Notable Books by North Carolina Writers:
Poetry for the Holidays
December's Notable Books feature focuses on holiday gift suggestions for poetry lovers of all ages. Jenifer Ross, of City Lights Bookstore, in Sylva, introduces our selection of books for youngsters. Jenifer keeps up with all the children's and young adult books published each year, and if you want to spend some time in the presence of a woman who loves her job, come to Sylva and ask her to show you her children's bookroom. We hope these selections give you some ideas for what to give the children in your life this holiday season.
The perfect gifts for the grown-ups on your list? Just take a look at the archive of poets and their books that we have featured on this website since last April, make a list, check it twice, and go to your local bookstores for some last-minute shopping.
Speaking of something special for the poetry-lovers on your list, let me tell you about the handsome Poetry Calendar 2006 from Alhambra Publishing. I have found this year's edition a day-by-day pleasure, and once 2005 is over, I will have a user-friendly poetry anthology to enjoy for as long as I want to keep it. This well-designed calendar contains 365 poems by 300 poets. Meant for your desktop or bedside table, it showcases work by some of the best British and American poets from the 14th to the 21st century. The writers include current and a number of past UK and US national and state poets laureate. Several of North Carolina's own poets are also represented. Summing up the calendar's appeal, editor Shafiq Naz says, "Poetry Calendar 2006 invites you to read one poem (just one!) each new day. Designed for convenience, it is indexed according to author/title, and first line. More than a calendar, Poetry Calendar 2006 is a book to keep!" To order, please go to the Alhambra web site. And encourage your local bookseller to stock this item. —K.S.B.
A Winter Garden of Poems for Children
It's wonderful to talk about children's poetry in a month other than April—National Poetry Month. That's when I usually receive inquiries about poetry for children, and then mostly from teachers. But there's a vast store of wonderful poetry for children—some serious, some laugh-out-loud funny, and not all of it in rhyme.
As a general rule, a collection is a great place to start a child's introduction to poetry. The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury, selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Meilo So, is one of my favorites. The book holds 211 poems by 137 poets—among them Carl Sandburg (who spent many years in Flat Rock), Randall Jarrell (who helped to put the creative writing program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro on the American literary map), and Carole Boston Weatherford (some of whose work appears below). A newly published collection is Poetry Speaks to Children, edited by Elise Paschen. This volume includes a CD of poems read by their authors. With 73 different poets (36 of whom are on the CD) there's something for everyone, and the CD can transform a car trip into a fun-filled poetry reading the whole family will enjoy! (If you've ever wanted to hear Mr. Sandburg read one of his poems, this is your chance.) Many of the poets in these collections have written poetry books for children. (Jack Prelutsky is a favorite of mine and has several titles available). Award-winning children's author Ed Young has a new title—Beyond the Great Mountains—which is one book-length, beautifully illustrated poem.
Poetry can be an effective teaching aid, of course. Carol Diggory Shields has a great series—"BrainJuice"—which offers instruction in American history, science, and English grammar. Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith give us the books Math Curse andScience Verse. Novels written in verse are yet another way for young people to enjoy poetry—for example, Sharon Creech's Love that Dog. Asheville writer Allan Wolf has a wonderful novel about the Lewis and Clark expedition: New Found Land. You'll find excerpts of his book below, plus work by several other poets who live in this state.
Children's poems can be a treat for everyone, not just children, so browse with or without your young ones. You'll enjoy this poetry as much in December as you will in April. —Jenifer Ross
Jenifer Ross has been the children's book specialist at City Lights Bookstore, in Sylva, since 1999.
Petambi in China, by Diane Tucker
Diane Tucker, photo by Tommy Tucker
Available directly from the author.
To order a copy, send $23 to
143 S. Ridgecrest
Rutherfordton, NC 28139
Or call or e-mail Ms. Tucker for information: 828-286-0846; firstname.lastname@example.org
Illustration from The Lion Cries
The Lion Cries
The lion cries
As I ride by
He's angry I don't stop.
I don't care,
I'm going where
I get to talk a lot
Leaves are falling sweetly
Balloons are floating by.
My bike is red
Just like my hat
And I refuse to cry.
Diane Drew Sherer Tucker's first book, Petambi's Story, was published in color and black and white in 2002. Her second book, Petambi in China, grew out of her travels in China, and all the pictures were made there. The poems developed from the pictures. She dedicated the book to her son, Joey, who rode out with her to the rice paddies to share food with peasants on the floor of a tiny cardboard hut. Ms. Tucker taught Tai Chi Ch'uan in Rutherford County for eight years, and she loves this poetic and simple meditation, an ancient sacred dance from China. For the past year she has written and hosted a radio program called "From a Mother's Heart: Poems, Prayers, and Stories." Two of her poems, "Mary's Song" and "The Lion Cries," have won awards and are included in anthologies of poetry.
Carole Boston Weatherford: A Selection
Carole Boston Weatherford, photo by Jeffery Weatherford
A plot of weeds
an old grey mule,
hot sun and sweat
on a bright Southern day.
Strong, stern papa
under a straw hat,
plowing and planting
his whole life away.
His backbone is forged
of African iron
and red Georgia clay.
This poem appears in two anthologies: In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers (Lee & Low Books, 1997)and The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury: Treasured Gifts for the Holidays (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1999). It is reproduced here with the author's permission.
(for Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Though sermons rolled off his tongue,
Martin could not find words
to tell his little brown girl
why Funtown's gates were closed to her
or that the "Colored Only" sign
on the drinking fountain didn't mean
the water was a different hue.
But in a jail cell in Birmingham,
he found words to tell the holy men
why he would not halt the marches.
He would rather fight off
police dogs and face fire hoses
than wipe his daughter's tears.
This poem is drawn from Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People, by Carole Boston Weatherford; copyright 2002. Published by Philomel Books/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. Reprinted by permission.
Where I Live
Where I live
there are no trees
to climb, but I still
reach for the stars.
My dreams take root
and my branches
lift the sky.
We take a break from kickball
when we hear the silvery chime
of the ice cream truck sounding
its song of summertime.
Coins in pockets jingle
as we hurry down the street,
mouths watering and sweat dripping
in the blazing noonday heat.
I buy some treats for us to share,
two cones, each with a scoop.
How chocolate sweetens friendship
as we chill out on the stoop.
"Where I Live" and "Chocolate Buddies" are drawn from Sidewalk Chalk, written by Carole Boston Weatherford,illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo; copyright 2001. Published by Wordsong, Boyds Mills Press. Reprinted by permission.
Excerpt from A Negro League Scrapbook:
Major League bans black and brown.
Negro leagues, a proving ground.
Monarchs, Barons, Giants, Grays,
All-black baseball's glory days.
This poem is drawn from A Negro League Scrapbook,by Carole Boston Weatherford; Copyright 2005. Published by Boyds Mills Press. Reprinted by permission.
Carole Boston Weatherford debuted her first children's book, Juneteenth Jamboree(Lee & Low Books) in 1995. Since then, she has received many literary honors, including creative writing fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council for 1995-96 and 2001-02. Her book The Sound that Jazz Makes (Walker Books, 2000) won the Carter G. Woodson Award from the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) and an NAACP Image Award nomination. Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People (Philomel Books, 2002) won the Juvenile Literature Award from AAUW-North Carolina, and was short-listed among the NCSS Notables, National Council of Teachers of English Notables, International Reading Association Teachers' Choices, and Voices of Youth Advocates Poetry Picks. Her books total twenty, including three collections of poetry for adults.
Ms. Weatherford has master's degrees in publications design from the University of Baltimore and in fine arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is visiting distinguished professor at Fayetteville State University and lives in High Point with her husband, Ronald, and their teenage son and daughter.
Because I Could Not Stop My Bike, by Karen Jo Shapiro
with illustrations by Matt Faulkner
Karen Jo Shapiro, photo by Steven Shapiro
Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing (2003); $15.95 hardcover, $6.95 paper. Poems used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
Because I Could Not Stop My Bike
with apologies to Emily Dickinson ("Because I Could Not Stop for Death")
Because I could not stop my bike
it kindly stopped for me.
Unluckily, it did not stop
until it hit a tree.
How fast we rode; at what a speed
I pedaled down the hill!
I did not know the brakes were stuck
until I took that spill.
I must admit, it was a thrill
to feel so fast and free—
I think we would be whizzing still
if we'd not hit that tree!
With apologies to Joyce Kilmer ("Trees")
I think that I will never see,
Another person just like me.
Someone who has my color hair,
And picks the kind of clothes I wear.
Someone who thinks the thoughts I think,
And drinks the drinks I like to drink.
Who walks and talks my special way,
And plays the games I choose to play.
So many kinds of folks I see,
But only I can be a ME.
Illustration from "A Messy Room"
A Messy Room
With apologies to William Blake ("A Poison Tree")
I made a mess.
I let it go.
I used more toys.
The mess did grow.
I lost some crayons.
I spilled some glue.
I pulled out books.
The clutter grew.
And every time
That I would play
I did not put
my things away.
Soon stuff covered
all the floor.
"That's what," I said,
"the floors are for."
Junk all around,
Mess on each shelf.
Til the day I could not
Karen Jo Shapiro has had a lifelong passion for writing poetry and silly parodies. A graduate of Colby College with a B.A. in English, she enjoys poking fun at the seriousness of the classic poets while honoring their enduring talents. Ms. Shapiro is also a clinical psychologist in private practice and an adjunct faculty member of the Center for Creative Leadership. She lives with her husband, Steven, daughter, Elina, and son, David in Greensboro. Karen Jo's second book of children's poetry, I Must Go Down to the Beach Again, is forthcoming from Charlesbridge Publishing.
New Found Land: Lewis & Clark's Voyage of Discovery, by Allan Wolf
Allan Wolf, photo by Jerry Gentry
Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2003, $18.99
Excerpts and cover image from NEW FOUND LAND.
Text Copyright © 2004 Allan Wolf.
Map Illustrations Copyright © 2004 Malcolm Cullen.
Jacket Illustration Copyright © 2004 Max Grafe.
Reproduced by permission of the publisher Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.
New Found Land is a verse novel narrated by fourteen different members of the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 1800s. It is fourteen voyages of discovery plaited into one. The Sacagawea Cycle [from which the following two poems are drawn] consists of eleven monologue verses that tell the story of the Shoshone girl, kidnapped at the age of eleven from her home in the Idaho mountains and removed to slavery amongst the Hidatsa Indians living in what is now North Dakota.
Around the age of 15, Sacagawea (whose name means Bird Woman) was given or sold, to a French-Canadian trader living among the Hidatsa. His name was Touissant Charboneau. Sacagawea was one of at least two of his wives. When Lewis and Clark first met Sacagawea she was about sixteen years old and six months pregnant. Her husband, Charboneau, was soon hired as an interpreter for the expedition, but it was really Sacagawea herself that Lewis and Clark most wanted. For Sacagawea spoke the Shoshone language, and it was the Shoshone people who had possessed the horses the explorers would need to cross the Rocky Mountains once they finally arrived there.
So it was that this teenage mother, set out with Lewis and Clark in the Spring of 1805 on a nearly impossible journey to the Pacific Ocean and back. Nearly five thousand miles with an infant to keep alive. The individual pieces that make up the Sacagawea Cycle were not written to "stand alone," but rather to act as details from the overall narrative tapestry of the book. - Allan Wolf
The Mandan Villages are not far
from the Hidatsa Village where I live.
If only my own people lived so close.
The Shoshone homeland where I come from
is located far to the west where the Missouri River ends
and the land of grass meets the Shining Mountains,
what the white men call The Rockies.
Among my people was a wise man named Swooping Eagle
who would tell tales of crossing those mountains
toward the place where the sun sets.
On the other side of the mountains, he said, was a great river.
He said the great river leads to an even greater lake
called the Lake of the Bad Tasting Waters.
Swooping Eagle said that this lake
marked the place where the world ended.
He said there was nothing beyond its shore.
Many of my people thought that Swooping Eagle was lying.
But I believed.
Of course I would never leave my people
of my own free will
but in my heart I knew something magical
waited on the other side of those endless mountains.
I knew, because when I was a very young girl
I looked into the sky and saw a vision.
I saw a snow-white brant flying west.
Then I leaped into the sky, and I became the bird.
And I flew over the Shining Mountains
in search of the place where the world ended.
But before I reached my destination
I was standing once again on the earth.
And I could see once again the white brant in the sky.
No matter how far up the white brant flies
it is always in my sight.
Becoming Bird Woman
My Shoshone name was Huichu,
which means Little Bird,
But the main chief in the village of my captors
has given me a new name—Sacagawea.
In Hidatsa, my name means "Bird Woman."
He does not call me this because of my childhood vision.
He calls me this because my eyes show no emotion
and my mouth never smiles nor frowns.
The line of my mouth is straight and hard
as a bird's beak, he says.
I like the name.
For the night after I became Sacagawea
a dream began to visit me in my sleep.
I began to dream of the birds.
Each time it visits, the dream is the same.
I am a snow white brant among a small motley flock
of eagles and sparrows and starlings,
of magpies and vultures and wrens.
And all of us are flying west
toward the Shining Mountains.
Toward my home.
Every night when I go to sleep
the birds bring hope in their beaks.
Allan Wolf is an educator, poet, and musician who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife and three children. He is the author of two books for teachers on how to implement performance poetry in the classroom. His most recent collection of poems for children is The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts (Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2003). The work presented here is drawn from his young-adult novel in verse, New Found Land, about the Lewis and Clark expedition. He is also the author of Immersed In Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living a Poet's Life (Asheville, NC: Lark Books) due out April, 2006. Another historical young adult novel, Zane's Trace (Candlewick Press) is due in spring, 2007.Before becoming a full-time writer he was the educational director for Poetry Alive!, a national touring company that presents theatrical poetry shows for all ages. Mr. Wolf is also a member of The Dead Poets poetry band, which transforms classic poetry into music.