When Amanda Gorman was named the first ever Youth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017, I was thrilled! It's always wonderful to see poetry lifted up, especially with awards, but when it's a YOUTH Poet Laureate, well, that makes me VERY happy! I immediately tried to find out if she had published any books (she hadn't at that time) and if she might be available to be part of presentations I was planning-- including the Poetry Round Up at the Texas Library Association conference. Sadly, that never happened and I'm pretty sure it won't be happening now! ;-)
Meanwhile, I learned that "the National Youth Poet Laureate program celebrates our nation's top youth poets that are committed to artistic excellence, civic engagement, and social justice." It's a program of Urban Word, "an award-winning youth literary arts and youth development organization" based in both New York and Los Angeles. The program is supported by the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Parks Service, Cave Canem, and many more. You can find more information here. The current National Poet Youth is 16 year-old Meera Dasgupta, from New York, chosen from among the Youth Poet Laureates from across the U.S. I was excited to see that my city, Dallas, has a Youth Poet Laureate program, so I need to check into that ASAP!
On Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, all across the United States, people sat in rap attention as the first Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, delivered her original poem, "The Hill We Climb" at the Inauguration of President Joe Biden. IT WAS INCREDIBLE! Not only was her original poem fresh, powerful and engaging, but she delivered it was such confidence and panache, with expressive hands, a beautiful, glowing face, wearing a bright yellow coat and the pop of a red hand band in her hair wrapped high on her head. At age 22, she took her moment and soared and we all soared with her! If you missed it or simply want to experience it again, here's a recording of her reading. Wow, right? I just love that a young person had this magical moment, a young Black woman lifted us all up and challenged us to be brave enough to see the light and BE the light!
I spent much of the day looking for the TEXT of the poem and finally found it available-- in several forms. I'm still not sure exactly how she intends the poem to look (in terms of spacing), but this is one version:
A picture book version of her now-famous poem illustrated by Loren Long was set to be published in September, but just yesterday Penguin Random House revised their website to indicate it would be published in April instead, possibly NOT as a picture book. We'll see.
Meanwhile, she does have a picture book illustrated by Loren Long due out in September entitled Change Sings: A Children's Anthem that is a call to activism.
You can read more about Amanda, her life, her struggle with a speech impediment, and her activist views here and here. In addition, TONS of lesson plans have popped up online with ways to share and teach Amanda's powerful poem. I recommend beginning by watching Amanda perform it (multiple times) and soaking it up, because there is nothing quite like hearing the poet read her own work out loud-- and when it becomes a historic moment too, well, that's the power of poetry!
Congratulations to my good friend and publishing partner, Janet S. Wong, who is the 2021 recipient of the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children,for her whole body of work for young readers. I think she is the perfect choice, but I am rather biased since I’ve known Janet for decades and have collaborated closely with her in publishing teaching anthologies of poetry since 2012 when we established Pomelo Books. You’ll find biographical info about Janet in many places: her parents were Chinese and Korean, she grew up in California, went to law school at Yale, and worked as a high-powered lawyer at Universal Studios. But then she left law and began writing for young readers creating beautiful collections of poetry, engaging picture books, and fascinating nonfiction. I first met Janet as a fan at a conference asking for an autograph on her first book. Flash forward and now she’s been on Oprah, a guest at the White House, and has served on numerous committees in several professional organizations. Plus, she’s a frequent speaker in schools, libraries, and at conferences. But in addition to all her accomplishments, she’s also a good friend to many people (including me!), a real advocate for literacy, and an innovator with an entrepreneurial spirit. She is so worthy of this important award for all her work, but also for how she lifts up other poets and writers too. She is a force-- pushing poetry out-out-out to as many readers as she can reach!
Janet will be presented the award at the November convention of the National Council of Teachers of English-- hopefully in-person!
The NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children
The National Council of Teachers of English established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1977 to honor a living American poet for his or her lifetime achievement in works for children aged three to thirteen years. The award was given annually until 1982, at which time it was decided that the award would be given every three years. In 2008 the Poetry Committee updated the criteria and changed the time frame to every other year.The National Council of Teachers of English strives to recognize and foster excellence in children’s poetry by encouraging its publication and by exploring ways to acquaint teachers and children with poetry through such means as publications, programs, and displays. As one means of accomplishing this goal, NCTE established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children to honor a poet for his or her aggregate work. More than twenty leading poets have since been recognized. Each met the following criteria:
NCTE Poetry Award Criteria
Literary Merit (art and craft of aggregate work–as poet or anthologist)
Creating books of poetry that demonstrate imagination, authenticity of voice, evidence of a strong persona, and universality/timelessness are essential. In short, we are looking for a poet who creates poetry books that contain clean, spare lines; use language and form in fresh ways; surprise the reader by using syntax artistically; excite the reader’s imagination with keen perceptions and sharp images; touch the reader’s emotions: a maker of word events.
Poet’s or Anthologist’s Contributions
Aggregate work, evident potential for growth and evolution in terms of craft, and excellence are considered.
Evolution of the Poet’s or Anthologist’s Work
Technical and artistic development as evidenced in the poetry, evidence of risk, change, and artistic stamina, and evidence of different styles and modes of expression are considered.
Appeal to Children
Although the appeal to children of a poet’s or anthologist’s work is an important consideration, the art and craft must be the primary criteria for evaluation. Evidence of students’ excitement for the poetry and evidence of childlike quality should be present, yet the work’s potential for stirring fresh insights and feelings should be apparent.
Recipients of the NCTE Poetry Award
2021 Janet S.Wong
2019 Paul B. Janeczko
2017 Marilyn Nelson
2015 Marilyn Singer
2013 Joyce Sidman
2011 J. Patrick Lewis
2009 Lee Bennett Hopkins
2006 Nikki Grimes
2003 Mary Ann Hoberman
2000 X. J. Kennedy
1997 Eloise Greenfield
1994 Barbara Esbensen
1991 Valerie Worth
1988 Arnold Adoff
1985 Lilian Moore
1982 John Ciardi
1981 Eve Merriam
1980 Myra Cohn Livingston
1979 Karla Kuskin
1978 Aileen Fisher
1977 David McCord
Look for Another Jar of Tiny Stars: Poems by NCTE Award-winning Poets, edited by Bernice Cullinan and Deborah Wooten, an anthology of poems by NCTE Poetry Award recipients (up to the year of the book’s publication). It is an excellent resource, based on children’s votes for their favorite poems by each award winner. It is a very child-friendly collection of some of the best poetry by some of the best poets who have ever written poetry for children. Plus, it includes biographical information about, sketches of, and quotations from the award-winning poets.
And don’t miss the “NCTE Poets Spotlight Series” by author Renée LaTulippe which features in-depth look at each award-winning poet and their work. For example:
It's time again for my "Sneak Peek" list--a gathering of all the titles of poetry books, anthologies, and novels in verse that are due to be published in 2021-- as far as I know at this date. Please comment if you know of other new 2021 titles to add to the list. I'll be updating the list all year long to provide a bibliography of 2021 poetry for young people to help all those who like to keep their poetry collections current (ALL OF US, I hope!). One note: I don't include rhyming picture books, although I enjoy those very much and one could consider them poetic, if not poetry too. They usually get plenty of love elsewhere, so I try to focus exclusively on poetry books, anthologies, and novels in verse. So, let's get going... there's much to be excited about by some of our favorite poets as well as by many new voices, too!
Sneak Peek List of Poetry for Young People 2021
Abdurraqib, Franny Choi; Sullivan, Dan, and Kahn, Peter. Eds. 2021. Respecting the Mic. New York: Penguin.
Agard, John. 2021. Coyote’s Soundbite: A Poem for the Planet. Ill. by Piet Grobler. Oxford: Lantana.
Ak'abal, Humberto. 2021. Aquí era el paraíso/ Here Was Paradise. Ill. by Amelia Lau Carling. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
Barnes, Derrick. 2021. [Bio of Muhammad Ali] Ill. by Gordon James. Boston: HMH/Versify.
Baron, Chris. 2021. The Magical Imperfect. New York: Feiwel & Friends.
Bruchac, Joseph. 2021. Rez Dogs. New York: Dial.
Browne, Mahogany L. 2021. Chlorine Sky. New York: Crown.
Bruchac, Joseph. 2021. Voices of the People. Reycraft.
Bulion, Leslie. 2021. Spi-ku: A Clutter of Short Verse on Eight Legs. Ill. by Robert Meganck. Atlanta: Peachtree.
Cane, Tina. 2021.The Road to Alma.New York: Random House/Make Me a World.
Caprara, Rebecca. 2021. Worst Case Collin. Charlesbridge.
Charles, Tami. 2021. Muted. New York: Scholastic.
Chau, Alina. 2021. In the Spirit of a Dream. New York: Orchard.
Chin-Tanner, Wendy and Chin-Taylor, Tyler (Eds.). 2021. Embodied: An intersectional Feminist Comics Poetry Anthology. A Wave Blue World Inc.
Coelho, Joseph. 2021. The Girl Who Became a Tree: A Story Told in Poems. Ill. by Kate Milner. Otter-Barry.
Cotner, June and Ling, Nancy Tupper. Eds. 2021. For Every Little Things: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Dakos, Kalli. 2021. They Only See the Outside. Ill. by Jimothy Oliver. Washington DC: Magination Press.
de Botton, Alain. Ed. 2021. An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z. The School of Life.
Doyon, Samara Cole. 2021. Magic Like That. Ill. by Geneva Bowers. New York: Lee & Low.
Drimmer, Stephanie Warren. 2021. Beneath the Waves: Celebrating the Ocean. Washington DC: National Geographic.
Elhillo, Safia. 2021. Home is Not a Country. New York: PRH/Make Me a World.
Elliott, David. 2021. The Seventh Raven. Boston: HMH.
Elliott, Zetta and Miller-Lachmann, Lyn. Eds. 2021. Moonwalking. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Engle, Margarita. 2021. A Song of Frutas. Ill. by Sara Palacios. New York: Atheneum.
Engle, Margarita. 2021. Your Heart, My Sky. New York: Atheneum.
Esiri, Allie. Ed. 2021. A Poet for Every Day of the Year. London: Macmillan/NY: Penguin.
Everman, Cookie Hiponia. 2021. We Belong. New York: Penguin/Dial.
Farkas, J.M. 2021.The Little Mermaid.Ill. by Gina Triplett. Petaluma, CA: Cameron Books.
Faruqi, Reem. 2021. Unsettled. New York: HarperCollins.
Fast, Yvona. 2021. Loon Summer. Ill. by Nina Schoch. Atmosphere Press.
Fennell, Saraciea, ed. 2021. Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora. New York: Macmillan/Flatiron.
Ferrada, Maria José. Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile. Ill. by María Elena Valdez. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Fipps. Lisa. 2021. Starfish. New York: Penguin/Paulsen.
Flett, Julie. 2021. We All Play / kimêtawânaw. Vancouver: Greystone Kids.
Freeman, Megan E. 2021. Alone. New York: Simon & Schuster/Aladdin.
Fritz, Joanne Rossmassler. 2021. Everywhere Blue. New York: Holiday House.
Frost, Robert. (Reissue) 2021. Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. Ill. by Vivian Minker. Sanger, CA: Familius.
George, Erica. 2021. Words Composed of Sea and Sky.Philadelphia, PA: Running Press.
Ghigna, Charles. 2021. A Poem is a Firefly. Ill. by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Kids.
Giovanni, Nikki. 2021. A Library. Ill. by Erin Robinson. Boston: HMH/Versify.
Girard, Rogé. Ed. 2020. Carry on: Poetry by Young Immigrants. Owlkids.
Giroux, Benjamin. 2021. I Am Odd, I Am New. Ill. by Roz MacLean. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing.
Gorman, Amanda. 2021. Change Sings: A Children's Anthem. Ill. by Loren Long. New York: Penguin Random House.
Gorman, Amanda. 2021. The Hill We Climb. Ill. by Loren Long. New York: Penguin Random House.
Grehan, Meg. 2021. The Deepest Breath. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Grimes, Nikki. 2021. Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Ill. by Ekua Holmes. New York: Bloomsbury.
Guidroz, Rukhsanna. 2021. Samira Surfs. Ill. by Fahmida Azim. Kokila.
Hagan, Ellen. 2021. Reckless, Glorious, Girl. New York: Bloomsbury.
Harrison, David L. 2021. The Dirt Book: Poems About Animals That Live Beneath Our Feet. Ill. by Kate Cosgrove. New York: Holiday House.
Harrold, A. F. 2021. The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice. Ill. by Mini Grey. New York: Bloomsbury.
Heard, Georgia. 2021. My Thoughts Are Clouds. Ill. by Isabel Roxas. Roaring Brook Press.
Herriot, Lindsay; and Fry, Kate, eds. 2021. Growing Up Trans: In Our Own Words. Victoria, British Columbia: Orca.
Hood, Susan. 2021. The Last Straw: Kids vs. Plastics. Ill. By Christiane Engel. New York: HarperCollins.
Judge, Lita. 2021. The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom. New York: Macmillan/Roaring Brook.
Karlins, Mark. 2021. Kyoshi’s Walk. Ill. by Nicole Wong. New York: Lee & Low.
Kirkwood, Kathlyn J. 2021. Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round. New York: HMH/Versify.
Krasner, Barbara. 2021. 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S.St. Louis, 1939. Kar-Ben.
Kunkel, Angela Burke. 2021. Penguin Journey. Ill. by Catherine Odell. New York: Abrams Appleseed.
Larios, Julie. 2021. Delicious: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World. Ill. by Julie Paschkis. New York: Beach Lane.
LaRocca, Rajani. 2021. Red, White, and Whole. New York: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins.
Latham, Irene. 2021. Wild Peace. Ill. by Il Sung Na. New York: Roaring Brook.
Latham, Irene. 2021. D-39: A Robodog’s Journey. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Levy, Debbie. 2021. Photo Ark ABC: An Alphabet Book in Poetry and Pictures. Ill. by Joel Sartore. Washington DC: National Geographic Kids.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2021. I Am Elephant. Ill. by Miriam Nerlove. Mankato, MN: Creative Company.
Lewis, Leigh. 2021. Pirate Queens: Dauntless Women Who Dared to Rule the High Seas. Washington DC: National Geographic Kids.
Long, Fran. Ed. 2021. The Bee is Not Afraid of Me: A Book of Insect Poems. London: The Emma Press.
Luby, Brittany. 2021. This Is How I Know/ Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh. Ill. by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley. Translated by Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere. Toronto: Groundwood.
Lucido, Aimee. 2021. Recipe for Disaster. Boston: HMH/Versify.
Magee, Bridget. Ed. 2021. The 10-10 Poetry Anthology.
Mann, J. Albert. 2021. Fix. New York: Little, Brown.
McBride, Amber. 2021. Me (Moth). New York: Feiwel & Friends.
McCullough, Joy. 2021. We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire. New York: Penguin/Dutton.
Mills, Claudia. 2021. The Lost Language. New York: Holiday House/Ferguson.
Milne, A.A. (reissued) 2021. When We Were Very Young. Ill. by Rosemary Wells. New York: Norton.
Moore, Johnny Ray. 2021. Seasonal Adventures. Ill. by Cbabi Bayoc. New Rochelle, NY: Reycraft.
Mora, Pat. 2021. My Magic Wand. Ill. by Amber Alvarez. New York: Lee & Low.
Moses, Brian. Ed. 2021. The Best Ever Book of Funny Poems. London: Macmillan.
Mucha, Laura. 2021. Dear Ugly Sisters: And Other Poems. Ill. by Tanya Rex. Otter-Barry.
Nelson, Marilyn and Lawson, Tammi. 2021. Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor's Life. New York: Macmillan/Ottaviano.
Ode, Eric. 2021. Stop That Poem. Ill. by Jieting Chen. La Jolla, CA: Kane Miller.
Pappa, Rodoula. 2021. Beautiful Day! Petite Poems for All Seasons. Petaluma, Ill. by Seng Soun Ratanavanh. CA: Cameron Kids.
Park, Linda Sue. 2021. The One Thing You’d Save. Ill. by Robert Sae-Heng. Boston: HMH/Clarion.
Paul, Miranda. 2021. Beyond: Discoveries from the Outer Reaches of Space. Ill. by Sija Hong. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner/Millbrook.
Pearson, Carol Lynn. 2021. Day-Old Child. Ill. by Corey Egbert. Gibbs Smith.
Pearson, Debora. 2021. My Words Flew Away Like Birds. Ill. by Shrija Jain. Toronto, Ontario: Kids Can Press.
Pearson, Tracey Campbell. 2021. Girls and Boys Come Out to Play. New York: Holiday House.
Piercey, Rachel. 2021. If You Go Down to the Woods Today. Ill. by Freya Hartas. New York: Abrams.
Pitman, Gayle E. 2021. Evelyn Hooker and the Fairy Project. Ill. by Sarah Green. Washington DC: Magination Press.
Prelutsky, Jack. 2021. Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast: And Other Tasty Poems. Ill. by Ruth Chan. New York: Greenwillow.
Raczka, Bob. 2021. The Poet of Piney Woods. Ill. by Kristen Howdeshell. Cameron Kids.
Robinson, Monica Clark. 2021. Standing on Her Shoulders. Ill. by Laura Freeman. New York: Orchard Books.
Roeder, Annette; Baverstock, Alison; and Cunningham, Matt, eds. 2021. At the Height of the Moon: A Book of Bedtime Poetry and Art. New York: Prestel Junior.
Ruurs, Margriet. 2021. Come, Read with Me. Ill. by Christine Wei. Custer, WA: Orca Press.
Saldaña, René, Jr. Ed. 2021. I Sing: The Body: Poems about Body Image. McAllen, TX: Juvented Press.
Schlitz, Laura Amy. 2021. Amber and Clay. Ill. by Julia Iredale. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Shepard, Ray Anthony.2021. Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge. Ill. by Keith Mallett. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Sidman, Joyce. 2021. Dear Treefrog. Ill. by Diana Sudyka. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Sidman, Joyce. 2021. Hello, Earth! Ill. by Miren Asiain Lora. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Smith, Colby Cedar. 2021. Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel.
Sorell, Traci. 2021. We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know. Ill by Frané Lessac. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Steinberg, D.J. 2021. Christmas, Here I Come! Ill. by Laurie Stansfield. New York: Penguin/Grosset & Dunlap.
Steinberg, D. J. 2021. How to Be Kind in Kindergarten. Ill. by Ruth Hammond. New York: Penguin/Grosset & Dunlap.
Sukenic, Lisa. 2021. Miles from Motown. Fitzroy Books.
Sullivan, Mary. 2021. High. Fitzroy Books/Regal House Publishing.
Sze, Gillian. 2021. My Love for You is Always. Ill. by Michelle Lee. New York: Philomel.
Sze, Gillian. 2021. The Night is Deep and Wide. Ill. by Sue Todd. Custer, WA: Orca.
Tafolla, Carmen. 2021. Guerrera Warrior. New York: Penguin/Paulsen.