A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Virginia Silverstein (Life in a Bucket of Soil) and Sandra Boynton (Barnyard Dance; Moo, Baa, La La La!).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Washington Irving (1783â€“1859), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, and Edward Everett Hale (1822â€“1909), The Man Without a Country.
- In 1860, the Pony Express begins its first successful run from Missouri to Sacramento. Read Theyâ€™re Off!: The Story of the Pony Express by Cheryl Harness and Off Like the Wind!: The First Ride of the Pony Express by Michael D. Spradlin, illustrated by Layne Johnson.
Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month takes place in April. The Academy lists a variety of projects, including a Poem-A-Day, where new poetry is e-mailed to those who register. Like the rest of the country, weâ€™ll be celebrating National Poetry Month on the Almanac and will recognize Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 18) and Talk Like Shakespeare Day (April 23) along with some fine poetic worksâ€”Sharon Creechâ€™s Love that Dog (April 7), Henry Wadsworth Longfellowâ€™s Paul Revereâ€™s Ride (April 19), and Valerie Worthâ€™s All the Small Poems and 14 More (April 20). The month of April provides an opportunity to think about poetry and its place in American culture, not to mention itsÂ role in the lives of children.
Today Iâ€™d like to introduce National Poetry Month with the work of the one of the twenty-first-centuryâ€™s best new poets for children. As publisher at Houghton Mifflin, I saw the manuscript for Joyce Sidmanâ€™s first book of poems, The World According to Dog, which was sent to me by her editor Ann Rider. I loved Joyceâ€™s voice, and her ability to capture the essence of an animal in a few well-chosen words. Also, I was a natural enthusiast for a book of well-written dog poems. Since that time, Joyceâ€™s books have won more major awards than most poets for children ever see, including a Caldecott Honor and a Newbery Honor this year for Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. When I read this book, and her other title published in 2010, Ubiquitous: Celebrating Natureâ€™s Survivors, I realized I still loved her voice. In these ten years, Joyce has moved from a poet of promise to a seasoned, intelligent craftsperson who selects ambitious subjects for books.
Since 99 percent of all the species that have appeared on the planet are now extinct, in Ubiquitous Joyce focuses on natureâ€™s survivors. This book, illustrated by Beckie Prange, takes readers through 4.6 billion years of history. Joyce presents both a poem and well-crafted paragraph of information to describe bacteria, lichens, beetles, geckos, ants, and in the end, human beings. In a concrete stream-of-conscience poem about squirrels, she writes â€śwe dash from limb/to limb sailing out over/the leaves with our para-/chute tails which by the/way also act as umbrella.â€ť Never before has a poem made me long to be a squirrel, but that is exactly what this talented author pulls off.
For her Newbery Honor Book, Dark Emperor, Joyce used the same formatâ€”poem and thoughtful factsâ€”to present the creatures who come out at night while others sleep. Owls, snails, moths, bats, and porcupettes (what a delicious word) emerge. â€śI am a baby porcupette./ My paws are small; my nose is wet./But I can deal with any threat;/I raise my quills/and pirouette.â€ť Rick Allenâ€™s exquisite linoleum cuts add to the pleasure of reading the material. Both of these books present poetry and information of equal value. Both are lovingly designed and illustrated, inviting the reader into the poetry and text. Both testify to the power of a well-chosen word and the artistry of Joyce Sidman.
I hope you have a wonderful month of April celebrating poetry. I just want to thank Joyce, and her editor, Ann Rider, for giving us such well-crafted, beautiful volumes to begin our celebration. It makes me happy to see books like Dark Emperor and Ubiquitousâ€”books that reaffirm that â€śonly the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young.â€ť
Originally posted April 3, 2011. Updated for .