Friday, September 11, 2015

Celebrate POET

In a wonderful confluence of variables, author and illustrator Don Tate was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina as part of his book tour for his new picture book, Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, and since my daughter lives in Chapel Hill, I mentioned this to her and she attended his presentation. She took photos, made video clips, and even got a book autographed for me! So lovely! You can see all about Don's launch week for POET complete with photos at his blog here. There were even descendants of poet George Moses Horton in the audience! So cool!

I'm sharing a few nuggets here because I think this book (and this author/illustrator) is really special: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton published by Peachtree Press. It's Don's first book as BOTH author and illustrator and I was so pleased that Don spoke at the Poetry Round Up at the Texas Library Association conference this last spring and even read one of Horton's poems aloud. There's a wonderful video at Don's website here and you can learn more about his Freedom Tour, too.

I was already somewhat familiar with the book and the story, but when I received galleys this summer (along with a quill pen and powdered ink!), I was really captivated by this book. First, it's an engaging, true account beautifully illustrated in muted colors with a compelling story-like pull. It reads well out loud, so it's a natural for story time. It's fact-based, so it provides a slice of history and fits with Common Core objectives, too-- incorporating bits of song, scripture, and poetry alongside the facts. There's even a teacher's guide with lots of great activities (and skill connections) here at Don's website and another video nugget here and a thorough review hereGeorge Moses Horton was the first African American in the south to be published and his journey is such an inspiring one. 

Kids will enjoy that George is SO resourceful and independent, especially given the constraints of his life as an enslaved person who is separated from his family, too. They will relate to his steps in becoming a reader-- learning letters, plodding through a spelling book, figuring out how to spell and write, getting his first book. They'll be intrigued that he wrote poems in his mind first and then made money writing poems for other people. And they'll bristle at all the obstacles he had to overcome-- being owned by a master who refused to sell him even when George mustered the resources. 

Poet celebrates literacy, poetry, and the human spirit-- a terrific combination-- in an accessible way through story and art. And Horton's poetry is available online at the Poetry Foundation's website, too, for students who might want to follow up. Here are a few slides from Don's presentation about his research for the book and his early sketches. 
And the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina where Don delivered this talk (and where he did some of his research for the book) created a special exhibit of some of the related materials about George Moses Horton. There's a short UNC interview with Don here.

Here's Horton's  second published book, His Poetical Works and a draft of a handwritten poem.

My daughter, Emily, getting Don's autograph
Kirkus gave Poet a starred review: "... a new perspective with remarkable clarity"

School Library Journal also gave it a starred review: "A lovely introduction to an inspirational American poet." 

Don't miss this book for a true story, a beautiful picture book, a celebration of literacy, an African American hero, a slice of history, and an invitation to poetry. 

Now head on over to Robyn's place, Life on the Deckle Edge, for our Poetry Friday fun. 


Sheri Doyle said...

I am off to order this book. Thank you so much for sharing this, Sylvia!

CatherineJohnson said...

Sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Sylvia.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Thanks for the introduction, Sylvia. Sounds like a book I need to get my hands on.

Linda B said...

So glad to know about this book, Sylvia. It sounds and looks beautiful. I've been collecting picture book bios of poets and this will be an added treasure. Thank you.

Sylvia Vardell said...

I'm so glad there's interest in getting Don's book. You won't regret it!

Charles Waters said...

AWESOME! What a classy human, and super talented ... like you!

Mary Lee said...

Can't wait to get my hands on this one!

Irene Latham said...

Oh, thank you for sharing these pics with the research and early sketches! I love seeing how books evolve, and this one sounds wonderful. Yay for bringing history to life! xo

Robyn Hood Black said...

Must. Have. Been waiting for this one!
Thanks for featuring an important book and an awesome book creator. :0)

Liz Steinglass said...

This looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing it and the pictures. It's always interesting to see the process and early sketches and source material.

Anonymous said...

It is always so fascinating to see/hear the story behind the story. This sounds like a goodie! Thanks for sharing, Sylvia.