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.