2012 Finalists: Poetry

BookSpeak! Poems About Books

by Laura Purdie Salas
Clarion Books

Nominated by: Katie Fitzgerald

In a world where e-readers are becoming more and more popular, BookSpeak pays homage to the physical book. Twenty-one poems explore the magic of books and everything about them cover to cover.

These well-crafted poems include literary allusions such as a frightened dog hanging on to a cliff with fish-infested waters below, saying “Please, author, write/ sequel quick;” in the poem with three voices, The Beginning and The End comfort The Middle. And have you wondered what goes on when the lights go off in a bookstore? Read “Lights Out in the Bookstore” to find out about the raucous adventures of the shelves.

Josee Bisaillon’s mixed-media illustrations compliment the whimsical, wacky and just plain fun text.
The committee agreed that, like the final lines of the last poem
“I am not so much/ The End/ As I am an/ Invitation back/ to the beginning,”
readers will return to the beginning and read the book again and again.

— Jone Rush MacCulloch, Check It

In the Sea

by David Elliott
Candlewick Press

Nominated by: Kara Schaff Dean

From the magic of starfish shining “in a sky of sand” to the wonder of orca’s “black-and-white tuxedo,” David Elliott becomes undersea explorer in In the Sea, a companion volume to On the Farm and In the Wild, with Holly Meade again stunning readers with her gorgeous woodcuts.

This collection introduces the youngest readers to the beauty and mystery of the sea. We meet familiar creatures like the dolphin–“an acrobat with fins”–and perhaps less familiar ones like the chambered nautilus, “a staircase with no end.” Most poems are four lines or less; all are easily consumed and digested. In so few words, Elliott provides a freshness to this subject matter with an abundance of simple but astonishing analogies. These poems provide the most basic of facts, such as how anemones “Gotta lotta zing!” and that the clownfish is “anemone’s maid.” Readers will especially appreciate Elliott’s brevity and humor. A favorite spread contains four one-word poems, which together become a larger poem complete with the most delightful rhyme.

This celebration of ocean life offers readers of all ages a safe (dry!), delightful dive into the depths of the sea.

— Irene Latham, Live Your Poem

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs

by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen

Nominated by: Tasha

Be forewarned: the humor in these poems is dark! The pictures are gruesome and the animals in the book meet untimely and horrible deaths. At the same time, to the right reader (mostly boys, to be honest), this is a very funny book.

The poems are predominantly short and cleverly punny, containing a surprise factor that rewards the reader with snorts of laughter. These epitaphs were meant, as the title of the book points out, to provide one last laugh.


When le left,

he didn’t put up

a big stink.

(© Jane Yolen)


Here lies a moth

without a name,

who lived by the fire

and died by the flame.

(© J. Patrick Lewis)

— Mary Lee Hahn, A Year of

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses

by Ron Koertge
Candlewick Press

Nominated by: The Cath in the Hat

“Do you want to sleep? Find another storyteller,” Koertge tells readers in the introduction. NOT for the faint of heart or those raised on sweet happily-ever-after fairy tales, Lives, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses is a collection of 23 free verse poems that retell both familiar and more obscure tales. It is our only finalist that is specifically for YA readers.

Andrea Dezsö’s digital paper cuts are finely detailed and beautifully complement the tone of the text, though some are even more gruesome than the poems. Twisted, edgy, dark, and violent, yet cleverly told from the perspective of both central and secondary characters (Little Red Riding Hood, the Princess from the Princess and the Pea, the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, the Ugly Duckling, and others), Koertge re-imagines their stories in a most provocative manner.

— Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss
Rumphius Effect

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!

compiled by J. Patrick Lewis
National Geographic Children’s Books

Nominated by: Joanna Marple

There’s a whole lot of squeaking, soaring and roaring going on in National Geographic’s Book of Animal Poetry. J. Patrick Lewis, America’s Children’s Poet Laureate, has collected over 200 animal poems—from classic poets like Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred Lord Tennyson to more modern poets such as Kristine O’Connell George, Jack Prelutsky, Valerie Worth and Jane Yolen.

Readers, both adults and children, will make many trips through this book, some to savor the poetry, but probably just as many to enjoy the gorgeous, full-color, National Geographic photographs adorning each page. End material includes a two-page spread about writing animal poems, and another two-page bibliography of poetry books sorted by genre. Four different indexes–title, first line, author and subject–ensure that readers will quickly find the poems they love.

The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry is a magnet that will pull even the most reluctant reader into the world of poetry.

— Carol Wilcox, Carol W’s Corner

UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings

by Douglas Florian
Beach Lane Books

Nominated by: Mary Ann Scheuer

Florian is back with paintings, poetry and prose (yes, facts!) about bees. In these fourteen poems, young readers will see life from a bee’s perspective: “All day we bees/ Just buzz and buzz/ That’s what we duzz/ And duzz and duzz.” The prose facts accompanying this poem explain why bees sound like they are buzzing: A bee’s wings move so rapidly, it makes “the air around them … vibrate.”

Each page turn reveals a new facet of a bee’s life with art made from gouache, colored pencils, and collage on paper bags. We see a bee’s body up close, and learn about the roles of each member of the hive and their work: “I’m a nectar collector./ Make wax to the max.”

How bees fit into our everyday world is shown, as is the sad modern-day reality of Colony Collapse Disorder. The back of the book has a “BEEbliography” of books and websites where young readers can find additional information about bees. There is so much to love in this fun and well-constructed book. Florian’s poetry is completely accessible to children, and the bits of information are equally well-written at a kid level.

— Anastasia Suen, Booktalking

Water Sings Blue

by Kate Coombs
Chronicle Books

Nominated by: Laura Purdie Salas

In Water Sings Blue, poet Kate Coombs invites readers to sail away, if just for a few moments, and ponder the wonders of the ocean. From the sandy beaches and tide pools to the creatures lurking in the depths, Coombs transports readers to a watery world and displays for them the intricacy of ocean flora and fauna. The poems exhibit Coombs’ knowledge of and enthusiasm for her subject matter, as well as a mastery of wordcraft.

Many of the poems contain touches of wry humor. “Seagulls” compares gulls to beagles: “And when seagulls take wing, / they become a new thing, / attaining some dignity. / But beagles are round / and remain on the ground, / pretty much dignity-free.”

The accompanying illustrations by Meilo So perfectly highlight the mysterious beauty of the book’s subject matter. So’s delicate watercolors bring to life soaring seabirds, spiny urchins, and trailing jellyfish tentacles. As the book draws to a close, the ocean herself says a haunting goodbye which will echo in the reader’s mind long after the book is closed:

“I was here,

wasss h e r e

wasssss h e r e . . .”

— Misti Tidman, Kid Lit Geek