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.
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.