Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorite poetry of 2011

I’ve been quiet for a bit, celebrating the holidays and taking a much needed end-of-semester break. I’ve also wrapped up several poetry-related projects including two forthcoming articles for the March 2012 issue of Book Links (an article on awards for children’s poetry and an “almanac-like” piece offering 100 poetry books linked to historic or celebration occasions for each day in April). Our annual Librarians’ Choices group also finalized its deliberations on the best 100 books for children and YA and we’ll share those results next month. Of course there are several poetry titles on that list! And I had the honor of serving on a Cybils Awards committee—this time the brand new “App” committee reviewing some 50 book-based apps for children and selecting our shortlist of favorites. That was quite an education and I’ll post more about that next week. There were no poetry-focused apps on our list (beyond rhyming works like Dr. Seuss), but it has inspired me to explore creating some! Stay tuned on that topic.

Meanwhile, as the year is drawing to a close and as usual, I’d like to offer my annual list of favorite poetry books of the year. I think it’s been another great year for poetry for young people. I wrote about ten trends I observed this year on the PACYA blog (featured last week). It begins:

In examining the nearly one hundred books of poetry published for young people in 2011, I’ve found there’s quite a variety in style, tone, content, and format available. In fact, I noticed ten mini-trends (if 2-3 books constitute a trend) that are worth exploring: animals, humor, music, culture, novels in verse, stories in verse, emerging new voices, poetic innovation, ebooks, and book poetry. Some titles feature tried-and-true “formulas” for creating appealing poetry for young people (using the connecting theme of “animals,” for example), and others venture into brand new territory (such as creating poems using only the letters from a single word, as in Bob Raczka’s Lemonade). Once again, the variety and quality offer an intriguing snapshot of the state of poetry for young people today. [Read the rest of the piece here.]

Today, I’ll offer my own list of 20 of the most distinctive, most appealing books of poetry of 2011. As a group, they offer a mini-library of what’s new and great about poetry for kids: in style, in format, in look, in impact, in emotional power, etc. I’ve blogged about most of these previously, as well as many, many other terrific titles of the nearly 80 poetry works published this year and I’d love to hear about other people’s favorites. Here you go…

1. Engle, Margarita. 2011. Hurricane Dancers; The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck. Henry Holt.
*a powerful novel in verse set in the early 1500’s about a slave named Quebrado, a Spanish pirate named Bernardo de Talavera, and a hostage named Alonso de Ojeda and their intertwining fates when all three are stranded on an island after a hurricane destroys their ship.

2. Frost, Helen. 2011. Hidden. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
*an inventive verse novel told from two different perspectives—one girl is inadvertently kidnapped during a robbery and get-a-way. The daughter of the kidnapper quietly helps her, but when her father is arrested neither of their lives will ever be the same. Several years later the two girls attend the same summer camp and must confront the past, their feelings, and the repercussions.

3. George, Kristine O’Connell. 2011. Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. Clarion.
*a picture book story-in-poems that introduces the unique relationship between sisters as allies, playmates, and even enemies with a focus on two particular sisters and a crisis of too much togetherness

4. Henderson, Kathy. 2011. Hush, Baby, Hush! Lullabies from Around the World. Ill. by Pam Smy. Seattle: Frances Lincoln.
*a book of traditional lullabies gathered from all over the world with words in the original language plus the English version, together with a melody line and engaging illustrations

5. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2011. I am the Book. Holiday House.
*a collection of thirteen poems written by various top poets all on the subject of books and celebrating the joy of reading

6. Janeczko, Paul B. 2011. Requiem; Poems of the Terezín Ghetto. Candlewick.
*a haunting look into the lives of those imprisoned in the Terezin Concentration Camp during World War II, proudly hailed by Hitler as a sanctuary for artistic Jews

7. Lai, Thanhha. 2011. Inside Out and Back Again. HarperCollins.
*powerful debut work from a new voice, a loosely autobiographical work about her own experience as a refugee from Vietnam and as a new immigrant to the U.S. in the 1970s

8. Lewis, J. Patrick and Yolen, Jane. 2011. Self Portrait with Seven Fingers: A Life of Marc Chagall in Verse. Creative Editions.
*an art-filled biography in poems that combines glimpses into Chagall’s art with factual details and evocative poetry exploring the distinctive life path of an artist

9. Marcus, Kimberly. 2011. exposed. Random House.
*in this debut novel in verse for teens Marcus pens a heartbreaking tale of how one act of violence can tear apart a friendship, a family, and a community.

10. McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. 2011. Under the Mesquite. Lee & Low.
*another debut novel in verse featuring a young Latina girl with artistic aspirations in a close-knit family coping with the mother’s struggle with cancer

11. Nursery Rhyme Comics; 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists. First Second.
*a clever and comprehensive collection of classic nursery rhymes all freshly interpreted by a variety of top cartoonists

12. Ostlere, Cathy. 2011. Karma. New York: Razorbill.
*Maya and her Sikh father travel from Canada to India with her Hindu mother’s ashes on the eve of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination. In the chaos that ensues, they are separated and this powerful debut verse novel becomes a story of survival, sacrifice, culture clash, and ultimately love.

13. Raczka, Bob. 2011. Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word. Roaring Brook.
*a clever book filled with puzzle poems built from the letters of a single word; solve the word patterns then enjoy the simple childhood themes

14. Salas, Laura Purdie. 2011. BookSpeak!. Ill. by Josee Bisaillon. Clarion.
*the rhyme, rhythm, and voice of each poem told from the point of view of a book, will not only will this inspire children to read THIS book, but will inspire them to read period.

15. Thompson, Holly. 2011. Orchards. Random House.
*when a young girl takes her life and her circle of peers is complicit, Kana is sent to her mother’s childhood home, a small village in Japan, to visit with her family, and reflect on her role and her own identity

16. Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. Eds. 2011. P*TAG.
*in this first ever digital anthology of new poetry for young adults, 31 poets speak to the complicated lives of today's teens, with new, quirky, reflective, and soulful poems about love and longing, war and worry, tattoos, piercings, watching people, being watched, broken lives, and more (I know it’s a bit self-serving to highlight my own project, but I think these poems are really special and I didn’t write ANY of them!)

17. Wardlaw, Lee. 2011. Won Ton; A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. Ill. by Eugene Yelchin. Henry Holt.
*the sweet story of a shelter cat as he settles into his new home told in senryu, a form of Japanese poetry, capturing the fickle nature of the feline creature

18. Wheeler, Lisa. 2011. Spinster Goose; Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children. Ill. by Sophie Blackall. Atheneum.
*a clever, satirical twist on classic Mother Goose rhymes in the “Lemony Snicket” tradition

19. Wolf, Allan. 2011. The Watch That Ends the Night; Voices from the Titanic. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
*this massive, compelling novel in verse captures this historic and tragic event through multiple perspectives (including the iceberg itself) and varying poetry formats

20. Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2011. Cousins of Clouds; Elephant Poems. Houghton Mifflin.
*through combined poetry, informative paragraphs, and evocative illustrations, the power and myth of the world's largest land animal is revealed in a variety of poetic forms

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.

I’m now working on my “sneak peek” list of forthcoming poetry for 2012. I already have 22 titles to highlight, but I’m sure there are many more in the works. If you know of any, please let me know. I’ll post that list in early January and keep updating it throughout the year.

It's not too late to join the last Poetry Friday for the year hosted by poet Julie Larios at The Drift Record. Happy new year!

Image credits:;;;

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 02, 2011

NCTE Poetry Award Winner J. Patrick Lewis + TOOLBOX

Although I announced the news about the NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children Award last year, J. Patrick Lewis officially received his award at the most recent NCTE Convention in Chicago. He also presented at a solo session where he read from his works and even shared some “outtakes” from his wonderful SPOT THE PLOT book of book-riddle poems. I shared a tiny clip of him reading two posts ago, fyi.

Today I’d like to highlight a new tool that my graduate students (of librarians and teachers) collaborated on this fall to promote the work of Lewis, our NCTE Poetry Awardee AND Children’s Poet Laureate. In September, I gave the students in two of my classes a list of all his poetry books. Each student chose a different book and then worked to create either a readers’ guide for classroom and library use OR a digital trailer designed to highlight and promote the book. They came up with some very rich and interesting resources for more than 40 of Pat’s books. Check out the J. Patrick Lewis Poetry Toolbox.

I’m also excited to share info about Pat’s forthcoming books in 2012 (subject to change):
  • Take Two! A Celebration of Twins (with Jane Yolen), Candlewick, Ill. by Sophie Blackall, March 2012.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems, Harcourt, Ill. by Michael Slack, April 2012.
  • Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs (with Jane Yolen), Charlesbridge, Ill. by Jeffrey Stewart Timmons, Spring 2012.
  • When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders, Chronicle Books, Ill. by "a showcase (6) of illustrators," Fall 2012.
  • Never Spit from a Roller Coaster (tentative title, 140+ poems), Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, Ill. by Matt Cordell, Fall 2012.
  • The Book of Animal Poetry (200 poems), edited by J. Patrick Lewis, National Geographic, with photos, December 2012.
Don’t these sound terrific? Lots to look forward to! (And I’ll post my usual “sneak peek” list of all anticipated children’s poetry titles in January. Watch for it.)

One final note: For those of you who are educators or work with groups of students, this notion of creating a collaborative blog (or wiki or other e-site) is something to consider. It’s been very rewarding for my students and for me (and I know other colleagues have also experienced success in similar Web ventures). My students create assignments that are all the more meaningful for being shared with a “real” audience (beyond the professor for a grade). I started with a “toolbox” site to promote the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award (and am working on another “toolbox” site to promote the Promising Poet Award). We’ve made several blogs now and I plan on creating more—and welcome any thoughts about where there’s a need in the children’s poetry world.

PLUS PTT: And of course, Janet Wong and I have used the blog format to anchor our e-books of poetry in our Poetry Tag Time series.

Isn’t it wonderful how the Web offers us opportunities to share our work and support one another so readily? I’ve been teaching for 30 years and have always tried to make it possible for students to share with each other, but this takes it to a whole new level. And who knows what’s next? Janet and I have plans for a children’s poetry “app” and then… 

Join the rest of the Poetry Friday crew at Carol's Corner. See you there!

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Poetry: Gift Tag

I hope everyone enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving with your favorite people. I did! What are your favorite holiday memories? Your favorite gifts? Janet Wong and I have published our third book in our collection of digital poetry anthologies, a book of holiday poetry for kids—out this week for your holiday shopping consideration. It’s called Gift Tag and it’s an anthology of 28 poems for young people about gifts and giving.

Jane Yolen writes about pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving; Douglas Florian about playing with dreidels; Lee Bennett Hopkins about the true meaning of Christmas; J. Patrick Lewis about Mew Year’s Day. Have you ever wondered what a spider thinks at Christmas? Have you ever given a gift that later made you wonder, “What were we thinking?” Do you remember your first bike, your first baseball glove, your first bottle of perfume? As with our second book in the PoetryTagTime series, P*TAG, photos provide writing prompts for these and two dozen other poems that will bring back warm gingered memories of your own family celebrations.

Gift Tag features poems by a who’s who of poets: Jeannine Atkins, Jen Bryant, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Margarita Engle, Douglas Florian, Helen Frost, Joan Bransfield Graham, Lorie Ann Grover, Avis Harley, David L. Harrison, Sara Holbrook, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Bobbi Katz, Julie Larios, J. Patrick Lewis, Pat Mora, Ann Whitford Paul, Laura Purdie Salas, Michael Salinger, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Charles Waters, April Halprin Wayland, Carole Boston Weatherford, Robert Weinstock, Steven Withrow, Allan Wolf, Janet Wong and Jane Yolen. Isn’t that an amazing line up of voices?

We gave our poets three rules:
1) choose a photo from our Gift Tag photo blog,

2) write about what popped into your mind when you saw the photo; and

3) keep your poem short—10 lines (max), and no more than 25 characters (with spaces) per line.

Our goal: to have each poem appear whole on a Kindle screen. We call this form the Kindleku. Douglas Florian suggested that a better name would be the Kindlekuku. We admit that it was a bit cuckoo to set a limit of 250 characters per poem—but we think you’ll like the results!

Here’s just one example to whet your appetite. David Harrison chose the photo of the baseball and glove. He writes:

I pitched baseball as a boy. Getting a new ball for Christmas was the perfect gift. I could smell the new leather, feel the power and speed stitched inside, dream of striking out batters. I couldn’t wait for spring.

And here’s his beautiful poem:

The Gift of Spring
by David L. Harrison

My fingers trace seams,
feeling how I’ll throw
the curve of my dreams,
holding it just so.

Outside is dark and cold,

Snow lies deep and white,

but in my hand I hold

spring, Christmas night.

One of the unique things about Poetry Tag Time anthologies is that there are connections or “tags” between poems that reveal how one poem can lead to another and another and another. In this Gift Tag collection, we identified a key word or phrase in the poems that connected one poem to the next. You’ll find that chain of connections and poems on our photo blog here. And of course readers might find entirely different ways to share and connect these wonderful poems.

For more info about this and our other digital poetry anthologies (including PoetryTagTime for children and P*TAG for teens), visit We like to imagine kids reading these e-books on Mom's cell phone while standing in line at the store or poring over the images and poems on Dad's iPad or sharing a favorite line of a poem on the class Kindle. They can own this book in minutes and read it on a laptop with the free Kindle app. Amazing!

Next? Janet and I are exploring developing a poetry app for iPads and iPhones! Stay tuned… meanwhile, I’m wishing you all a happy, healthy, holiday season of hope.

Be sure to join the Poetry Friday gathering at Heidi Mordhorst's Juicy Little Universe blog. See you there!

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NCTE 2011: 4 Big Poetry Events

There were 4 other poetry-focused events I attended at the NCTE conference (besides my own presentation) that I want to share with you. These included:
  • J. Patrick Lewis speaking as the new recipient of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children award
  • A "Parade of Poets" featuring all the recipients of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children award with 4 in attendance: J. Patrick Lewis, Nikki Grimes, Eloise Greenfield, and Arnold Adoff
  • The "Master Class" session for professors of children's literature featuring Joyce Sidman and Pat Mora, as well as professors Trish Bandre and Barbara Kiefer
  • The annual CLA Breakfast with Joyce Sidman speaking
Each was a wonderful event and I was able to make brief videoclips to share with you here-- a taste of their inspiring and fascinating presentations. Enjoy!

J. Patrick Lewis was the toast of the town, although feeling a bit under the weather (how's that for mixed metaphors?!). One of my favorite things was his sharing a few story-themed riddle rhymes that were NOT in his book, Spot the Plot. Enjoy this bonus.

The always obstreperous Arnold Adoff spoke about poetry and politics and read from his latest work, Roots and Blues.

The Grand Dame of poetry for young people, Eloise Greenfield read a selection from her powerful book, The Great Migration.

Nikki Grimes (with a sore throat and husky voice) read from her new novel in verse, Planet Middle School.

Joyce Sidman spoke twice (at 2 separate sessions) sharing openly about her thinking, researching, and writing process, as well as how she works with children in residencies in the schools. Here's just a clip.

Pat Mora spoke movingly about the need for embracing many voices (in many languages) in our classrooms and encouraged teachers to nurture their own creativity, referring to her excellent resource book, Zing! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators and Students. Here's just a tiny clip with an excellent point.

Dr. Trish Bandre from Baker University and Dr. Barbara Kiefer from The Ohio State University spoke about classroom connections with poetry. Trish shared her work in guiding 2nd graders in writing poetry and her research on their attitudes about poetry (they didn't even know where to find poetry books in the library and associate it with greeting cards!

Then Barbara talked about the importance of encouraging children's artistic development and made connections between various art media and poetry. Here she shares a poem that encapsulates her philosophy.

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NCTE: Poetry for Paupers


Janet and I offered free copies of our new poetry e-book, Gift Tag, for all those who came early. Here they are downloading it!

Poetry for Paupers from Recitation to E-Books; Infusing Poetry into the Classroom
National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention
Chicago, IL
Sat., Nov. 19, 2011

Sylvia Vardell, Professor, Texas Woman’s University, School of Library & Information Studies
Janet Wong, Author and Poet, sponsored by Charlesbridge
Laurie Purdie Salas, Author and Poet, sponsored by Clarion Books
Stephen Young, Program Director, Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest
Youssef Biaz, Alabama, 2011 Poetry Out Loud national champion

Janet spoke about many poem-finding resources, our new e-book poetry anthologies, and her own use of the Internet in promoting poetry. Laura shared a multitude of excellent resources and strategies (posted on her web site), and Steve talked about how the Poetry Out Loud competition began, evolved, and why it's valuable. Our session ended with Youssef performing "Filling Station" by Elizabeth Bishop (from memory). So restrained, so perfectly paced, so completely compelling.

Then I highlighted some of my favorite online poetry resources in a variety of categories. I'll share that info with you all here!


1. Poetry Foundation
2. Poetry Out Loud
3. The Academy of American Poets
4. Poet’s Corner
5. Poetry 180
6. Poetry Daily
7. The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center
8. Favorite Poem Project
9. Magnetic Poetry
10. Semantic Rhyming Dictionary
11. Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry
12. How to Read a Poem
13. Poetry Slams, Inc.
14. Poetry Speaks
15. PoetryMagazine
16. Poets and Writers
17. Voice Thread
18. LibriVox
19. It’s a Small World: International Nursery Rhymes
20. Giggle Poetry
21. Teen Ink magazine
22. Poetry Hill Poetry
23. PACYA: Poetry Advocates for Children & YA
24. Kenn Nesbitt’s Poetry4Kids
25. PoetryTagTime


1. Poetry for Children by Sylvia Vardell (duh!)
2. Chicken Spaghetti by Susan Thomsen
3. Wild Rose Reader by Elaine Magliaro
4. The Miss Rumphius Effect by Tricia Stohr-Hunt
5. The Poem Farm by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
6. Wordswimmer by Bruce Black
7. Writing the World for Kids by Laura Purdie Salas
8. Writing and Ruminating by Kelly Fineman
9. GottaBook by Greg Pincus
10. Read Write Believe by Sara Lewis Holmes
11. A Wrung Sponge by Andromeda Jazmon
12. Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
13. Author Amok by Laura Shovan
14. Karen Edmisten’s blog
15. A Year of Reading
16. Alphabet Soup by Jama Rattigan
17. David L. Harrison’s blog
18. Father Goose by Charles Ghigna
19. Bookjoy by Pat Mora
20. Florian Café by Douglas Florian
21. Polkabats by Calef Brown
22. The Drift Record by Julie Larios
23. Nikki Sounds Off by Nikki Grimes
24. Lee B. Hopkins Poetry Award Teaching Toolbox
25. LBH Promising Poets
26. J. Patrick Lewis Poetry Toolkit
27. p*tag: Teen Tag Time
28. Gift Tag

+ 88 POET WEB SITES (which are featured as regular links on my blog in the sidebar)


Select poets that feature audio recordings:
Kristine O’Connell George:
Janet S. Wong:
Nikki Grimes:
Joyce Sidman:

Select poetry-related Web sites with audio files:
The Academy of American Poets
Poets and Writers
Favorite Poem Project


Scholastic: Poetry
Holiday House: Free materials (& podcasts)
HarperCollins: Teachers & Librarians
Penguin Young Readers: Teachers & Librarians
Macmillan: Library Marketing
Candlewick Press: Resources
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Teacher’s Resources
Disney Hyperion Children’s Books: Discussion Guides
Random House: Teachers
Little, Brown (Hachette Book Group): Librarians & Eudcators


Web publishing:
Print publishing (COBBLESTONE, ODYSSEY magazines, etc.):
Print publishing (STONE SOUP magazine):
SKIPPING STONES multicultural magazine:
Teen Ink (print and online):

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Poetry and me at NCTE

I'm heading off to the NCTE convention and looking forward to several poetry sessions and will be presenting one myself along with a lovely panel of poetry people. I hope to report on those sessions with film and video when I return-- J. Pat Lewis is receiving his NCTE Poetry Award, as well as speaking, there will be a "parade" session of other poetry award recipients, Joyce Sidman and Pat Mora will be speaking at the annual "Master Class" session, and Joyce is also the CLA Breakfast speaker (where we'll be finalizing the art auction, too). Plus, informal gatherings and excellent exhibits. Very fun and poetry-filled!

But first, I would like to toot my own horn, if you don't mind. Plus we have a freebie to promote! Here are the details on my session if you're in Chicago and free early Saturday morning! Janet Wong and I are offering free copies of our forthcoming e-book of holiday poetry for kids to all who come early.

Poetry for Paupers from Recitation to E-Books; Infusing Poetry into the Classroom
National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention
Chicago, IL
Sat., Nov. 19, 2011
Chicago Hilton

*Yours truly
*Janet Wong, Author and Poet, sponsored by Charlesbridge
Autographing Sat., Nov. 19 (3-4pm) at Charlesbridge booth #1120
*Laurie Purdie Salas, Author and Poet, sponsored by Clarion Books
Autographing Sat., Nov. 19 (11am-12pm) at HMH booth #105
*Stephen Young, Program Director, Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest
*Youssef Biaz, Alabama, 2011 Poetry Out Loud national champion (great to have a teen on our panel!)

Here's the session description:
Why is poetry for young people so important? Poetry embodies emotion and imagination that help connect readers and listeners across barriers of culture, ethnicity, and even age. As Emerson said, poetry teaches us the power of a few words, helping us see old things in new ways. It can make us laugh out loud, or stop and think. How do we find ways to share poetry when financial resources are so tight? Inexpensive teaching materials and resources, from the old fashioned tried-and-true to the cutting edge e-reader, offer new and inexpensive approaches for connecting kids and poetry. These resources allow us to bring poets and poetry into the classroom through multiple media using print, visual, and digital tools.

This session will introduce participants to a variety of free or inexpensive teaching resources including:
• Downloadable audio files of poetry readings
• Free readers guides and reproducibles
• Publisher resources such as posters, guides, and bookmarks
• Digital book trailers
• Poetry recitation competitions
• Books for Kindles, iPads, and poetry e-readers
• Blogs and web sites
• Homemade poetry books, magazines, and newspapers

In addition, the session panel will include two nationally known poets reading from their work and discussing resources available on their web sites and blogs. This includes Janet Wong and Laura Purdie Salas. Each is a unique poetic voice, as well as a creator of a range of poetry for both children and young adults. Each employs active web sites/blogs that offer interactive opportunities for young people as well as curricular resources for teachers and librarians.

Finally, the session will also feature the resources available through the Poetry Foundation, in particular, the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. Steve Young, Program Director at the Poetry Foundation will share details about how teens can participate in this free competition and the session will conclude with a poetry performance by this year’s teen winner.

The proposed session will provide an opportunity to learn about inexpensive resources for promoting poetry in the classroom, providing insight and guidance for teachers who want to lead students in reading, reciting, and responding as writers, performers, and poets. We’ll consider how poets, teachers, and kids can use print, performance, and technology to connect through poetry. What kinds of poetry resources engage students to wonder and explore, ask big questions, make discoveries and connections, and learn about themselves and others? With the goal of making more poetry accessible for more children, this session will remind participants of all ages of the richness to be found in poetry for young people today.

For my part, I'll be highlighting:
  • 25 of my favorite poetry (teaching) resources on the web,
  • 28 of my favorite poetry promoting blogs
  • 88 awesome poet web sites
  • 10 sources of free audio poetry
  • 10 links to publisher sites for free materials
  • 6 outlets for publishing young people's writing
Should be fun! I've been attending NCTE conventions for over 30 years now and it's one of my favorite events. Since this is the 100th anniversary of the organization, it feels extra special to be there and to be talking about all kinds of digital resources for the next era.

Watch for more info about GIFT TAG, an e-book of holiday poems for kids available on Thanksgiving Day.

Image credit: 

Janet Wong

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 04, 2011

London poetry conference

If you're going to be in London next weekend, there’s a fantastic poetry conference being held there organized by the IBBY UK and the NCRCL (National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature). If you go, please let us know all about it.

Here are the details gleaned from postings by Laura Atkins, Senior Lecturer at the NCRCL.

Date: Saturday, 12 November 2011
Location: University of Roehampton, London

Theme: “It Doesn’t Have to Rhyme: Children and Poetry”

The conference will explore aspects of poetry that impinge on young people, with a focus on the question “Why does poetry matter?” This begs the more fundamental question: What is poetry?” which they hope also to explore. Plenary speakers include Morag Styles, Michael Rosen, Jacqueline Wilson, Susan Bassnett and a panel of people involved with the publication and anthologizing of poetry.

Here is their Provisional Programme:

9.30 Registration and coffee, Terrace Room

10.00 Welcome (Pat Pinsent)

10:10 Morag Styles (Cambridge University)

11:00 Publishing panel: Janetta Otter Barry (Frances Lincoln), Gaby Morgan (Macmillan) and Fiona Waters (anthologist; Troubadour)

11:45 Comfort break (don't you love that label?!)

12:00 Michael Rosen

12:45 IBBY, NCRCL and 2012 World Congress news

1:00 Lunch, Montefiore Diner

2:00 Parallel workshops, see notices

3.15 Susan Bassnett (The Times Stephen Spender 2010 prizes judge).

3:45 Tea, Terrace Room

4:15 Jacqueline Wilson

5:00 Joelle Taylor (Poetry Society) Poetry Slam

5:30 Finish

Programme of Workshops

Workshop A

Sandra A. Agard. It Doesn’t Have to Rhyme.

David A. Whitley. Children’s Poetry: Loose Cannons and Loose Iambics.

Workshop B

Lucy Andrew. Riddles in the Dark: The Role of Poetry in Children’s Fantasy Novels from Alice to Harry Potter.

Rebecca R. Butler. Imaginative Opportunities in Two Verse Novels.

Workshop C

Kimberly Black. Social Protest in Urban Youth Spoken-Word Poetry.

Imogen Church. Authenticity of Voice in Poetry Written by Juvenile Offenders.

Workshop D

Julie Blake. Reclaiming the Oral Tradition: The Poetry Archive.

Mathew Carthew. Slam Dunk: Performance as a Way of Bringing Children’s Poetry to Life.

Workshop E

Fiona Collins and Alison Kelly. Poetry Journeys: From Child to Student Teacher.

Jenny Vernon. Ten Years of Children’s Poetry: The Southwark Poetry Anthologies.

Workshop F

Pat Ebhohimen. Is Poetry Written by Children really Poetry?

Robert Hull. Can a Love of Poetry be Taught?

Workshop G

Emily Roach. Dealing with Death: Tough Topics in Poetry for Children.

Siwan M. Rosser. Negotiating Borders: Poetry and the Language of Children.

Workshop H

Georgie Horrell. Caribbean Children’s Poetry in Multicultural Britain.

Aneesh Baria. Children and Cats in the Alley: T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and its French Translations.

Doesn't this look cool? I won’t be able to attend, so I contacted the conference organizers about whether proceedings of the conference would be published and I’m pleased to share that the answer is YES. There will be short abstracts if the conference in the Spring 2012 issue of IBBYLink. The journal goes out to all members of IBBY UK so if you are a member you will get that. The proceedings with the fuller papers will be published by Pied Piper Publishing in October 2012. So, I’ll watch for that and keep you posted!

Image credit:

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poetry, peace and USBBY

This weekend I’m in Fresno, California attending the biennial IBBY regional conference with the theme, Peace the World Together Through Children’s Books. It’s sponsored by the US section of IBBY (the United States Board on Books for Young People), one of my favorite organizations since it’s devoted to international children’s literature. I’ve mentioned it many times, particularly since I love this conference and rarely miss it. In addition, I am winding up my 3 year term as co-editor of the IBBY journal of international children’s literature, Bookbird.

I will also be making a presentation on Saturday, “PEACE THROUGH POETRY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE” along with poet and artist Ann Grossnickle Hines, author of the recent poetry collection, Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace. Our session will focus on how poetry, in particular, fosters the IBBY vision of working toward a more just and peaceful world by featuring:

• An introduction to and bibliography of poetry for young people from around the world, including print and online resources
• Poetry in bilingual editions (English and Spanish, Japanese, Irish, Slovakian, etc.)
• Poems and poets from around the world featured in Bookbird

Anna will talk about her new book which has already received starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist, Peaceful Poems, a collection of 28 short poems about peace, a broad concept interpreted in varied ways through poetry and quilt art. She notes, “All of us are together in one world, where everything we do, every action, every thought and every breath, creates the network in which we all live.”

It’s a beautiful book—in both the quilt art illustrations and the various manifestations of peace that the poems reflect. Here’s just one example:

Peace: A Recipe
By Anna Grossnickle Hines

Open minds—at least two.

Willing hearts—the same
Rinse well with compassion.

Stir in a fair amount of trust.

Season with forgiveness.

Simmer in a sauce o
f respect.
A dash of humor brightens the flavor.

Best served with hope.

And just in case you’re interested in the bibliography I’ll be sharing, here you go:

Applegate, Katherine. 2008. Home of the Brave. New York: Square Fish.
Burg, Ann. 2009. All the Broken Pieces. NY: Scholastic.
Crist-Evans, Craig. 1999. Moon Over Tennessee: A Boy’s Civil War Journal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Engle, Margarita. 2006. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. New York: Henry Holt and Co.
Engle, Margarita. 2008. The Surrender Tree; Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. New York: Henry Holt.
Frost, Helen. 2009. Crossing Stones. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Gordon, Ruth, comp. 1995. Pierced by a Ray of Sun: Poems about the Times We Feel Alone. New York: HarperCollins.
Greenfield, Eloise. 2006. When the Horses Ride by: Children in the Times of War. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Gunning, Monica. 2004. A Shelter In Our Car. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
Heard, Georgia. 2002. This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort. Cambridge: Candlewick Press.
Hesse, Karen. 2003. Aleutian Sparrow. Simon & Schuster.
Hines, Anna Grossnickle. 2011. Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace. New York: Greenwillow.
Holland, Trish and Christine Ford. 2006. The Soldiers’ Night Before Christmas. New York: Random House.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2008. America at War. New York: McElderry.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 1994. Hand in Hand: An American History through Poetry. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 2002. Home to Me: Poems Across America. New York: Orchard Books.
Janeczko, Paul. 2011. Requiem; Poems of the Terezín Ghetto. Candlewick.
Johnston, Tony. 2008. Voice from Afar: Poems of Peace. New York: Holiday House.
Katz, Bobbi. 2000. We The People: Poems. New York: Greenwillow.
Lai, Thanhha. 2011. Inside Out and Back Again. HarperCollins.
Levy, Debbie. 2010. The Year of Goodbyes; A True Story of Friendship, Family and Farewells. New York: Hyperion.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Heroes and She-Roes: Poems of Amazing and Everyday Heroes. New York: Dial Books.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2007. The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse. Washington: National Geographic Children's Books.
LeZotte, Ann Clare. 2008. T4. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. 2001. The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. New York: Handprint Books.
Meltzer, Milton. 2003. Hour of Freedom: American History In Poetry. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. 1998. The Space Between out Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Middle East. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Nye, Naomi Shihab, comp. 1999. What Have You Lost? New York: Greenwillow.
Rappaport, Doreen. 2008. Lady Liberty. Cambridge: Candlewick Press.
Robb, Laura, comp. 1997. Music and Drum: Voices Of War and Peace, Hope and Dreams. New York: Philomel Books.
Sidman, Joyce. 2007. This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Thomas, Shelley Moore. 1998. Somewhere Today: A Book of Peace. Morton Grove: Albert Whitman.
Vecchione, Patrice. 2007. Faith and Doubt; An Anthology of Poems. New York: Henry Holt.
Volavkova, Hana, ed. 1993. I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944. New York: Schocken Books.
Walker, Alice. 2007. Why War is Never a Good Idea. New York: HarperCollins.
Yolen, Jane. 1996. Sacred Places. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.

I'll also be sharing a bib of a sampling of wonderful international poetry for kids.

And my major points boil down to these three:
*poetry about peace can teach children about important concepts, events, experiences
*poetry from around the world can humanize other places that may be unfamiliar and provide a bridge of understanding
*poetry (period) encourages reflection, tolerance and peace (poets are lovers not fighters!)

Image credit: 

USBBY;AnnaGrossnickleHines; Greenwillow

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Still more on new novels in verse: Trailers

Here's a second installment featuring the work of my wonderful graduate students (in my fall course on YA literature). In honor of Teen Read Week (Oct. 16-23), they created digital trailers to promote some of the hot new verse novels being published for teens and I have their permission to share their projects here. Here are six trailers I think you'll enjoy. Please share them with the teens in your life-- get the books-- and encourage the kids to read and respond with their own audio-visual-digital creations!

First, Elizabeth Hoff has created an intriguing trailer for I'll Be Watching by Canadian writer Pamela Porter.

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Next up, Joseph Krupp made this gem for Orchards by Holly Thompson. [Note: Joe is currently a librarian in a school in Cambodia!]

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Kirsten Dees created this trailer for Margarita Engle's gripping historical novel in verse, Hurricane Dancers.

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Dana Terrell created this evocative trailer for Family by Micol Ostow.

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Janice Kirkland channeled the 1960's in this trailer for Sherry Shahan's Purple Daze.

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And finally, Kathey Smith offers a slightly different interpretation for Shahan's Vietnam-era novel in verse, Purple Daze.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More on new novels in verse: Trailers

In honor of Teen Read Week (Oct. 16-23), the students in my YA Literature course this fall are creating digital trailers to promote some of the hot new books being published for teens. In fact, they chose 9 of the recent novels in verse published this year to showcase in their work and I have their permission to share their projects here. First, I'll feature those that are available at external sites. (Tomorrow, I'll showcase those that are downloadable.)

First, Kathryn Anderson has created an evocative trailer for Displacement by Thalia Chaltas. It's available on YouTube via this link. Check it out.

Kristin Seholm featured Allan Wolf's new novel in verse about the Titanic, The Watch That Ends the Night. Look at her dramatic trailer on YouTube here.

Grace Erkman used Animoto to create her dramatic trailer for Unlocked by Ryan Van Cleave. Look for it here.

Shannon Hanrahan created a completely different trailer for the same book (Unlocked). Interesting to see how differently we can approach the same book. Look here for her edgy trailer.

Traci Kirkland featured exposed by Kimberly Marcus for her digital trailer also using Animoto. Look for her sensitive and suspenseful mini movie here.

P.S. And don't forget to check out my new project, an e-book of new poetry for teens compiled with Janet Wong and featuring 31 photos plus poems by Big Names in poetry for teens like Naomi Nye, Paul B. Janeczko, Helen Frost, Allan Wolf, Kimberly Marcus, Stephanie Hemphill, and more. It's called P*TAG and it's available here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What's new in novels in verse?

It’s been a boom year for publishing excellent novels in verse. I count nearly 20 of them, many of which I've written about earlier in the year. Here's my list (and please let me know if I've missed any in 2011):
  1. Chaltas, Thalia. 2011. Displacement. Viking.
  2. Engle, Margarita. 2011. Hurricane Dancers; The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck. Henry Holt.
  3. Frost, Helen. 2011. Hidden. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  4. Grimes, Nikki. 2011. Planet Middle School. Bloomsbury.
  5. Herrera, Juan Felipe. 2011. Skate Fate. HarperCollins.
  6. Hopkins, Ellen. 2011. Perfect. Margaret K. McElderry.
  7. Howe, James. 2011. Addie on the Inside. Atheneum.
  8. Janeczko, Paul B. 2011. Requiem; Poems of the Terezín Ghetto. Candlewick.
  9. Kehoe, Stasia Ward. 2011. Audition. Viking.
  10. Lai, Thanhha. 2011. Inside Out and Back Again. HarperCollins.
  11. Marcus, Kimberly. 2011. exposed. Random House.
  12. McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. 2011. Under the Mesquite. Lee & Low.
  13. Ostlere, Cathy. 2011. Karma. Razorbill.
  14. Ostow, Micol. 2011. family. Egmont.
  15. Porter, Pamela. 2011. I'll Be Watching. Groundwood.
  16. Saller, Carol Fisher. 2011. Eddie's War. Namelos.
  17. Schroeder, Lisa. 2011. The Day Before. Simon & Schuster.
  18. Shahan, Sherry. 2011. Purple Daze. Running Press Kids.
  19. Thompson, Holly. 2011. Orchards. Random House.
  20. Van Cleave, Ryan G. 2011. Unlocked. Walker.
  21. Weber, Lori. 2011. Yellow Mini. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
  22. Wolf, Allan. 2011. The Watch That Ends the Night; Voices from the Titanic. Candlewick.
Plus, I’m seeing some new names in poetry for young people too which is always exciting. I find the novel in verse form so interesting— the engaging, fast-moving plots, quickly sketched characters, dialogue and inner monologues, and all in spare pages of poems. As a former sixth grade teacher I know the readability and white space of this form is also a plus for students— it seems so non-threatening to young readers.

I was also interested to learn about a new resource on verse novels developed by Stephen James in Australia. It’s the YARR-A website website with an extensive list of verse novels from around the world featuring information, synopses, and reviews when available of verse novels for teenagers and children. Cool, huh? One of my favorite verse novelists is Steven Herrick—who hails from Australia.

For another treat, check out this interview with award-winning author and poet Margarita Engle. The video was created by Colorín Colorado, the bilingual branch of public television's Reading Rainbow.

Finally, another of my (U.S.) favorites, Sonya Sones, has launched a new blog. She started off writing about how it feels when your child goes off to college hoping to help mothers whose kids are leaving for school this fall feel a little less alone… Her latest novel in verse (for adults) is about this very topic and is so honest, hilarious, and engaging: The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus. Her most recent posts have included terrific quotes and personal anecdotes about writing banned books. Check it out: Sonya's blog.

Image credit: 

Sonya Sones

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Poetry at the Frankfurt Book Fair

If I could click my heels together and travel to Germany this week, I would! I’ve always wanted to go to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest trade fair for books, and this would be the year to go because there will be a fantastic poetry pane discussing "Around the world with children’s poems!" with poetry readings in both German and English. The focus is on the challenge of translating poetry-- which would be fascinating. I got word of this from my friends at the International Youth Library (in Munich) which I’ve written about before. The IYL Director, Dr. Christiane Raabe, will be one of the panelists, so it’s sure to be terrific. If you can go, PLEASE share with us! Here are the details.

Around the world with children’s poems!
Conversation and Reading (in German/English)

Thursday, October 13th 2011
15.00 – 16.00
Frankfurter Buchmesse (Frankfurt Book Fair)
Weltempfang – Centre for Politics, Literature and Translation
Hall 5.0 D 963

Radek Malý, Czech author of children’s poetry, translator
Sybil Gräfin Schönfeldt, author, translator, journalist
Christiane Raabe, director of the International Youth Library, Munich
Chaired by Roswitha Budeus-Budde, journalist

Mia Hofmann and Pauline Spatz

Here's the official blurb about the session:
Children’s poetry is a difficult format and hard to sell. And that‘s even before it‘s translated! This panel discussion assesses the opportunities and challenges presented by the genre and asks how easy it is to translate. It also examines the potential uses of children‘s poetry for intercultural communication. The event includes live readings of international children‘s poetry (original and German).

German Federal Foreign Office
International Youth Library

Image credit: Frankfurt Book Fair

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


I’m excited to help spread the word about a new organization dedicated to promoting poetry for young people: Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults or PACYA for short. It’s the brainchild of poet, teacher, and blogger Steven Withrow and includes an advisory board of 17 people (including yours truly). Steven has ambitious plans and has already established a lively blog (“Poetry at Play”), web site, and presence on Facebook. Look for heaps of information including resource booklists, a “Poet of the Week,” a calendar, and related links. There’s even a Suggestion Box, so please chime in.

Poetry at Play:

As you’ll seen on the site, PACYA’s goals are BIG!

We are dedicated to:
1. Speaking out for the need to engage with poetry at every age level—and addressing the challenges of doing so.
2. Creating a global online hub for news, reviews, essays, and interviews; learning/scholarly resources; communication and networking; audiovisual archives; collaborative projects; and more.
3. Organizing and promoting readings, awards, workshops, and conferences in North America and internationally.

PACYA has several projects underway, including the development of teaching guides and a comprehensive listing of 2011 titles with commentary and links. I expect great things, so stay tuned!

Image credit: Steven Withrow

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

P*TAG = ePoetry for TEENS

Just in time for Teen Read Week (October 16-22), I'm excited to announce the launch of a new poetry project. It's P*TAG, an e-book anthology of new poetry for teens that I've edited with poet Janet Wong. In P*TAG, 31 poets speak to the complicated lives of today's teens, with new, quirky, reflective, and soulful poems about love and longing, war and worry, tattoos, piercings, watching people, being watched, broken lives, luck, burping up kittens, and more.

The list of contributors is a "who's who" of the best poets for young people, including YA poets and verse novelists Naomi Shihab Nye, Margarita Engle, Allan Wolf, Betsy Franco, Paul Janeczko, and Helen Frost, Newbery Honor winner Joyce Sidman, current Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, and poetry legend Lee Bennett Hopkins, among others.

One interesting twist to this volume is that each of the poems was inspired by a photograph from a collection posted on our P*TAG blog and selected by each poet. These photos then serve as the illustrations for the poems in the book as well. We hope that teachers will encourage teens to "play along," choosing photos from the same blog, writing their own poems about the photos, and then comparing their poems to the ones in the eBook. Here's the photo library blog that inspired each poem

P*TAG, the first ever digital anthology of new poetry for teens is priced at $2.99 and is available here: If readers don’t have a Kindle or iPad, they can read the book on a PC using the free Kindle download available here:

For more info on our poetry ebooks: and for our previous book, PoetryTagTime, go here:

Image credit: 

SV and JW

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.