Thank you to Linda at Teacher Dance for hosting Poetry Friday.
ICYMI: On Sunday, January 1, 2017, the CYBILS’ finalists for Poetry were announced.
I must tell you that this was perhaps one of the most difficult years to whittle forty titles in Poetry down to seven finalists. There were SO many great books. So, so many. I am proud of our committee: Joy Acey, Linda Baie, Carol Wilcox, Kortney Garrison, Sylvia Vardell, and Tricia Stohr-Hunt. We came to consensus on the list that represents diversity and something for all ages.
And here are the finalists:
by Kwame Alexander
HMH Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: PragmaticMom
Nick Hall is a typical eighth grader who loves soccer and hates school. Unfortunately, he has a father who is a linguistics professor afflicted with chronic verbomania.* Nick’s father loves words so much that he has written a dictionary, Weird and Wonderful Words, which he is forcing Nick to read, one letter at a time. And of course, his father is much more interested in developing his son’s cognitive abilities than in supporting Nick’s passion for soccer.
Most of Nick’s problems are typical middle school dilemmas– boring classes, budding interest in a girl, and dealing with the school bullies, twins who steal Nick’s bike. And of course the book has a couple of caring adults- one of whom happens to be a former Grammy-winning rapper turned school librarian, Mr. MacDonald. Nick’s life takes an unexpected turn when his parents inform him they are separating and his mother is moving out of state to return to her first love, training horses.
What’s not typical about this book are Kwame Alexander’s poems. Alexander uses a variety of poetic forms- including free verse, acrostics, found poems, and many others. And thanks to Nick’s father, there’s tons of interesting and unusual vocabulary- codswalloped, limerence, cacchinate, to name a few.
A novel-in-verse that’s sure to engage even the most reluctant reader.
*a love of words
Carol Wilcox, Carol’s Corner
by Irene Latham, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi
Nominated by: Linda Baie
Irene Latham’s poems and Mique Moriuchi’s illustrations bring to the reader one of the colorful pleasures of summer in this “fresh” and “delicious” poetry. Here we go into the farmer’s market, baskets on our arms. They might be filled with “a fleet of green submarines” (cucumbers), ” a “mountain of mice-sized swords” (okra) or “rows upon rows/of tiny noses” (corn on the cob). The poems open the senses to new ideas about fruits and vegetables found. They are mouth-watering to imagine through the words, with illustrations that show the animals shopping in the happiest of ways. In the poem Wild Honey, Irene writes that it makes “our tongues/buzz/with pleasure.” In this book of poetry, readers will do the same. Irene also shares recipes after the market shopping, just right for kids to help with the cooking.
Linda Baie, Teacher Dance
by Nikki Grimes
Nominated by: MissRumphius
A middle grade verse novel that strikes at the heart of early adolescent angst, Grimes has given us a heartfelt, realistic portrayal of what it means for a young person to navigate school, friendships and family life. Garvey, who is overweight and not the athlete his father hoped he would be, has dreams of his own. Written in tanka, Grimes’ short verses pack an emotional punch, sharing the highs and lows of Garvey’s journey to figure out who he is, while simultaneously making himself happy and his father proud. Father and son eventually find that connection, and I dare you not to tear up when they do. Grimes has a gift for getting to the heart of middle school angst and gives readers a boy they will love and won’t soon forget.
Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect
Guess Who, Haiku
by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Bob Shea
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Kortney Garrison
Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell is a fun introduction to the puzzle of poetry. Each spread presents a farm animal’s poem–a riddle in haiku form–on bright pages with simple, engaging illustrations by Bob Shea.
The familiar barnyard animals and the rhythm and rhyme of the repeating lines make this an excellent read-aloud. It’s the perfect book for groups of mixed age children at library storytime or at home. The youngest children will enjoy the riddles while older children will want to take up the writing challenge.
Deanna Caswell plays with language, and then invites her readers to join the fun! The delightful end matter continues the game and helps to answer the last, most surprising riddle of all.
Kotney Garrison, One Deep Drawer
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
by Laura Shovan
Wendy Lamb Books
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie
A teacher and her students work together to try to save their school from demolition in this novel in verse snapshot of one fifth grade class across a whole school year. Ms. Hill’s class of 18 students includes a mix of boys and girls, twins, Spanish speakers, children from a variety of cultural backgrounds, shy kids, leaders, friends, “frenemies,” all trying to express themselves through poetry. Each poem reflects an individual point of view that changes and grows over the year contributing to a complete narrative detailing their classroom dynamics as well as their struggle to take an active stand for their school. Shovan effectively employs 17 different forms of poems throughout this novel in verse including acrostic, concrete, diamante, epistolary, fib, found, free verse, haiku, limerick, list, narrative, ode, rap, rhyming, senryu, sonnet and tanka poems. This is an engaging school-based story in poems that can inspire young readers to become activists in their communities and to consider writing poetry as a vehicle for achieving some of their goals.
Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children
To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party
by Skila Brown
Nominated by: Jonemac
Donner Party. This ill-fated party began their westward journey from Illinois to California in the spring of 1846. An ill advised detour proves deadly as less than half of the party actually survived.
Through the eyes of 19-year-old, Mary Ann Graves, readers travel on the trail with her family.
Skila’s poems match the mood of the party. In the beginning, they are light with a quick tempo. But as the travel slows, challenges surface along with danger, and so does the cadence and tone of Mary Ann’s voice. Readers are with her during that ominous snowstorm. when the entire party takes shelter and are forced into cannibalism to survive.
Skila captures a compelling story of adventure, despair and survival that readers will want to read again and again.
Jone Rush MacCulloch, Check It Out
When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons
by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Sara Ralph
When Green Becomes Tomatoes Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano gently leads the reader through a year’s worth of journal entry poems to celebrate the seasons. Written without capitalization or punctuation, the poems take advantage of caesuras and spacing on the page to draw the reader through the poems. There is a Zen like/haiku feeling of discovery in the short poems.
These poems frolic in nature and provide fresh language for young ones just learning language and for jaded old timers who need new ways of seeing and discovering their environment.
Joy Acey, Poetry for Kids Joy
Stay tuned and wait for Valentine’s Day when our winner is revealed. Until then I will be featuring books that were on my shortlist but were left behind.
So exciting and all terrific books there!
What an amazing group of books, and so proud of “our” Poetry Friday clan! Thoughtful reviews, all. Thanks for sharing, Jone, and for all your hard work.
Jone, this is awesome. I feel I am at home with all of these titles that have been mentioned throughout this year. Thank you to you and your team of judges for providing such a stellar grouping of books. I agree with Robyn that our PF authors deserve a compliments as do the reviewers.
Thanks for sharing these. Some of these I know, some I don’t, so will be seeking them out.
What really strikes me is the incredible variety here, in subjects, styles, tones and approaches. What an amazing and inspiring selection of works – what a challenge to pick the best from such a strong lineup!!
It was both pleasure and pain, as you know well, Jone. Thanks for sharing again!
All of these are on my must read list – what a marvelous selection!
What a great list there! Can’t wait to hear the results!
Thanks so much for featuring the finalists today, Jone. I still have a few books on this list to read, but I’m honored to be among authors and books I admire. I just received a copy of TO STAY ALIVE — looking forward to that.
I’ve only read Booked ( loved it), but now I eat to find and read the rest. I look forward to hearing about the ones on your short list, oo.
Thanks for sharing all the blurbs, Jone. Reading stacks and stacks of poetry books is a wonderful way to spend the Fall!
A wonderful post! My library just received Garvey’s choice. Just as it was cataloged I reached for it — but not fast enough. My library partner snatched it up for one of her centers for eighth graders next week. LOL. Poetry lives! Happy New Year. And, many, many thanks for your work on the Cybils. I am a grateful recipient of all that your committee does…and so are my students.
Thank you for highlighting these books, Jone, and to you and the committee for your dedication and hard work. I’ve read all but two, and agree that they are all wonderful and worthy. I don’t know how I’d ever single out one of these titles!