New at Peter White Public Library: Children’s poetry

The Peter White Public Library in Marquette is shown. The library is highlighting children’s poetry and new nonfiction titles. (Journal file photo)

In his introduction to Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye’s collection Everything Comes Next, poet Edward Hirsch says this about childhood: “[it is] a sacred place, almost a country of its own . . . which knows no boundaries . . . It is a colorful flag and waves over all our heads, like a banner.”

At the start of this new year, when we all look forward like kids to the future, poetry is a way to bring us back to that sacred place, that country that Hirsch describes. It reminds us to wave a colorful flag and see the world with the eyes of children again. Peter White Public Library’s Youth Services has books of poetry that speak to the child in all of us.

“Winter Lights,” Anna Grossnickle Hines’ collection of poems celebrating light in the darkest season of the year (j811.54 HI) is a feast for the ears and eyes. The poems in the book are spare but full of wonder, from an icicle growing, “catching the stars / above my window” to a moon that “paints pictures / on the blue-white snow.” Each poem is elegantly illustrated with quilts handmade by the author. The result is a book that is breathtaking in its simple, childlike beauty.

“Firefly July,” an anthology of short poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko (j811.008 FI), builds images of the four seasons through words as carefully selected as pieces of stained glass. In the poem “A Happy Meeting” by Joyce Sidman, rain and dust meet with “soft, cinnamon kisses.” April Halprin Wayland describes sandpipers with “their needle beaks . . . / hemming the ocean.” Poets Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser reflect on a “welcome mat of moonlight / on the floor,” instructing the reader to “[w]ipe your feet / before going to bed.” Melissa Sweet’s almost folk-art illustrations complement the poems perfectly with their vibrant color and grace.

“Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie,” by Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis (j811.54 Le), is a banquet of mathematical verse. Lewis reinvents classic poems like Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and “A Noiseless Patient Spider” by Walt Whitman, spinning them into rhymes and riddles of how many pieces of pizza are left and how much did Robert Frost spend on his boxer shorts. The whimsical illustrations by Michael Slack add to the magic of this book, transforming poetry lovers into mathematicians and mathematicians into poetry lovers.

“unBeelievables,” written and illustrated by Douglas Florian (j811.54 FL), begins “Welcome, welcome to our hive! / Honeycomb home where we thrive!” Through picture and poem, Florian tells of the secret life of honey bees, from queen to drone. The words and images drip golden with honey, teaching with fact and music the important role of bees in our fragile world. This is a Bee-autiful poetry collection for the young and young at heart.

“Toasting Marshmallows” by award-winning poet Kristine O’Connell George (j811 Ge) captures the mystery and magic of camping. Tents are pitched (“[b]looming, bright orange). Deer are spied (“a silent shiver / fading into dusk“). An abandoned cabin is explored (“[t]here’s more sky than cabin“). Stars are gazed at (“feeling the earth / turning”). Artist Kate Kiesler’s paintings are pitch-perfect snapshots accompanying the down-to-earth lyricism of George’s poems.

Finally, Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye ‘s collection “Everything Comes Next: Collected & New Poems” (j811.54 NY) is filled with word photos that are firmly grounded in and take flight from that “sacred place” of childhood. Nye writes of a little girl visiting a library (“She will have a book to open / and open and open. / Her life starts here”) and of Gandhi as a child (“he might never have become / an activist for nonviolence / if the neighbor boys had not / beaten him up”). With precise and tender vision, Nye maps the landscape of childhood with words that both cut and heal.

By Martin Achatz

Adult Programming


Peter White

Public Library


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