April 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

NCTE 2018 Notable Poetry List

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Children’s Poetry Award Committee has selected the following titles for the 2018 Notable Poetry Books list. Each of the 25 chosen works was published in 2017. Read and evaluated by every committee member, these books were deemed notable for their use of language, poetic devices, and their appropriate­ness for children ages three to 13. The form or structure of the poems was evaluated to ensure that the mood or sub­ject matter was well represented. The selections also includes anthologies and collections. In some cases, these are newly published poems, while other titles include works of a classic or contemporary children’s poet that are newly illustrated or edited into a fresh collection.

The NCTE Excellence in Children’s Poetry Award was created in 1977 to recognize the work of outstanding poets who write for children. The award has evolved, and now, in addition to naming an outstanding poet every two years, the committee selects both an annual notable poetry and novels in verse list. This year, two outstanding verse novels were selected for recognition. For a list of past recipients and other notable poetry resources, visit the NCTE website.

Notable Poetry

Alarcón, Francisco. Family Poems for Every Day of the Week. illus. by Maya Christina Gonzalez. Children’s Book Press/Lee & Low. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780892392759.

Written in the voice of a young boy, the poems in this book reflect on the days of the week, playtime on Saturdays, family time on Sundays, and the dread of Mondays and returning to school. Additionally, Alarcón’s words feature the mythology connected to each day. Inspired by Mexican indigenous art, the vibrant illustrations from Gonzalez increase the warmth of this loving portrayal of a Latinx family and community gatherings.

Alexander, Kwame. Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures. photos by Joel Sartore. National Geographic. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781426327674.

Sartore, founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark project, teams up with Newbery Medalist Alexander and collaborating writers Mary Rand Hess and Deanna Nikaido to present a stunning collection of animal photographs and haiku poems that celebrate the beauty of the animal kingdom. A number of foldouts are included, one of which invites readers to join in the cause of caring for our planet’s wildlife.

Alexander, Kwame with Chris Colderley & Marjory Wentworth. Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets. illus. by Ekua Holmes. Candlewick. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763680947.

Colderley and Wentworth join Alexander in paying homage to 20 famous poets. The authors followed two requirements for selecting the poems: they had to be written by interesting people, and the authors had to be passionately in love with their poetry. The poems act as muses, inspiring readers to discover their own sense of wonder. A vibrant mixed-media collage by Caldecott Honor–winning artist Holmes accompanies each selection.

Benzel, Kathryn, ed. Poetry for Kids: Carl Sandburg. illus. by Robert Crawford. Moon Dance. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633221512.

Like the other books in this wonderful series, this collection presents the work of a classic poet to a whole new generation. Beautifully illustrated and carefully selected, this collection makes Sandburg accessible to readers of all ages. His poems bring natural countrysides and bustling cities to life through whimsical imagery and surprising metaphors. Back matter gives young readers insight into what the poet might have been thinking as he wrote each poem.

Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Before She Was Harriet. illus. by James E. Ransome. Holiday House. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780823420476.

Cline-Ransome tells the inspiring story of an activist who never stopped working for social justice. The poem starts with Harriet Tubman as an old woman and traces her life back to the time she was a young enslaved girl who was a dreamer and an avid learner. The poetry flows through Tubman’s life and ends where it began, with the picture of a hero who lived a difficult but deeply courageous and generous life.

cummings, e.e. i carry your heart with me. illus. by Mati McDonough. Cameron Kids. Tr $8.95. ISBN 9781944903206.

Artist McDonough presents one of cummings’s most beloved poems as a mother’s message to her child. The mixed-media collage illustrations follow the mother-child relationship from infancy to the child’s first experience venturing into the world on her own. Scenes of mother and baby animals portrayed together echo the theme. Released as a board book, this interpretation of cummings’s love poem is a treasure.

Davies, Nicola. Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals. illus. by Petr Horáček. Candlewick. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763691608.

Poet Davies teams up with illustrator Horáček in this stunning collection of poetry and art celebrating animals. More than 50 poems are grouped into five thematic sections, with interesting facts included. Horáček’s mixed-media collages, saturated with color and texture, cover each double-page spread. This book pairs well with Davies’s first collection of nature poetry, Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature.

Frost, Helen. Wake Up! photos by Rick Lieder. Candlewick. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763681494.

Combine the riddlelike poems of Frost with the beautiful photography of Lieder, add some scientific facts at the end, and you have this delightful book about spring. Throughout its pages, observe young animals and plants as they wake up to the new season. From dandelion seeds to hatchling spiders, it concludes with the lines, “So many new creatures/with so much to do—/the world is/wide awake./Are you?”

Galing, Ed. Tony. illus. by Erin Stead. Roaring Brook. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626723085.

In this short poem, a young boy pays homage to a beautiful horse in sparse words and quiet details. Illustrated with subdued grays, greens, and yellows, the poem unfolds in short stanzas with rich descriptions. Tony is described as a “handsome” horse with “wide gentle eyes.” One wordless page captures the magic of the morning as Tom, the delivery man, and Tony set out for the day. The page is drenched in green—with yellow light cast from a streetlight highlighting Tom’s cart and Tony—which appears to be sketched in pencil.

Grimes, Nikki. One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance. illus. by Cozbi A. Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, Nikki Grimes, E.B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon. Bloomsbury. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781619635548.

In this collection, Grimes transforms poems from the Harlem Renaissance into creations of her own using the golden shovel method. Each of Grimes’s poems is accompanied by the referent poem and illustrations from one of several acclaimed artists. In addition to the inspiration for the collection and a definition of golden shovel poetry, Grimes includes biographies of the poets whose work she reflects. As a whole, the collection acknowledges that while life for African Americans is “no crystal stair,” it is one yet full of hope.

Grimes, Nikki. The Watcher: Inspired by Psalm 121. illus. by Bryan Collier. Eerdmans. Tr $17.00. ISBN 9780802854452.

Jordan is afraid of Tanya, a bully who torments him, but Tanya, who stutters, has torments of her own that cause her to be prickly. Tanya steals because she is hungry and pushes because she is concerned about her sick grandmother. As Jordan watches her, he begins to understand her torments and develops compassion for her. Not only does Grimes use Psalm 121 for the inspiration for the content, she uses the words of the Psalm in a golden shovel format to structure the narrative as well. Collier’s multimedia illustrations enhance this call for compassion.

Harris, Chris. I’m Just No Good at Rhyming. illus. by Lane Smith. Little, Brown. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780316266574.

This hilarious collection of poetry is full of silly, absurd, and downright wacky verse. The poems are short and long, utilize rhyme and shape, and incorporate art to convey meaning. For instance, in “The Way We’re All The Same,” the stanzas appear in the mouths of great white sharks. Typography also becomes part of the poems and the art in “Tis’ Better” and “I’m Always Happy in My Room.” Smith’s cartoon-style artwork adds to the humor.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea. illus. by Bob Hansman & Jovan Hansman. Seagrass. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781633222762.

A chronology of journeys on the sea in verse. Columbus’s voyage, the Mayflower, the Middle Passage, the Irish potato famine, the Titanic, and the Mediterranean Refugee Crisis are among the topics of these 12 original poems written by celebrated poets that depict human suffering, escape, or bondage. Archival photographs are embedded in the many styles of the blue-toned illustrations by the Hansman father and son illustration team.

Hughes, Langston. That Is My Dream! illus. by Daniel Miyares. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399550171.

Miyares illustrated Hughes’s poem “Dream Variations” in this picture book featuring an African American boy whose dream is to experience the freedoms of life outside the confines of racial segregation and its accompanying oppression. Miyares’s illustrations depict the young child traveling to town with his family. There, he and a white boy notice one another and the differences in their experiences. They peek at each other on the segregated bus, walk into town, and drink from segregated water fountains. In the end, the children ride on colorful birds and “Dance! Whirl! Whirl!,” expressing a desire for joy, peace, and freedom.

Karbiener, Karen, ed. Poetry for Kids: Walt Whitman. illus. by Kate Evans. Moon Dance. Tr $14.95. ISBN 97816332.

This collection offers carefully chosen excerpts from a classic poet. The selections are fitting for young readers, and the illustrations will draw them in. Capturing the poet’s exuberance and heartbreak for his beloved country, these works beg to be read aloud. As with all the books in this series, the back matter gives readers insight into the poet’s life and times.

McCanna, Tim. Watersong. illus. by Richard Smythe. S. & S./Paula Wiseman. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481468817.

Follow Fox in this rhythmic, rhyming poem as he dashes home to his family during a rainstorm. At first, the rain falls in the forest with a “drip/drop/plip/plop/pitter/patter/pat,” but it intensifies into the “Gush!/Rush!/Splash!/Crash!” of a waterfall. Fox shelters in the hollow of a log until the storm subsides into a “Whoosh sigh/whoosh sigh.” McCanna’s use of onomatopoeia and Smythe’s softly vivid watercolors spark the senses, surrounding readers with the sights and sounds of Fox’s stormy habitat.

Murray, Carol. Cricket in the Thicket. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Holt. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805098181.

Regardless of how readers feel about bugs, this book will make them rethink what they know about insects. Twenty-nine poems devoted to various bugs appear alongside informational text and playful watercolor and mixed-media illustrations. The poems feature plenty of rhyme and wordplay and offer unique perspectives on creatures, such as termites, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. The table of contents and detailed back matter make this book particularly appealing to a range of students.

Naberhaus, Sarvinder. Blue Sky White Stars. illus. by Kadir Nelson. Dial. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803737006.

The verse in this picture book honors the U.S. flag and the values it represents. Repetitive phrasing juxtaposed across spreads captures historical and contemporary interpretations of the country’s values. One image shows a colonial woman sewing a flag, “sew together/won nation,” while the adjacent page features a diverse crowd and the words “so together/one nation.” Oversize words printed in white on each page create a perfectly paced tribute to the flag. Nelson’s lush oil paintings bring the poem to life.

Nelson, Marilyn, ed. Mrs. Nelson’s Class. World Enough Writers. pap. $15. ISBN 9781937797034.

Inspired by a 1955 photograph of Mrs. Johnnie Nelson and her second graders, this collection of poems relays the thoughts and feelings of a black teacher in an all-white classroom just one year after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling. Nelson wrote the poems from the teacher’s perspective, and 20 different poets penned the voices of the students. The result is an insightful, imagined glimpse into the past.

Parini, Jay, ed. Poetry for Kids: Robert Frost. illus. by Michael Paraskevas. Moon Dance. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633222205.

This volume in the series is a collection of Frost’s most beautiful and accessible poems. They invite young readers to experience the outdoors throughout the seasons and to see how nature and everyday objects can reflect their own experiences and increase self-awareness. Readers are urged to take a closer look at the often overlooked natural world and revel in what it has to offer.

Rex, Adam. Nothing Rhymes with Orange. illus. by author. Chronicle. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452154435.

Rex calls this book a “parable about feeling left out.” The poor orange, who has no rhyming word, is on the sidelines of every page, muttering about not being a part of the fruit world. With zany illustrations and fonts of all sizes, the book is written using internal and end rhyme, with all kinds of fruit scenarios that never include an orange, until the apple realizes they have forgotten the orange, and “he’s really smorange!”

Smith, Hope Anita. My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads. illus by the author. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805091892.

This charming collection of poems celebrates fathers and the ways they support their children. Whether they provide guitar lessons, read stories, or share a quiet talk with their children at the breakfast table, dads make a difference! Smith accompanies each poem with a torn-paper illustration on a plain white background. Her diverse cast of characters depict the respect, trust, and love expressed in the poems.

Silverstein, Shel. Runny Babbit Returns. HarperCollins. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062479396.

Runny Babbit and his woodland friends are the focus of this collection of 41 poems. The befuddled characters all speak in spoonerisms in which they transpose the first letters of two or more words, making the book a joy to read. Silverstein’s signature line drawings accompany each poem.

VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig. Read! Read! Read! illus. by Ryan O’Rourke. Boyd Mills/WordSong. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781590789759.

Words from cereal boxes, birthday cards, maps, magazines, and more fill the poems in this collection. Perfect for reading aloud, these works relate to a variety of timely topics in the lives of children. A young female football player reads for the sports scores, a father reads Charlotte’s Web to his daughter to talk about Grandmother’s death—all these topics are explored through poetry and O’Rourke’s artwork.

Vardell, Sylvia & Janet Wong. Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book. illus. by Franzi Paetzold. Pomelo. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781937057657.

Filled with anchor poems written by a variety of poets, with response poems, mentor poems, and a number of writing prompts, this book will inspire aspiring young bards. Resources at the back of the book include information about each of the poets, poetry websites, discussion prompts, performance tips, and more.

Notable Verse Novels

Wissinger, Tamera Will. Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse. illus. by Matthew Cordell. HMH. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780544638730.

As Lucy’s family prepares to go camping, she anticipates the chance to hike, fish, and stargaze. She also laments her fear of nighttime critters crawling into the tent. When Lucy and Sam’s father gets sick and their parents have to stay home, Grandpa decides to accompany them. This decision has numerous pros and cons. Told from the perspectives of Lucy, Sam, and Grandpa through a variety of poetic forms, the narrative is fun and engaging. The back matter explains the different poetry styles in an effort to inspire readers to write their own.

Frost, Helen. When My Sister Started Kissing. Farrar. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374303037.

 Although her family has returned to their familiar cabin on the lake, Claire is consumed by change, and she doesn’t like it. Her father and new stepmother are expecting a child, and they have removed all traces of her late mother from the cabin. Claire’s sister Abi, with whom she has always been close, is now more interested in getting close to a boy. While change is inevitable, Claire learns it doesn’t mean that her family loves each other any less. Frost’s beautiful poetry utilizes multiple forms to thoughtfully express the development of each character.

Members of the 2018 NCTE Poetry Committee: Karen Hildebrand, Chair, Delaware City Schools, Delaware, OH; Trish Bandré, Salina Public Schools, KS; Lesley Colabucci, Millersville University, PA; Laretta Henderson, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Lisa Muller, Castle High School, Newburgh, IN; Lisa Pinkerton, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.

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