Well Versed | NCTE’S 2019 Notable Poetry

Twenty-eight titles to celebrate in April and throughout the year.

A First Book of the Sea (Davies)©2019 by Emily Sutton

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Children’s Poetry Award was created in 1977 to honor 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 (Paul B. Janeczko was honored as the 2019 recipient), the committee selects an annual notable poetry and novels in verse list.

This year, members of the committee recognized 23 outstanding books of poetry and five novels in verse, all published in 2018. 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 committee evaluated the form or structure of the poems to ensure that the mood or subject matter was well represented. The selections include anthologies and collections. In some cases, these are newly published poems, while other titles include works of classic or contemporary children’s poets that are newly illustrated or edited into a fresh collection.



Applegate, Katherine. Sometimes You Fly. illus. by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. 40p. Clarion. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547633909.
In beautiful, paired phrasing, Applegate reminds readers that sometimes, before things go well, they can go entirely wrong. Featuring full-page illustrations expressing the highs and lows of emotions, this book begs to be gifted to new graduates, teachers, and friends.

Origami and Haiku: Inspired by Japanese Artwork. 132p. reprods. Candlewick/Nosy Crow. Tr $15. ISBN 9781536202731.
With images from the British Museum, this exquisite, generously sized book introduces readers to three forms of Japanese art: haiku, woodblock prints and scroll painting, and origami. Included are 50 sheets of origami paper with clear instructions for making 13 shapes. The work provides a code to scan for a step-by-step video for making the origami and urges readers to visit the museum’s website to learn more about the artists.

Davies, Nicola. A First Book of the Sea. illus. by Emily Sutton. 104p. Candlewick. Tr $22. ISBN 9780763698829.
This is the third collaboration between Davies and Sutton. The poems are divided into four sections: “Down by the Shore,” “Journeys,” “Under the Sea,” and “Wonders.” Sutton’s watercolors bring the ocean and its creatures to vivid life.

Elliott, David. In the Past. illus. by Matthew Trueman. 48p. Candlewick. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763660734.
This poetry collection will delight anyone who loves studying the prehistoric era. From the earliest trilobite to the mammuthus found in our most recent geologic time period, this book offers budding paleontologists an engaging means of learning about animals from the past. Also included are the facts that inspired the animal poems.

Elya, Susan Middleton. Our Celebración! illus. by Ana Aranda. 32p. Lee & Low. $17.95. ISBN 9781620142714.
This book depicts the joy of a festivity where families, friends, and even pets gather. The emotions are amplified with the use of both English and Spanish vocabulary.

Giovanni, Nikki. I Am Loved: A Poetry Collection. illus. by Ashley Bryan. 32p. S. & S./Atheneum. Tr $17.99 ISBN 9781534404922.
Giovanni’s 11 poems praise love in its many forms, from parental love to that of the ancestors for their descendants. Each entry is accompanied by bold tempera and watercolor illustrations done in Bryan’s distinctive style.

Crawly School for Bugs: Poems To Drive You Buggy (Harrison), ©2019 by Julie Bayless

Harrison, David L. Crawly School for Bugs: Poems To Drive You Buggy. illus. by Julie Bayless. 32p. Highlights/Wordsong. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629792040.
This entertaining glimpse into an insect school uses whimsical rhymes and poetic meter to explore the skills, needs, and habits of a variety of six-legged friends.

Herrera, Juan Felipe. Jabberwalking. illus. by author. 144p. Candlewick. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781536201406.
This zany book teaches readers how to “jabberwalk,” or wander while writing. With shifting fonts and drawings full of motion, former U.S. Poet Laureate Herrera journeys with readers, coaching them to pour their ideas—their “burbles”—onto paper to create an “almost-book.”

Hesterman, Katie. A Round of Robins. illus. by Sergio Ruzzier. 40p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399547782.
Using playful rhythm and rhyme, Hesterman’s poems describe the stages of a robin’s life cycle. Beginning with Mama’s creation of a “tiny, twiney lair” and the eventual appearance of “a peeking beak,” Mom and Dad care for their brood as they hatch, grow, and gain independence. Full-bleed art and smaller vignettes of cartoon robins make this an enchanting book.

Holmer, Anders. Rain. illus. by author. 32p. Eerdmans. $17. ISBN 9780802855077.
The haiku in this book center on rain in its many and varied forms, from gentle pattering to ferocious thunderstorms. Simple illustrations complement the poems perfectly.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett, ed. World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum. 48p. index. reprods. Abrams. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419728457.
Hopkins collaborated with the Met for this unique anthology that pays tribute to the storytelling and transformative power of visual art through poetry. The book pairs paintings from the museum with original poems by well-known poets for children. The back matter includes an index as well as biographical information about the poets and the artists.

Latham, Irene & Charles Walters. Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship. illus. by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko. 40p. Carolrhoda. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781512404425.
Two classmates working together on a poetry project explore the shades of their skin and other differences. Their verses reveal the challenges in confronting racial identities, celebrate universal childhood experiences, and share joy.

Nye, Naomi Shihab. Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners. 208p. index. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062691842.
Ninety-five poems ask readers to consider voices of the past and present. Many of the entries are dedicated to famous poets, including Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou. The book includes an index of first lines and biographical information about some of the notable poets.

Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Martin Rising: Requiem for a King. illus. by Brian Pinkney. 128p. chron. further reading. index. websites. Scholastic. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780545702539.
Divided into three sections—daylight, darkness, and dawn—this biography in verse about Martin Luther King, Jr. focuses on the last three months of the civil rights leader’s life and his legacy. Interspersed throughout the narrative are moments with family and friends and his ministry. It ends with a biographical time line, recommended books, and suggested online resources.

Reynolds, Jason. For Every One. 112p. S. & S./Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781481486248.
Award-winning writer and poet Reynolds addresses young people, specifically those who aspire to be writers. The tone of the book is conversational, and readers will feel like Reynolds is talking to them: “Dreams don’t have timelines,/deadlines,/and aren’t always in/straight lines.”


Rosen, Michael. The Horse’s Haiku. illus. by Stan Fellows. 48p. Candlewick. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9780763689162.
Rosen’s lively, observant haiku and Fellows’s evocative watercolors—often spreads that capture a particular season and time of day as well as a particular steed—invite children to interact with horses “In the Field,” “At the Barn,” and “Under Saddle.”

Rosenberg, Sydell. H Is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z. illus. by Sawsan Chalabi. 40p. Penny Candy. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780998799971.
“Each time, discovery”—Rosenberg’s observation on writing haiku—will also be readers’ experience, whether on first encountering these poems, brilliantly enhanced by Chalabi’s witty layout, lettering, and illustrations, or when revisiting them. One of the book’s pleasures is following the poet’s daily movements through her city, slowing down with her when something seemingly ordinary sparks surprise.

Singer, Marilyn. Every Month Is a Year: Celebrations Around the World. illus. by Susan L. Roth. 56p. Lee & Low. Tr $20.95. ISBN 9781620141625.
This combination of poetry and informational text describes how and when people from different countries and regions across the globe mark the New Year. Roth’s paper-collage art, made from found materials, is bright and textured. A superb work that illuminates cultural practices around the world.

Thompson, Holly. Twilight Chant. illus. by Jen Betton. 32p. Clarion. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544586482.
Using quiet, rhythmic text, Thompson introduces readers to the sights and sounds of twilight “before night/the magic light/the creeping dusk of twilight.” Fireflies flicker, June bugs buzz, and swallows and bats swoop through the sky while animals large and small creep from their daytime homes in search of an evening meal. Betton’s illustrations glow with vivid shades of orange, yellow, and lavender.

Tuttle, Sarah Grace. Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife. illus. by Amy Schimler-Safford. 48p. Eerdmans. Tr $17. ISBN 9780802854599.
Blending the worlds of science and poetry, Tuttle offers 28 poems highlighting wildlife that can be found in urban environments. Schimler-Safford’s digital collages stretch across the pages, saturating the text with color and movement.

Vanderwater, Amy Ludwig. With My Hands: Poems About Making Things. illus. by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson. 32p. Clarion. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544313408.
“I am a maker./I am making/something new/with my hands/my head/my heart./That’s what makers do.” These lively poems urge readers to experience the pleasure of thinking outside the box and using their hands to create something new.

Van De Vendel, Edward. I’ll Root for You and Other Poems. tr. from Dutch by David Colmer. illus. by Wolf Erlbruch. 44p. Eerdmans. Tr $17. ISBN 9780802855015.
Originally published in the Netherlands, this assortment of rhyming poems focuses on the world of sports. From a reluctant skier to a carefully balanced tightrope walker, the entries encourage the athletes who patiently train day in and day out.

Wright, Richard & Nina Crews. Seeing into Tomorrow. illus. by Nina Crews. 32p. Millbrook. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781512418651.
Crews selected 12 of Wright’s haiku from Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon and compiled them into this work that celebrates African American boys and the joy of investigating the natural world. Photo-collages of boys playing in nature accompany each poem. Crews’s back matter includes a discussion of haiku, a biography of Wright, a note on the illustrations, and further reading.

Members of the 2019 NCTE Poetry Committee: Patricia Bandré, Chair, Salina Public Schools, Salina, KS; Lesley Colabucci, Millersville University, PA; Donna Friend, Hebron High School, Carrollton, TX; Laretta Henderson, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Judy Rowe Michaels, Princeton Day School, NJ, Emerita; Lisa Pinkerton, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

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