Wednesday, January 8, 2020

2019 Cybils Poetry Finalists

I'm a week behind, but it's my pleasure to highlight the 2019 Cybils Poetry Finalists. As the category organizer for poetry, I know how much work the panelists put into narrowing down the list of 43 nominations to seven finalists. Without further ado, here they are along with the blurbs the panelists wrote for the titles. 

Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems by Margarita Engle
Backed by research, good storytelling and poetic craft, these short snippets of history from 1491 until now with multiple Latinx narrators weave a powerful chronicle, poem by poem.
-Anastasia Suen, #kidlit Book of the Day

Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond
Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond is a poetry anthology for older readers that celebrates the lives and experiences of immigrants, refugees, exiles, and their families, who have made this land a home for generations. With poets like Elizabeth Acevedo, Tarfia Faizullah, Hala Alyan, Gala Mukomolova, Bao Phi, and Ocean Vuong, from countries such as Iran, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam, Sudan, Haiti, Syria and beyond, Ink Knows No Borders creates a sense of the immigrant and refugee experience that… honors its complexity and variety.” It gives voice to the experiences of young adult first and second-generation immigrants and refugees as well as providing a historical perspective in poems by Ellen Bass, Eavan Boland, Jeff Coomer, Li-Young Lee, and others. Although each poem channels an individual experience, the collection also offers universal themes on the power of family love, the shock of war, and the isolation of relocation. The poems take us from trauma to hope and as Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera reminds us, “let me tell you what a poem brings . . . it is a way to attain a life without boundaries.”
-Sylvia Vardell, PoetryforChildren

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes
Nikki Grimes’ poetry sings with emotion, imagery, and phrasing in this gripping memoir of her recollections of young life. In her author’s note, Grimes delves into the challenge of writing a memoir, and the difficulty of bridging gaps that trauma has taken. At the same time any reader of Ordinary Hazards will tell you that Grimes has done just that, bridging gaps by including snippets from notebooks through the years and piecing together a life that was left in pieces by traumatic experiences at each of life’s turns. As Grimes notes in her prologue: “It’s a long story, but I’m a poet. I can cut it short.” Ordinary Hazards is a simply stunning memoir in verse that will lead readers to understanding and empathy while being dazzled by the words that make a life.
-Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
What does it mean to flee your home, leaving half of your family behind? What does it mean to have a foot in two cultures, to live between two worlds? What does it mean to be Muslim and Arab in the United States in a world after 9-11? Jasmine Warga’s free verse novel explores these questions and so much more in her verse novel Other Words for Home. Jude and her pregnant mother flee Syria, leaving her father and brother behind, to live with relatives in Cincinnati. It’s a huge change for a young girl who is trying to make sense of her new world while dealing with homesickness, fear, inequality, prejudice, and middle school. Warga’s poems sing with emotion, sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. The verse novel also includes an author’s note and glossary of Arabic terms. Written originally as prose, Other Words for Home shines as a novel in verse.
-Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect

SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson
Anderson’s powerful and captivating verse novel brims with emotion, tension, and personal reflection on her own life as well as our society and culture. Upper-YA readers will be moved by the experiences she recounts through solidly-written poems that are strong enough to stand on their own, but are even more profoundly moving when gathered together here to tell her story.
-Matt Esenwine, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer by Elizabeth Steinglass
Short, snappy poems on a kid-friendly topic are told from a child’s point of view in a variety of fun poetic forms that young readers can try themselves. The subthemes of friendship and kindness in this poetry collection apply to this popular sport played all around the globe and to everyday life.
-Anastasia Suen, #kidlit Book of the Day

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Paul B. Janeczko’s final collection of poems leaves a legacy we can all adore. The poems in The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog are all How to poems but are as unique as each title suggests. From How to Build a Poem by Father Goose, Charles Ghigna, to How to Pay Attention from April Halprin Wayland, these poems inspire children to try new things, imagine new things, and experience new things. Poetry is the right word in the right place at the right time, and these poems glitter with just-right words, as in Elaine Magliaro’s How to Be a Snowflake: “Fashion yourself/ a bit of lace,/ crystalline,/ spun in space…” Common life experiences such as roasting marshmallows (“It hinges on a second, an inch…”) as well as humorous antics (“Do not jump on ancient uncles or talk to bearded bears.”),and adventures such as “Walking on Mars” by Irene Latham will make you open this book time and time again.
-Margaret Simon , Reflections on the Teche

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Bear & Hare: Where's Bear? by Emily Gravett

Bear and hare are playing hide and seek. Bear's no good at hiding and later he's no good at seeking either. Poor Bear!

Thoughts: This book was a lot of fun to share in storytime. The kids helped me count and enjoyed spotting Bear. They agreed...Bear is bad at hiding. I look forward to using other books in this series in storytime. The illustrations are lovely as always.

Themes: Bears, Hares (Rabbits), Friendship, Games (Hide-and-Seek)

Simon & Schuster, 2016 (US Edition).

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Great Gran Plan by Elli Woollard

When the pig of brick house fame finds a note indicating that the Big Bad Wolf is going to eat Little Red Riding Hood's gran, he's determined to save her. A mix up with his supplies leads to a case of mistaken identity and just when he thinks he's dinner...

Thoughts: Too funny! I can't wait to add this fractured fairy tale to my list for fairy tales storytime and outreach. I also look forward to using it next summer when the summer reading theme is "Imagine Your Story." The illustrations are bright, colorful, and filled with detail.

Themes: Fairy Tales, Fractured Fairy Tales, The Three Little Pigs, Big Bad Wolf

Illustrated by Steven Lenton. Henry Holt, 2017.

Friday, November 29, 2019

But the Bear Came Back by Tammi Sauer

When a bear knocks on his door, a boy is sure bears don't belong in houses. He tells the bear to go, but the bear keeps coming back...until he doesn't.

Thoughts: Such a nice story. I like how it changes halfway through with the boy wanting the bear to come back. It was a sweet, short story perfect for storytime. The illustrations are interesting. I like the lack of outlines and the colors used. My favorite illustration is of the bear after he came down the chimney.

Themes: Bears, Friendship, Unusual Pets

Illustrated by Dan Taylor. Sterling, 2018.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons by Laura Purdie Salas

2019 Cybils Poetry Nominee

Haiku and riddle combine in this celebration of the seasons.

Thoughts: Very nice! Haiku is one of my favorite poetic forms. These are clever and evocative. I have loved sharing Jack Prelutsky's If Not for the Cat with students for years. I'm thrilled to have a new option. The illustrations are beautiful--soft and detailed. My favorite poems are umbrella, bud, fireflies, fireworks, pencil, squirrel, snow, and stars. Another beauty of haiku: they are short enough to share with the youngest listeners. I love the author's invitation to readers at the end to try their hand at their own riddleku. She also has an activity sheet for this on her website.

If you like the idea of seasonal haiku, you might also check out these collections:
Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth
Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko

Themes: Seasons, Haiku, Riddles, Elementary

Illustrated by Mercè López. Millbrook Press, 2019.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Boom! Bellow! Bleat! Animal Poems for Two or More Voices by Georgia Heard

2019 Cybils Poetry Nominee

A book of animal poems that are meant to be performed.

Thoughts: What a wonderful collection! I can't wait to use this book when I visit 2nd grade classes in the spring. This book is fun and promotes poetry--what could be better? The poems are great when read alone. I can only imagine how good they'll be when I have a whole class to help me. The digital illustrations are reminiscent of cut paper collage and draw the eye. They are colorful and interesting. My favorite poems are "Animal Songs," "We Don't Say Ribbit!," Fight of the Honeybees," and "Forest Orchestra." My favorite illustrations are the cover, "We Don't Say Ribbit!,"and "Noisy Fish."

Themes: Animals, Animal Sounds, Elementary

Illustrated by Aaron DeWitt. Wordsong, 2019.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Trees by Verlie Hutchens

2019 Cybils Poetry Nominee

Fifteen poems introduce readers to trees in lyrical language with colorful illustrations.

Thoughts: A nice collection of short poems about a subject most kids will be familiar with. The language is lyrical and whimsical. The illustrations are gorgeous--richly colored and detailed. My favorite poems are Aspen and Birch. My favorite illustrations are the cover/copyright page and any others that have a hint of purple. This collection will pair well with Douglas Florian's Poetrees as well as Deborah Ruddell's Today at the Bluebird Café and A Whiff of Skunk, A Hint of Pine: A Forest of Poems. Hutchens' poems are simple enough to share with the youngest listeners.

Themes: Trees, Nature, Forest, Homes, Birds

Illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong. Beach Lane Books, 2019.