Robyn Hood Black - children's author, poet, artist

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Hanging with fellow Georgia writers (from top, l-r) Tracy Walker, Heather Kolich, Donna Bowman, (bottom, middle) Janice Hardy and Paula Puckett
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Susan Rosson Spain, Robyn Hood Black, Elizabeth Dulemba, and Myra Meade at the Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Ga.
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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Lee Bennett Hopkins and SCHOOL PEOPLE Giveaway!

February 7, 2018

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, Lee Bennett Hopkins, School People, Wordsong, Robyn Hood Black, school, students, teachers

Is your monitor shaking, or your phone screen, maybe? I’m so excited about this week’s post, I might be jumping up and down a little….

Lee Bennett Hopkins is here!

If you’re a Poetry Friday regular, you know that Lee Bennett Hopkins is a singular force in the world of children’s poetry, holding the Guiness World Record for number of poetry anthologies for children published.

He has received countless awards for his own writing and his collections, including the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, the Florida Libraries’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the Christopher Award, and the distinction last year of being inducted into the Florida Arts Hall of Fame, among others. (Read more about Lee here.)

Today he shares a behind-the-scenes look at his newest anthology, SCHOOL PEOPLE, to be released Feb. 13 from Wordsong, the poetry imprint of Boyds Mills Press (so you know it’s first-class).

From the publisher’s description:

…this collection of poems paired with imaginative artwork introduces readers to the important grown-ups they’ll meet at school. From the school’s own story, written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, to J. Patrick Lewis’s “Principal,” to Alma Flor Ada’s "Spanish Teacher," each poem features the women and men who inspire, encourage, and help children in their own unique ways.

The small format of photos allowed on my blog don’t do justice to the vibrant illustrations by Ellen Shi, but you can get an idea. The publisher kindly shared a couple of interior spreads – “Librarian” by Lee himself, and my own poem, “Lunch Lady.”


He opened the door.
As we walked in
he said,
It’s all about books.
And books are you!

Books will lead you
everywhere –
to magical places
to meet new faces.”

He opened
one single door
yet he
led us down
we never
could ever
have traveled

©Lee Bennett Hopkins. All Rights Reserved.


Long before lunchtime
Ms. Bailey keeps busy
stacking towers of trays,
filling the salad bar,
sliding steaming pans
into place.

We swarm the cafeteria.
“Here you go, Honey,” she says,
handing each of us a full plate.

Long after lunchtime,
Ms. Bailey scrubs everything clean,
hangs the last heavy pan.

She rubs her neck,
wipes her forehead,
and changes the menu sign –
for us,
for tomorrow.

©Robyn Hood Black. All Rights Reserved.

How did this collection come to be? Lee generously agreed to share his thoughts.

--How did the idea for SCHOOL PEOPLE come about? (And how long has it been in the making?)

I began my career as a sixth-grade teacher in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, in 1960 at the age of 22, fresh out of college. I taught sixth grade for three years before becoming a Resource Teacher in the same school working with grades K-6.

So – after almost six decades later the idea of a SCHOOL and its PEOPLE pops up. One never knows what memory will uncover. Such an obvious topic.

--Each of your anthologies has a distinct personality – some magic you make out of many different contributing voices. How would you describe SCHOOL PEOPLE?

Yes, each anthology does have a distinct personality. When creating an anthology my mind completely focuses on the topic whether it is a collection as difficult as the recent TRAVELNG THE BLUE ROAD: POEMS OF THE SEA (Seagrass Dreams/Quarto) for Young Adults, or SCHOOL PEOPLE for younger readers. I assign topics to various poets who work with me – a wondrous group of dedicated writers. My role is to put the entire collection into focus before it reaches an editor’s desk. The process of producing an anthology can take years.

--This book should lend itself to all kinds of interactions. How do you envision teachers might use it in the classroom or media center?

There are so many ways to use this book in schools. I envision an assembly program where various school people are invited to sit on stage, introduced as each child reads or performs a poem about them…from the principal to the custodian. Or as a weekly, monthly tribute to each of the people represented.

It can also be used to show appreciation of the work each person does to make a school a whole.
I would encourage young writers to choose one or more of their favorite school people to write about.

SCHOOL PEOPLE is also a nice gift to give to various school personnel. How often does a Custodian or a Crossing Guard get acknowledged?

--How do you hope students will respond to the collection?

Hopefully children might see the diversity of people within a school building - for example, a female coach, a male librarian. Also I hope they will experience empathy for individuals – the Bus Driver with ‘that smiling face’ to bring a child home again, the Lunch Lady who works hard and long hours, the Custodian who is “caring, helpful, smart, and kind,” the Nurse who is there “like the heart in my body/like the moon in the sky.”

--The 15 poems come to life in Ellen Shi’s colorful digital illustrations. Any thoughts about how the text and art work together here?

Shi captures so many different moments via her art depicting emotions that are part of every person involved with children. That caring Principal who could ‘teach a bully/how to be humble”, the Librarian who “opened one single door/yet he/led us down/pathways/we never/could ever/have traveled before.” Each double-page spread has a lot of offer, to linger with.

--Do you have a special memory you’d like to share about a teacher or staff member from your own school days?

It was my eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ethel Kite McLaughlin, who saw something in the mixed-up child I was due to growing up in a dysfunctional family. She was the one who turned my life around. Being with her in a self-contained classroom environment for a year convinced me that I, too, would become a teacher…like her. And I did! Without her guidance I don’t know where life would have taken me. One teacher. One voice. As Joan Bransfield Graham writes in “Teacher” – “You stretch my world much wider…I feel I, too, can fly.” Mrs. McLaughlin did indeed stretch my world. Oh, how she helped me to fly!

--I think most would agree you absolutely SOAR. Thank you so much for joining us today!

Thank you, Robyn, for your forever poetry enthusiasm! Hugs.

Other familiar Poetry Friday faces with work in this collection include Matt Forrest Essenwine, Michele Krueger, , Irene Latham, Charles Ghigna, Renée LaTulippe, and Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. And other familiar POETRY faces include Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ann Whitford Paul, J. Patrick Lewis, Joan Bransfield Graham, Alma Flor Ada, and Darren Sardelli. (So honored to share book pages with these fine poet-folk!)

But wait – there’s MORE. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press will send a copy of SCHOOL PEOPLE to a lucky reader! Just leave a comment below by Wed., Feb. 21, and you’ll be entered in the drawing. (Be sure the hidden email associated with your comment is a good way to contact you later for a snail mail address, just in case today’s your lucky day.) I’ll be out of pocket next Friday, but back to announce the randomly-selected winner on Friday, Feb. 23.

Sally Murphy has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week – hop, skip, or jump on over (under?) to beautiful Australia for more poetry surprises.


  1. February 8, 2018 8:03 PM EST
    Sounds like a great anthology, Robyn. Congratulations on being part of it. And I always love learning more about lee and his way of working.
    - Sally Murphy
  2. February 8, 2018 8:47 PM EST
    I'm excited to read Lee's new book, Robyn. When I read that librarian poem, I can't help but picture my good friend Matthew Winner, who is a librarian in one of our local schools. Congratulations, Lee!
    - Laura Shovan
  3. February 8, 2018 9:30 PM EST
    Thanks, Sally - and thank you for hosting this week. (& I always learn something new when I feature Lee!)

    Laura, thanks for coming by. Lee's poem reminded me of a media specialist I met during a school visit a few months ago. He sure loved the students, and they loved him.
    - Robyn Hood Black
  4. February 8, 2018 11:37 PM EST
    Hurray - that librarian poem in particular warms my heart!
    - Jane @ Raincity Librarian
  5. February 9, 2018 12:07 AM EST
    There is a place in students' hearts for all the people in their schools. We had one custodian for years named Larry who gave such good care to all. What a lovely book that celebrates everyone! Librarians and lunch ladies add to the community and learning, too. I love the poems you shared. Congrats on your poem, Robyn & thanks for this latest anthology, Lee. Woo hoo! More poetry!
    - Linda Baie
  6. February 9, 2018 9:12 AM EST
    Jane, As it should! :0) Who knows how many doors you've opened? Thanks for popping in.

    Beautifully said, Linda - this book reminds me of the selfless grown ups who made school special back in my day, and in my kids' school years, too. I can't wait to share it with lots of folks, especially (teacher-daughter) Morgan!
    - Robyn Black
  7. February 9, 2018 10:24 AM EST
    Lovely to see this book promoted! School people are incredibly important to kids. My 6th grade teacher told me I should be a writer. Lee, Fair Lawn?! I'm from Bergen County too! Thanks for posting, Robyn!
    - B.J. Lee
  8. February 9, 2018 10:52 AM EST
    Wowsa! This is an exciting post! Can I jump up and down with you? Congratulations--I love your Lunch Lady poem. They were always some of my favorite people. In the school I taught at for 15 years, they took care of many students, often without recognition for all the work they did. The book looks like a fabulous collection.
    - Kay Jernigan McGriff
  9. February 9, 2018 11:33 AM EST
    What a beautiful celebration of this new book and of all of the dedicated, hardworking, loving adults who make safe and inspiring spaces for children each day. Thank you for this peek into Lee's mind on this one - I love the idea of an assembly celebrating so many who give. And your lunch lady was my lunch lady way back when I was a girl. Big hugs, Robyn. xxxx
    - Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
  10. February 9, 2018 12:45 PM EST
    I can't wait to read this lovely book. As a retired teacher, a book about school people is especially dear to my heart. Thanks for the interview and the sneak peek!
    - Linda Kulp Trout
  11. February 9, 2018 1:04 PM EST
    Can't wait to read this one. Enjoyed hearing from Lee. Thanks so much to both of you (love both poems you shared today, too). :)
    - jama
  12. February 9, 2018 1:24 PM EST
    I enjoyed the interview. His anthologies are always powerful.
    - Brenda
  13. February 9, 2018 3:08 PM EST
    Thanks for coming by, B. J.! And - what a small world - :0)

    Kay, YAY - A jumping partner. Thank you! There are some wonderful folks behind those serving lines.

    Amy, honored to share these pages with you! Glad you have fond memories of your own lunch lady. I look forward to reading your "Nurse" poem - I've seen some of the book, but not all yet. Can't wait to get my copy! (Copies, really... I ordered some to share, too.) ;0)

    Hi, Linda - glad you enjoyed. And I'm sure you DO appreciate, having poured out lots of TLC in the school halls yourself.

    Jama, happy you joined the party! And thanks for the kind words. :0)

    Hi, Brenda - yes, they are. Thanks for swinging by today!
    - Robyn Black
  14. February 9, 2018 3:39 PM EST
    I love Lee and all his anthologies. I really look forward to reading this one and connecting with some memories of my own. And, Robyn, I used to cover the school lunch market as part of my foodservice journalism career. I love your lunch lady poem!
    - Stephanie Salkin
  15. February 9, 2018 4:28 PM EST
    I love his collections of poetry. I have reviewed several, but this one is new to me. Thanks for recommending it. I will add it to my list.
    - Books4Learning
  16. February 9, 2018 4:48 PM EST
    AGAIN and AGAIN, thank you Robyn for this post, for your enthusiasm for poetry, for your wondrous, sensitive look at a "Lunch Lady". Thanks too, for all the comments on SCHOOL PEOPLE, a delightful book to compile.
  17. February 9, 2018 6:35 PM EST
    Robyn! Thank you so much for sharing the amazing Lee Bennett Hopkins with us as well as some behind the scenes from School People. Since I am a school person.....I love the entire concept of this book. I love that you think of Lee's books with a distinct personality. You give me ideas......
    - Linda Mitchell
  18. February 9, 2018 7:07 PM EST
    Congratulations on being part of this fabulous anthology. You can be sure it will be in my class library!
    - Mary Lee Hahn
  19. February 9, 2018 11:56 PM EST
    Hey there, Stef - Ohhh, I'd forgotten about your "beat" during your career. Glad this poem connects! Thanks for visiting. :0)

    Books4Learning, great! Thanks for coming by. This one is brand new; I can't wait to get my own copies.

    Dearest Lee, thank YOU - well, for being you. And for helping my poem come to life, with, um, multiple (?!)edits... ;0) This book is going to touch so many folks, and be embraced by young students figuring out who's who at school.

    Linda, oh - your ideas are always awesome! How many more will you come up with AFTER you read it? :0)

    Terrific, Mary Lee! And thanks so much. Maybe your students will end up writing their own "school people" poems....
    - Robyn Black
  20. February 10, 2018 12:14 AM EST
    What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing. This interview was so much fun to read, and I loved your lunch lady poem. Serving lunch to a school full of kids is hard work!
    - Sarah Grace Tuttle
  21. February 10, 2018 7:08 AM EST
    This anthology looks like such a gem! Thanks for sharing it here. I can't wait to linger in its pages.
    - Molly Hogan
  22. February 10, 2018 8:26 AM EST
    This looks so fun, Robyn. I bet my Kindergarten poets would love this collection! -- Christie @
    - Christie Wyman
  23. February 10, 2018 8:34 AM EST
    Student will love reading such fabulous poems about a place they know so well. Poems are about connecting, relating, seeing yourself there. I'm excited for you and Amy and all the others included in this collection.
    - Margaret Simon
  24. February 10, 2018 10:13 AM EST
    Hi, Sarah Grace - thank you for joining us! My financial aid job in college for four years (plus elsewhere on weekends sometimes) was in the cafeteria - definitely hard work, and all we had to do was clock in. ;0)

    Molly, you're welcome, and I am looking forward to lingering in it, too! :0)

    Hi, Christie - I think they will love it, too. Older kids will recognize folks they know, and these poems will help younger ones get to know the faces they see each day. :0)

    So well put, Margaret - and thanks for the kind wishes!
    - Robyn Black
  25. February 10, 2018 4:36 PM EST
    Beautiful presentation of the book, Robyn. Your "Lunch Room Lady" poem is an exquisite tribute to those who nourish the tummies (and souls) of our children. Their example, like all dedicated educators, is the epitome of how hard work and a warm smile keep us going and growing during our most formative and impressionable years. Thank you for this memorable ode. It's an honor to be one of your poet-folk friends on this journey.
    - Charles Ghigna - Father Goose®
  26. February 10, 2018 4:48 PM EST
    Lovely interview, Lee and Robyn, and lovely poems! I'm so happy to have a poem in this book too, and to share pages with so many wonderful people. Yay! Thank you for this fabulous write-up.

    (Obviously, don't put me in the book drawing.)
    - Renee LaTulippe
  27. February 10, 2018 5:41 PM EST
    Congratulations on the inclusion of your poem in this anthology! I remember how hard lunch ladies work and the smile they always have for each student. "Here you go, Honey." Love the line in The Librarian about opening the single door to many pathways. I also was a 6th grade teacher once, so am happy to learn I have one thing in common with J. Patrick Lewis! My inspirational teacher was Mr. Farnsworth, 10th grade English. He shared his passion for literature and instilled a thirst for good literature in me.
    - Joyce Ray
  28. February 10, 2018 9:30 PM EST
    It was so exciting to get a preview of this wonderful anthology at Highlights last Fall. Having been an elementary teacher for 33 years, every role is so crucial and the poems reflect that love! Thanks to all who contributed.
    - Vicki Wilke
  29. February 10, 2018 9:45 PM EST
    Hi Charles - It's an honor to be amongst YOUR folk!! Thanks for the kind comments and for all you do, in and out of books, for poetry.

    Renee! So excited about this one. Delighted to share pages with you and everyone else! Thanks for coming by. :0)

    Hi, Joyce - I was just on my way to your place! Thank you for stopping in and sharing your thoughts and experiences, too. I'm thankful Mr. Farnsworth was in your life. I'll always cherish my own Mrs. Jarvis - she encouraged me so.

    Vicki, thanks for visiting! Glad you got a preview of the book. I'm sure you especially appreciate the folks highlighted in these poems, and I'm sure your students appreciated you! :0)
    - Robyn Hood Black
  30. February 11, 2018 6:09 AM EST
    Congratulations, Robyn, for having a poem in this fun collection. I love that it celebrates some of the unsung heroes of our schools. Can't wait to share it with kids!
    - Catherine @ Reading to the Core
  31. February 11, 2018 6:48 AM EST
    Sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks for telling us about it!
    - Ruth (
  32. February 11, 2018 9:28 AM EST
    I love that Lee wrote the librarian poem himself, since that is truly what he his, isn't he? The way he reaches out to readers with his library of books and his wealth of knowledge, the way he connects with children, parents, teachers, and all of his readers, in an individual, hands-on way. Congratulations, Robyn, on your touching and real portrait of the lunch lady, and to all the poets in SCHOOL PEOPLE. Hooray for all of us who get to enjoy another wonderful LBH collection!
    - Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
  33. February 11, 2018 11:31 AM EST
    Thanks for sharing this interview with Lee - one always receives an education when speaking to him. I love his "Librarian" taking us to new places, and your Lunch Lady offers a nice peek at what goes on behind the scenes, which children often do not think about. And congrats again on being in the book!
    - Matt Forrest Esenwine
  34. February 11, 2018 5:03 PM EST
    Hi, Catherine - I hope they'll love it! Maybe they can think of all kinds of unsung heroes who could use a poem written about them... :0)

    Ruth, thanks for coming by! I think this one will be loved by kids and appreciated by adults.

    Michelle, thanks for all those thoughtful comments. Spot-on re. Lee and his reach, all the connections his works foster....

    Congrats to you, too, Matt - can't wait to see your poem when I get my hands on a real, live copy! Appreciate your stopping by.

    - Robyn Black
  35. February 11, 2018 5:21 PM EST
    Fantastic news that this book has come to be, and congratulations to you, to Lee, to all the contributors. It is kind of funny that this theme hasn't been tackled before in just this way. Can't wait to get it into my classroom!
    - Heidi Mordhorst
  36. February 11, 2018 8:56 PM EST
    Hey there, Heidi! I love how Lee put it... 'decades later/such an "obvious" topic' - and yet... Well, I'm glad it came to be in just this way, too! Thanks for popping in.
    - Robyn Black
  37. February 11, 2018 9:15 PM EST
    (sharing Michele's comment which ended up under the wrong blog post - RHB)

    What a thrill to be part of this collection! Thank you for the lovely interview, Robyn and Lee. I appreciate this collection so much because it celebrates children’s earliest role models. I can’t wait to read it and share it with my young friends!

    - Michele Krueger

    Hi, Michele - it will be treasured for sure! Congrats to you and thanks for coming by. :0)
    - Robyn Black

Quick Clicks

bio, photos, interview links, etc.
Explore a poem or two or five....
Explore this genre of sparely crafted poetry which offers endless depth. Resources for students, teachers, and writers.
Author visits
In schools or other settings, Robyn shares her passion for writing and encourages creativity. Presentations for all age groups.
In addition to writing books, Robyn has sold her writing to major children's magazines.
A rhyming tale of a young boy's knightly adventure with an imagined dragon.
Nonfiction, interactive book on wolves featuring giant pop-up and tons of info!