WELCOME BOOK LOVERS!
The Alphabet Soup Mini Library is now open.
Please help yourself to a yummy fig bar book compliments of the Teddy Town Bears. They made them especially for you to celebrate the recent release of Jumping Off Library Shelves (Wordsong, 2015), a very cool collection of 15 poems selected by master anthologist, author, poet, editor, educator and eternal hotTEA Lee Bennett Hopkins.
Two words make me instantly happy: LOVE and LIBRARY. They’re kind of synonymous in my mind, and truly, could any of us thrive without either one?
The public library in my small country hometown of Wahiawa, Hawai’i, was my safe haven while growing up — a true home away from home where I discovered the likes of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lois Lenski, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beverly Cleary, Eleanor Estes, and Sydney Taylor. It was a quiet place to think, read, dream, wonder, learn and imagine – a place where I could travel new roads, discover new worlds within the pages of a favorite book, the place where it first occurred to me that anything can happen, anything is possible.
The poems in Jumping Off Library Shelves joyously celebrate the singular experiences that make any library a magical place, from the breathless anticipation of first entering “the sweet kingdom of story,” to getting one’s first library card, to cozily snuggling up with a good story, to basking in the power and privilege of choosing books and being transported and transformed. Who would not thrill at the prospect of so much knowledge, so many good stories right there for the taking?
And librarians! Are they the smartest, kindest, most amazing people in the world or what? It’s truly uncanny how they seem to know just what we want or need. I’ll always remember the time I desperately wanted a book my teacher had begun reading to us in class, but I couldn’t recall the exact title. A shy child, I haltingly described it to the librarian as a story about a boy in a canoe in a big ocean. “Do you mean this one?” she asked, walking over to the shelf and pulling down Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry. Yes!
Another time, as I was wandering around the children’s section, a very kind librarian asked if I needed help. When I explained that I didn’t know what to read next, she patiently asked me about other books I’d really loved. Then she pressed The Trouble With Jenny’s Ear by Oliver Butterworth in my hands. “I think you’ll like this one.” And she was right. I really loved it, moreso because she picked it out just for me.
And this is precisely why we all love libraries so much. If we’re lucky, as children we learn early on that this is a safe place where you can actually get help from someone caring and kind. Joan Bransfield Graham’s poem “Librarian” sums it up beautifully: “you’ve been a friend . . . you read my heart.”
I love how all the poems in this collection are full of heart, resonating with personal, child-centric emotion. Bookended by two wonderful poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (adorable morning and midnight mice), we are also treated to lyrical gems by Nikki Grimes, Michele Krueger, Cynthia S. Cotten, Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, X.J. Kennedy, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Deborah Ruddell, Alice Schertle, Kristine O’Connell George, Ann Whitford Paul, and Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.
Jane Manning’s charmingly vibrant gouache and pencil illustrations with their swirls and soft edges beautifully capture the energy, whimsy and playfulness of the imaginative realm. She uses reds to great effect — a child’s shirt, rosy cheeks, a new library card, a librarian’s vest, a pillow, Ms. Baker’s blazer, the cover of a book — to denote the beating heart of each scene.
Kids will eagerly embrace these verses, while adult readers will fondly recall their own early library experiences. Are you old enough to remember wooden card catalogs and the decisive click-thrump of the date stamp at the checkout counter? 🙂
Today, I’m pleased to share three sample poems from the book. Lee’s poem is dedicated to Augusta Baker, a dear friend whom he met while working at the Bank Street College of Education in Harlem, New York, in the 1960’s. Augusta was a librarian, storyteller, and first African American woman to hold an administrative position with the New York Public Library. About his childhood library, Lee says:
MY library as a young child was in Scranton, PA, where I was born, a place I treasured. Located in the Bulls Head section I can still remember walking into the building, where as Nikki Grimes writes in her verse “Refuge”, my “sweet kingdom of story”. I still recall checking out my favorite book, THE SATURDAYS by Elizabeth Enright, wanting to keep the book forever.
I thank Rebecca, Lee and Amy for permission to share their poems, and Zoe at Playing by the Book for the Fig Bar Books idea. Enjoy!
* * *
BREAKFAST BETWEEN THE SHELVES
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Morning pours spoons of sun
through tall windows, rests along
a reading chair, a copper rail;
hovers over crumbs, small supper scraps
left by those who opened books
last night, to live in story.
like platters of cheese;
Please read this about Owl!
And this about Giant!
They find words
sprinkled like cracker salt
on all those pages
where genius weaves letters
into magic; beckons new readers:
Look! This is the book for you.
Morning pours spoons of sun.
~ Posted by permission of the author. Copyright © 2015 Rebecca Kai Dotlich.
* * *
(For Augusta Baker)
by Lee Bennett Hopkins
As she speaks
leap from pages —
frog and toad —
yellow brick road.
Worlds of paper
only Miss Augusta
in a room
filled with magic
And as her voice
I believe in
I believe in
happily ever after.
~ Posted by permission of the author. Copyright © 2015 Lee Bennett Hopkins.
* * *
by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater
With my head on a book
I dream of a place
where a pig loves a spider.
I dream of a face
high in a tower
with ropes of hair falling.
When books become pillows
stories come calling —
Wild things on a rumpus!
Fat evil kings!
Boy wizards, girl witches!
Horses with wings!
Stars shine on shelves
as I rest my full head
each a dream
I once read.
~ Posted by permission of the author. Copyright © 2015 Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.
* * *
selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
illustrated by Jane Manning
published by Wordsong, September 2015
Poetry Picture Book for ages 5-8, 32 pp.
*Check out this recent interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins at Today’s Little Ditty for more about Augusta Baker and this book.
📘 SPECIAL GIVEAWAY 📙
For a chance to win a brand new copy, simply leave a comment at this post telling us a bit about your childhood library no later than midnight (EDT) Wednesday, September 30, 2015. Extra entries for tweeting, blogging, Facebooking, etc. (please mention in your comment). Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Winner will be announced next Friday. Good Luck!
* * *
🎉 THE HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CUPCAKE! GIVEAWAY WINNER 🎈
VICKI from I’d Rather Be at the Beach!!
🎂 CONGRATULATIONS, VICKI! 🍰
Please send me your snail mail address so we can get the book out to you pronto.
Thanks, everyone, for entering!
* * *
The lovely and talented poetry goddesses Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong are hosting the Roundup today at Poetry for Children. Sashay on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week!
*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2015 Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrations © 2015 Jane Manning, published by Wordsong. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.