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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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: Lee Bennett Hopkins is Here with LULLABY...!

February 20, 2015

Tags: Poetry Friday, babies and toddlers, Lee Bennett Hopkins, book tracks, poetry

Shhhh.... Don't wake the ba- ... Oh, never mind. The baby's awake! And ready to enjoy wonderful poetry from the incomparable Lee Bennett Hopkins!

Before we dive into poetry for the very youngest listeners, let's congratulate Lee on some big news. You likely know of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. This week, it was announced that The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Lee have joined forces to establish the SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, which "recognizes and encourages the publication of an excellent book of poetry or anthology for children and/or young adults." This award will given every three years. [Click here here for the Publishers Weekly article, and here for the SCBWI award page with details. ]

Our guest of honor today is no stranger to awards - among his many honors are the NCTE National Council of Teachers of English Excellence in Poetry for Children (2009), the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for “outstanding contributions to the field of children’s literature” (1989); and recognition by the Guinness Book of World Records as "the most prolific anthologist of poetry for children" (2011).

With more than a hundred books under his belt, including original works as well as collections he's carefully compiled and brought to life, Lee is simply a force for children's poetry like no other. The countless (who could count them?!) children who have entered the magical world of poetry because of his work might not know of the accolades behind a poetry book held in their hands, or one read to them. But Lee knows these children. He knows the power of poetry for one child.

Warmest Greetings, Lee – Poetry Friday folks are always thrilled when you join us! I’m also thrilled to share your thoughts about your new collection of poems to be released from Abrams next week (Tuesday, March 3). It’s for the very youngest readers and listeners, LULLABY & KISSES SWEET – Poems to Love with your Baby. What inspired you to create a book of poems for babies?

I have been at work compiling LULLABY & KISSES SWEET for a long time. I feel it is of the utmost importance that babies are exposed to oral language, hearing words, knowing books, as early as being in the womb! The sooner we get our children to read, to appreciate words, the faster they will become lifelong readers.

And what could be more important than instilling children with the music of poetry?

Why is it important to expose babies and toddlers to rhymes and verse?

Hearing rhymes and verse opens children to experience the world around them. I chose topics for LULLABY… that are both universal and an integral part of growing up… Family, Food, Firsts, Play and Bedtime.

What could be more enjoyable than reading a poem about something that is a new childhood experience – a first tooth coming in, riding a tricycle for the first time, or having a teddy bear tucked near one’s head at bedtime? Experiences to cherish, to share, via verse.

From your perspective as a poet – what are the challenges of writing for this very youngest of ages?

Poems written for LULLABY… were not only challenging to compose but tricky to create. Since this was being produced as an oversized board book no poem could be more than eight lines long, all had to rhyme, and each poet was assigned to a specific subject. The poets and I worked back and forth, sometimes altering many, many drafts before the verse was right for this collection. Oh, how I admire the tenacity of poets.

Compared to over l00 anthologies I have compiled for children and young adults, LULLABY… was a constant, ongoing challenge.

Tell us about the title of the book; it’s just delicious.

The title comes from the first line in Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s poem “Sandman”. Rebecca told me she made up this poem as a song and sang it bedside to her young nephew when he had just moved and was homesick the fist night. From that time on he knew the verse by heart, as did the entire family. Rebecca’s mother begged her for years to publish the poem. Finally, she will get to see it come to life on the page – a gift Rebecca so wanted to give to her aging mother. I am so happy I could fulfill a few dreams. “Sandman” though only four lines long is filled with a lifetime of memories, generations of ‘kisses sweet ’now published for forthcoming generations to read, read aloud, and share.

Alyssa Nassner's illustrations are so fresh and lively. How would you describe the way pictures and text work together in this project?

Alyssa’s artwork is perfect for this collection. The varied anthropomorphic full-color drawings are perfect for this age level.

What child (or adult) wouldn’t fall in love with kittens, bears, lions, or a bunny with pink ears playing in a sandbox?

This is a case-bound board book (perfect for gift-giving, folks!). Was it important to you that the collection be sturdy enough for babies to handle themselves, not just listen to? How do you hope this special audience interacts with this poetry?

It was my brilliant editor, Tamar Brazis at Abrams, who led this project on to become a board book. And it is one of the biggest board books I’ve seen in a very long time – 30 poems each getting their own page.

On an end note I thank you, Robyn, for the amount of time and work you put into your poem, “Milk” in the Food section. Writing a gem featuring a baby, a grandmother, a father and a sippy cup is no small feat. And in five-lines you managed to bring in so much familial love. Wow!

LULLABY… is subtitled: “Poems to Love with your Baby”. Each poet’s words resonate with the concept – love.

Many thanks for joining us today, Lee (and for those blush-worthy kind words). Your gifts to readers of all ages know no bounds.

Let's close with a few poems from the book, shall we?

The spread pictured above features these two terrific poems in the "Play" section.


by Stephanie Salkin

Sand on my fingers, on my toes,
Sand on my chin, my ears, my nose,
Sand on my elbows, neck, and knees.
Take me out of this sandbox -


©2015 by Stephanie Salkin. Used by permission.

My Tricycle

by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

How many seats? One.
How many pedals? Two.
How many wheels?
One, two, three.

I am riding by myself.


©2015 by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. Used by permission.

[Many thanks to Stephanie and Amy for sharing these fine poems.]

What? All that playing has made you sleepy? I have just the thing. Among many lovely poems in the "Bedtime" section is one of Lee's own:

Read to Me

by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Read to me.
Read to me.

Read to me - then -
read to me
read to me
again and again.

©2015 by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Used by permission.

There now, didn't that make you... what's that? You want to hear it again!

Read these poems and more - again and again! - this coming Tuesday, when LULLABY AND KISSES SWEET is officially launched from Abrams.

To tide you over til then, please visit My Juicy Little Universe, where the lovely Heidi is marching forward to round up Poetry Friday today.


  1. February 27, 2015 12:05 AM EST
    Thank you so much for including my poem in your blog, Robyn. It's a real honor. And with Lee's interview, no less, and alongside Amy's poem! Here's something I'll bet you didn't know: Lee very thoughtfully asked the artist to put a rabbit into my poem because he knew how much I loved my pet rabbit that had just died.
    - Stephanie Salkin
  2. February 27, 2015 12:22 AM EST
    Wow. This sounds like an amazing collection., and great to hear how it was put together. I love the poems, but I think Sandbox is my favourite.
    - Sally Murphy
  3. February 27, 2015 2:57 AM EST
    Thank you, Sally!
    - Stephanie Salkin
  4. February 27, 2015 7:54 AM EST
    Happy to feature your poem, Stephanie; thanks for sharing it - and that sounds like Lee!
    - Robyn Black
  5. February 27, 2015 8:04 AM EST
    Thanks for sharing the news, Robyn! Your contribution, "Milk," is very cute. Can't wait to hold this book in my hands!
    - Matt Forrest Esenwine
  6. February 27, 2015 8:12 AM EST
    Thanks for coming by, Matt (& love your "First Tooth") - This book will be treasured in lots of hands of all sizes! :0)
    - Robyn Black
  7. February 27, 2015 9:09 AM EST
    Thank you, Robyn and Lee, for this great post. It is always fascinating to learn the stories behind books. And thank you, for including my poem. I am excited to hold this book in my hands and to give it to babies I love and babies I will meet in the future. Chewing on poems...what could be better? Happy Poetry Friday! xo, a.
    - Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
  8. February 27, 2015 9:27 AM EST
    Amy, thanks for sharing your poem and your thoughts! I wonder how many times babies will be smiling to your "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee" - and saying it themselves?!
    - Robyn Black
  9. February 27, 2015 9:27 AM EST
    DEAR ROBYN: Your support and love over the years have made me very happy. You do so much to promote literature/art. It was one of those lucky days you walked into my life ... so many of our lives. Thank you, thank you. With love-ness...
  10. February 27, 2015 9:39 AM EST
    I was thrilled to hear about these wonderful new awards, and I am in LOVE with this book. Now if one of the Juniors would just meet some lovely person, fall in love, get married, and have a baby (preferably in that order, but I'm past the point of being picky) I could buy this book and read it to a baby. Is that asking too much? :-)
    - Cathy C. Hall
  11. February 27, 2015 9:43 AM EST
    Lovely interview, always a pleasure to hear from Lee. I have just the little tyke to share this book with. Thanks for the sample poems and Congrats, Robyn, on "Milk" being included in this adorable book.
    - jama
  12. February 27, 2015 9:51 AM EST
    What a wonderful interview. And I loved the comment by Lee in the comments section. I'm looking forward to seeing the book.
    - Doraine Bennett
  13. February 27, 2015 10:17 AM EST
    Yes to this: "The sooner we get our children to read, to appreciate words, the faster they will become lifelong readers." !! You're never too young :-) ! This book will make a great gift.
    - Tabatha
  14. February 27, 2015 10:18 AM EST
    LBH - You must love to bring tears to my eyes. [I'm wondering if you might own stock in a tissues company?] Seriously, I am beyond blessed to know you. Beyond beyond. Thank you for all you do. Where would we be without you?

    Cathy, methinks you should go ahead and buy a copy or two. Leave them lying around, and the juniors will subconsciously get the hint??

    Many thanks, Jama. Both sides of our families have been blessed with the first grand-nephews in the last year and a half, so guess what they're getting? :0)

    Doraine, thanks for popping in! I think you'll love the book. :0)
    - Robyn Black
  15. February 27, 2015 10:20 AM EST
    Tabatha - Hear, hear! If you stop and think about it, is there a more important audience? Such a crucial time for introducing poetry, literature, and art!
    - Robyn Black
  16. February 27, 2015 11:08 AM EST
    Thanks for the wonderful interview, Robyn and Lee. Looking forward to reading Lullaby!
    - Buffy Silverman
  17. February 27, 2015 11:56 AM EST
    The short poems are fun to read. They appeal to the young child and adults. Thanks for sharing them with us. I know you are happy to be included in this anthology.
    - Patricia Cruzan
  18. February 27, 2015 12:17 PM EST
    Hi, Buffy! You'll enjoy. Thanks for coming over to the party!

    Thanks, Patricia - sometimes the shorter the poem, the greater the challenge, isn't it? [And I'm thrilled to have a poem included - thanks.)
    - Robyn Black
  19. February 27, 2015 5:27 PM EST
    Thanks for the interview, Robyn! I'm so thrilled to have a peek at this happy little book. Thirty oversized board-stock pages? Well, maybe not such a little book, but that just means more for our littlies to love! :) Adorable poems AND illustrations! Congratulations to all of you who are in this delightful collection, and thanks to Lee for all the big time children's poetry LOVE!
    - Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
  20. February 27, 2015 5:33 PM EST
    So very precious, this post! Congratulations, Robyn, on "Milk," and to everyone who's been a part of what looks to be a treasure for babies and parents alike. Like Amy, I can't think of a tastier thing for babies to chew on that a book of poems selected by LBH! xo
    - Irene Latham
  21. February 27, 2015 6:09 PM EST
    Thanks for sharing the poems, Robyn. I loved hearing how the title came from Rebecca's poem, "Sandman." This book is definitely on my gift list.
    - Penny Parker Klostermann
  22. February 27, 2015 6:45 PM EST
    Hi, Michelle - lots for littlies to love - and big ones, too! :0) Thanks for bringing your own children's poetry love on over today.

    Me either, Irene! Thanks for coming by and for the kind wishes and words.

    Hi Penny - I didn't know that "Sandman" story before. There is always such magic in Rebecca's poetry, and this was a touching peek into the story behind one of the poems. Makes a great book title, too!
    - Robyn Black
  23. February 27, 2015 6:50 PM EST
    I think of this as nursery rhymes for the generations (and populations) of children who aren't learning the "real" nursery rhymes. Let this book become the birth-day gift of every child born in an English-speaking culture!
    - Heidi Mordhorst
  24. February 27, 2015 7:04 PM EST
    That's a lovely way to think about it, Heidi - sure wish the new generations could have old AND new, don't you? Thanks so much for hosting today with your singular flair!!
    - Robyn Black
  25. February 27, 2015 9:35 PM EST
    I've been looking forward to hearing more, Robyn, & this was wonderful, know the book will be something to share with young ones again and again. And I have a few colleagues with babies on the way, wonderful gift to give. It's very special you have a poem in this, too.
    - Linda Baie
  26. February 27, 2015 10:48 PM EST
    Hi, Linda - thank you for all the kind words. Glad this might find its way into hands of some folks you know! You'll enjoy perusing, too. XO
    - Robyn Black
  27. February 28, 2015 12:19 AM EST
    Hi there Robyn. I love Read to Me - but above all, I love seeing Lee here today! He is an absolute favourite. He is just so prolific and inspiring - he manages to capture hidden gems through his anthologies. Thank you for giving voice to him this week.
    - Myra from GatheringBooks
  28. February 28, 2015 7:51 AM EST
    My niece is expecting a baby any day and I can't think of a better gift than this lovely book. Thanks so much for sharing it, along with Lee's wise words, today.
    - Catherine @ readingtothecore
  29. February 28, 2015 8:38 AM EST
    Hello Dear Myra. I can't imagine bookshelves (in a library, school, bookstore or my own!) without Lee's anthologies. They appear to be so seamless as you enjoy the poems/art/design etc. - and I'm sure children experience them that way - but we know better, don't we? ;0)

    Catherine, oh - this will be the perfect gift! To be enjoyed (and perhaps occasionally chewed on) in the next few years to come.
    - Robyn Black
  30. February 28, 2015 8:41 PM EST
    A lovely interview with Lee! I can't wait to get my hands on this book. I know my two grandchildren will be so tickled when I read it to them!
    - Linda
  31. March 1, 2015 5:10 PM EST
    Hi, Linda - Honored to share a spread with your "Snack Time"! (And I just got my contributor copy - it's amazing & really well done. Hope you get yours soon!) :0)
    - Robyn Black
  32. March 4, 2015 4:36 PM EST
    Delicious is just the right word for this book and this post. I loved learning where the title came from, too! I just ordered my copy and can't wait to have it in my hands. Thank you, Robyn, and Lee, for this post!
    - Laura Purdie Salas
  33. March 4, 2015 6:38 PM EST
    Hi, Laura - thanks so much for coming by! Love your "Spaghetti" poem; every family should have a photo of such a scene with their little one(s). ;0)
    - Robyn Black
  34. March 7, 2015 6:01 AM EST
    As Amy said in her poem, "Wheeeeee!" What a delightful interview! I ordered this for book for my new great-nephew yesterday, but I think I should have gotten an extra copy to keep for myself. Thank you for sharing this today, Robyn.
    - Catherine @ readingtothecore
  35. March 7, 2015 9:29 PM EST
    It's always a thrill to read a Lee Bennett Hopkins interview. Congrats on the book, Lee. Additional congrats to you, Robin! Not only for a fine Q&A, but for being in Lullaby!
    - Charles Waters
  36. March 7, 2015 10:56 PM EST
    Hi, Catherine - I sent two copies off yesterday to my two wee great-nephews! (Yep, I predict after you actually see it, you'll order another for yourself... ;0) ) Thanks for visiting!

    Charles - thank YOU for stopping by. It's always a thrill to interview Lee, too - as you know, he's beyond generous when it comes to connecting kids (even tiny ones!) and poetry.
    - 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!