Image credit: gh3dda


Michael J. Rosen said...

A very helpful list! And I'm honored to be included. Thank you, thank you. All the best for 2010,
Michael J. Rosen

Deborah Ruddell said...

What a thrill to find my book on your list! Thank you so much, Sylvia! I hope we'll meet someday.
Deborah Ruddell

Susan Thomsen said...

I look forward to your list each year, Sylvia! Now off to the library (online, that is) to get the books!

Sylvia Vardell said...

I'm blushing-- thank you all for your kind words-- and for YOUR wonderful work, each of you! I'm a fan, as you can see.

Mary Lee said...

Great list! Thanks for sharing your favorites!

Unknown said...

What a pleasure to be in such rarefied company. Bloogadoranamous
and philistacular good wishes to all for the holly days.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I thought 2009 was an excellent year for children's poetry!

P.S. It was such a pleasure to meet you at NCTE in Philadelphia. I hope our paths cross again.

Mandy Yates said...

What a great list. And also, what a wonderful blog. I've only been following your blog since April, but I feel I've learned more from this blog than I have learned in some graduate classes. So thank you. I have to do you find out about so many great poetry books? I go to bookstores and search Amazon all the time, but you always have such an extensive list for which I am grateful! Just curious.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Aw shucks, thank you all for stopping by and commenting so generously. It was great to meet you too, Elaine-- FINALLY!

And Mandy, I use a multi-pronged approach to gathering poetry. I lead a book review project at my university and receive many review copies there. I attend major conventions of ALA and NCTE and seek out poetry books at those events. I serve on a variety of committees (like the CYBILS) and get books that way. And I'm honored to say that this blog has provided opportunities too-- as poets and publishers seek ME out. Plus, I just plain buy my own copies on a regular basis! That's the long answer.

I see it as my job to help others keep up with poetry-- knowing about the latest books, helping them seek them out and use them with kids. Hope that's happening!
Thanks for the comment and question. Take care,

Joyce said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Sylvia! You have impeccable taste! :)

laurasalas said...

Thanks, Sylvia, for including Stampede on this list--I'm honored! And I'm printing this out...Most of these, I have read, loved, and own. But there are a few that have still eluded me. Time for me to go shopping!

Mandy said...

Well Sylvia, you do a wonderful job of it! How did you go about starting a review project at your University? I've heard of this before and have often wondered about it. Thanks,

Douglas Florian said...

Thanks, Sylvia
Douglasaurus Florian

Sylvia Vardell said...

Hi, Joyce, Laura, and Douglasaurus (!); so glad you approve! ;-)

Mandy-- I've been teaching at universities for nearly 30 years, so I've been lucky enough to work with authors, illustrators, poets, and publishers in many ways. That has helped build a base for my reading, reviewing, and book promotion efforts. Plus, universities have an advantage in drawing students from many areas in one central location-- to read, discuss and analyze literature, and then take that experience out into the work world to buy and promote books. It's part access, part reputation, and part follow through. Look in your area for a university, school district, or library system that has a review center in place and see if you can volunteer and participate. And of course the blog world has provided opportunities for everyone!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Sylvia!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Sylvia, for keeping us all up to date, and for including my book in this prestigious list!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Zoe said...

Just found you for the first time as I'm looking to get some new poetry books for my kids and your list here has been so helpful (although not all of the books are available here in the UK). I have now linked to you from my blog and I'm looking forward to reading more from you!

Henry Lawson Poems said...

A wonferful list I will be going through it with interest.

Jessica White said...

What a wonderful list! As an aspiring children's poet, this is a wonderful reference. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Hi Sylvia,
Since you are the guru of children's poetry, I was wondering if you read manuscripts and critique them for pay. Thanks so much.

Peggy said...

Thanks for your list! Some I've read, others I'll make sure to check out.

Carol Coven Grannick said...

Thanks for this list, Sylvia. Many of my favorites are on it, as well!