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.