Saturday, February 23, 2019

Remembering Paul B. Janeczko

Teacher, poet, and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko has passed away. Such a loss; such a significant contribution to the world of literature for young people. I would like to take a moment to celebrate his significant and influential work. He is one of the first people to champion poetry in terms of it's appeal and value to young readers, as well as to provide guidance in the teaching and sharing of poetry with young people. He paved the way for all of us who think of poetry in terms of guiding young people to enjoy and embrace it. Including ME! I first encountered his work when I, myself, was a sixth grade teacher. (He started as a teacher too.) I found the choices he made and the formats he provided so helpful and appealing and my respect for him and his work has grown over the years. What a life well lived; what a huge contribution to all of us who love poetry and look for engaging and creative ways to introduce young readers to the genre we love so much. Here's just a sampling of the depth and breadth of his work. There are MANY others! 

I first encountered Paul's work in poetry collections that included comments or auto biographical bits from poets themselves along with the poems. Like these:
Janeczko, Paul B. 1983. Poetspeak: In Their Work, About Their Work: A Selection. New York: Atheneum.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 1990. The Place My Words are Looking for. New York: Bradbury.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2002. Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Then later, he focused on poetry teaching with engaging picture book collections illustrated by Chris Raschka:
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2001. A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems. Somerville, MA:   Candlewick.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2005. A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Janeczko, Paul. B. Ed. 2009. A Foot in the Mouth; Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout. Ill. by Chris Raschka. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2014. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. Ill. by Melissa Sweet. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2015. The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. Ill. by Chris Raschka. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 

Plus he created books centered on poetry form:
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 1988. The Music of What Happens: Poems that Tell Stories. New York: Orchard.Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2000. Stone Bench in an Empty Park. New York: Orchard. (haiku)
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2001. Dirty Laundry Pile. Poems in Different Voices. New York: HarperCollins.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2007. Hey, You! Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things. New York: HarperCollins. (poems of address)

He created thematic collections too, of course:
Janeczko, Paul B. 1999. Very Best (Almost Friends): Poems of Friendship. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2004. Blushing: expressions of love in poems & letters. New York: Orchard Books. 

There are also several books of poetry by Janeczko himself:
Janeczko, Paul B. 1998. That Sweet Diamond: Baseball Poems. New York: Atheneum.
Janeczko, Paul B. 1993. Stardust Hotel. New York: Orchard.

And amazing, powerful novels in verse written by him alone:
Janeczko, Paul B. 2004. Worlds Afire. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
Janeczko, Paul B. 2011. Requiem; Poems of the Terezín Ghetto. Candlewick. 

Plus nonfiction books about poetry helpful to teachers and students alike:
Janeczko, Paul B. 1994. Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers. New York: Bradbury.
Janeczko, Paul B. 2011. Poetry Reading in the Middle Grades. Heinemann.

And he collaborated with other poets on dual-authored books, like: 
Lewis, J. Patrick and Janeczko, Paul B. 2006. Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku. New York: Little, Brown.
Nye, Naomi Shihab, and Paul Janeczko eds. 1996. I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You: A Book of His and Her Poems Collected in Pairs. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Plus, he authored many works of "straight" nonfiction he created like Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Cyphers, and Secret Writing, among others. He has a lifetime of major contributions to poetry-- with two new books out this year. Look for The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and other How-To Poems which debuts next month! He will be awarded the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry in November-- a lovely recognition of his life's work. Personally, I owe Paul a major debt of gratitude for paving the way for anthologies of poetry that include a teaching component-- a focus of my own work with Janet Wong and our Poetry Friday anthologies. Goodbye, Paul, and thank you for the many, beautiful gifts you left us. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Cybils 2018: And the winner is...

The Cybils Awards (The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards) aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal.

The Cybils Award winners for books published in 2018 (and the last quarter of 2017) have been announced! But first, some background... 48 poetry books were nominated last fall and then 7 poetry books were selected for the shortlist in December by a committee of judges. The books they selected for the shortlist in the poetry category included: 

Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters (Carolrhoda Books)

H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z by Sydell Rosenberg (Penny Candy)

In the Past: From Trilobites to Dinosaurs by David Elliott (Candlewick Press)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness by Lita Judge (Roaring Brook Press)

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen)

Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Seagrass Press)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)

Each of these books was obviously beautifully written and innovative in it's own way. I was lucky enough to serve as a Round 2 judge and we had a heckuva time comparing these "apples and oranges" with anthologies, poetry, picture books, and novels in verse among these finalists. But our charge was to close only ONE book. 

In the end, the winning book is... Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.

Here's the blurb our committee wrote for this winning book:

LONG WAY DOWN is a tour de force work of poetry. The entire novel in verse takes place on an elevator ride as a young man whose brother has been shot and killed descends to avenge his murder. Along the way, he is visited by the ghosts of those he has lost, the elevator filling with smoke as each enters to question, chide, taunt, and harangue him. This masterful narrative structure and the claustrophobic setting in that metal box filled with smoke, ghosts, and words create a gripping tension and kinetic energy that make LONG WAY DOWN nearly impossible to put down. Jason Reynolds’s spare, lyrical language and gorgeous, mesmerizing imagery stay with you and compel re-reading and discussion. This novel in verse makes maximum use of the format, using the poem placement, the background art, and the free verse poems themselves all working in harmony. Reynolds varies his approach to the poems to keep the tension high, repeating references, using anthropomorphism, and incorporating anagrams that startle, like a pause for a breath. His use of poetic language is vivid and powerful including: “how do you hug what’s haunting you?”, “another piece of me, an extra vertebra, some more backbone”, “headlock that felt like a hug”, and “pushing the pistol under my pillow like a lost tooth.” The questions this book raises about the cycle of violence and the responses it evokes also make LONG WAY DOWN a natural for discussion with young readers themselves.

You can find more about ALL the winners in all the categories here.

As it happens, our Round 2 Poetry Committee Chair, Jone, is rounding up all the Poetry Friday posts and I just noticed her post is a lot like mine (oops, surprise, surprise), but that's OK. Poetry deserves all the promotion it can get, right? Go link up with all the wonderful Poetry Friday people at Jone's blog, Check it Out, right now!