While I scour my library for picture books to hold against Hook for discussion, here’s some thoughts on possible poetry Newbery contenders.
Marilyn Nelson’s Sweethearts of Rhythm has made some people’s lists of favorites. Nelson is an astonginshly adroit poet, and here she takes poems about music and weaves them into an arc that speaks to war and peace, equality, and freedom of expression. The themes are often complexly embedded in the poems, making this best for an older audience than one might expect from a picture book, but still firmly within the Newbery range. I find I have to work too hard on some of these poems for the payoff (and the typeface doesn’t help!), but the overall payoff is of a rank with many of our nonfiction contenders. Your thoughts?
Hope Anita Smith’s Mother Poems starts off seeming like an appropriate collection to share for Mother’s Day…but suddenly turns, when the Mother figure disappears. Each poem is complete in itself, getting to the heart of the many ways a girl feels about her mother, or her lack of a mother, or other people’s mothers, or other people trying to be her mother. The voice here stands out on par with that in many novels I’ve read this year.
Alice Schertle’s Button Up!: Wrinkled Rhymes is "light fare" but exiquistely so. Schertle writes true and perfect "verse"–it rhymes, it has internally logical rhythm, it is funny, good to read aloud, and memorable. Just a couple of nibbles for those who haven’t looked at this yet: "We are the jammies that Joshua wears, / not jammies for penguins, / not jammies for bears, / not jammies for tigers with knots in their tails…", or, from "Jennifer’s Shoes": "We are learning the ways / of Jennifer’s world: / the way that Jennifer’s / toes are curled, / the softness of carpet, / the steepness of stair, / the curve of the rung / under Jennifer’s chair…"
Arnold Lobel’s Odd Owls & Stout Pigs is a collection of nonsense rhymes discovered and illustrated by his daughter. Yes, "The author(s) may be awarded the medal posthumously." Generally I shy from posthumous collections of unpublished works…the works are usually unpublished for a reason. Lobel was such a writer though that this work stands out magnificiently. If some of the rhymes about owls and pigs are funnier than others, if it seems to run on, the overall tone of the book–a smorgasboard of silliness–allows perfectly for such an assemblage.