Friday, September 08, 2023

New anthology: WHAT IS HOPE?

Please indulge a bit of self-promotion-- I'm so happy to "toot the horn" for a new poetry anthology for middle grades that features new and established poets writing about the theme of HOPE. Janet (Wong) and I created a summer workshop called "Think Poetry" especially for educators who wanted to learn more about writing and teaching poetry. We created 10 instructional videos, provided individualized feedback on poem drafts, and collaborated with 40 poets on creating this new book, What Is Hope? You can learn a bit more about "Think Poetry" here. Our 10 instructional videos focused on:


Stanzas & structure
Similes & metaphors
List poems
Mask poems
Syllabic poetry
Free verse

In each video, Janet modeled poem writing and shared strategies she uses to compose and revise poems and we both suggested a variety of tips for teaching each poetry element. Plus, we had a lot of fun and laughter! 

Our 40 poets featured in What Is Hope? include: 

Each poet chose a photo prompt from a selection of black and white photos that we provided and then drafted a poem tied to the photo and to the theme of hope. We LOVE all the different directions that poets took that important theme! Don't we all need a little more HOPE in our daily lives? Here are just a few sample poems:

We are also so thrilled that What Is Hope? was selected as a Children's Book Council "Hot Off the Press" selection! We hope you'll check it out. As with other books in the "WHAT IS" series (What Is a Friend?, What Is a Family?, as well as our books in the "THINGS WE" series (Things We Do, Things We Eat, Things We Feel, Things We Wear) for young readers, 100% of the profits are donated to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund that helps get books to children around the world in the most difficult circumstances (like the war in Ukraine, after the earthquake in Turkey). 

We hope to offer our "Think Poetry" online workshop (with mentoring and feedback) again in January, 2024, with a new theme, new photo prompts, and new poets. Make a resolution now to grow your own poetry writing next year and reach out to us when you're ready! 

Next up: Go check out Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's blog, The Poem Farm, where she is hosting our Poetry Friday gathering this week. See you there! 

Friday, September 01, 2023


I'm so pleased to invite friend and poet Jacqueline Jules to share her guest post about a new book commemorating the attacks on the Pentagon on September 11. 

Jacqueline writes:

On the first anniversary of 9/11, the elementary school where I was teaching in Northern Virginia marked the day with a moment of silence on our in-house television news show. A representative from the Student Council read a brief tribute to the fallen. 

In the following years, September 11th came and went without school-wide recognition. As the school librarian, I purchased two picture books recalling 9/11: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers and Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey for my collection. The children checked them out from time to time, but they were not in high demand by classroom teachers. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 was not in the curriculum.

Years passed and the children who were in preschool or kindergarten in 2001 grew up. And one day, in a conversation with some of my sixth graders, I learned that my students had absolutely no idea that the Pentagon had been attacked on September 11. I was surprised, since we were all residents of Northern Virginia, where the Pentagon is located. I shared this surprise with a friend. She responded with a suggestion. “Write a book about being in Arlington when the Pentagon was attacked. You lived through this. You know what it was like.”

I was immediately inspired. My own personal memories of that day were still very clear in my mind. I also remembered stories from students, family members, and friends. We talked about that day—where we were and what we did—for months afterward. One friend was late to work the day of the Pentagon attack. An elementary school teacher comforted frightened children who heard the plane hit and saw the smoke. So many stories. So many different emotions and perspectives. How could I give as many memories as possible a voice?

Narrative poetry was the answer. With first-person narrative poems, I could portray multiple reactions from a wide variety of children. In Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember Kelvin, Age 5, talks about being on the swings at recess and suddenly hearing a loud boom. 

Leo, Age 15, thinks about his mother who accompanied him to the dermatologist on the morning of September 1 instead of going into her Pentagon office. Leo wonders “why the people who died/didn’t have somewhere else to go that day,/why they just happened to be where they were/ at that moment instead of someplace else/with someone who must be missing them still.”

Poetry can provide the opportunity to share an individual story on a single page. The twenty children in Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember range in age from 3 to 21. I hope their stories will help students across the country understand the emotions of those who lived in Northern Virginia on September 11, 2001.

BIO: Jacqueline Jules is the award-winning author of over fifty books for young readers including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, and four Sydney Taylor Honor Books. Her novel-in-verse, My Name is Hamburger, was a PJ Our Way selection in 2022. The back story of her other book of poems for young readers, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence was shared at Poetry for Children in April 2020 

Visit to learn more.

Thank you, Jacqueline for sharing this lovely book for this important anniversary.

Now, join the rest of the Poetry Friday group at Pleasures from the Page where Ramona is hosting our gathering.