Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Poetry Books for Black History Month

The other day I posted a list of poetry books I suggest sharing with children during Black History Month...or any time of the year. Here are some more poetry books I recommend.

MY BLACK ME: A BEGINNING BOOK OF BLACK POETRY, Revised Edition
Edited by Arnold Adoff
Dutton, 1994

In his introduction, Adoff states: “It is a book of Black poetry. Poems by Black American poets of our time. Poems that are old and young and in between. Poems that tell about being Black. Poems that tell about being.”

My Black Me includes poems by the following writers: Lucille Clifton, Sam Cornish, Nikki Giovanni, Kali Grosvenor, Langston Hughes, and Ray Patterson.

MISS CRANDALL’S SCHOOL FOR YOUNG LADIES & LITTLE MISSES OF COLOR
Written by Elizabeth Alexander & Marilyn Nelson
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Wordsong, 2007


This collection of poems “using the sonnet form with innovative style” is based on historical fact. The poems tell the story of a Quaker woman named Prudence Crandall who taught young African American women in a school in Canterbury, Connecticut from March of 1833 to September of 1834. Unfortunately, white residents of the town reacted in a racist manner. The school’s well was poisoned with cow dung, a cat—with its throat slit—was tethered to the school’s front gate, the building was set on fire and its windows smashed. Finally, Prudence realized she caouldn't protect her students from the prejudice of the townspeople. The book includes an Introduction and an Authors’ Note.

SOUL LOOKS BACK IN WONDER
Illustrated by Tom Feelings
Dial, 1993


This gorgeously illustrated book contains thirteen poems—twelve of which were written specially for Soul Looks Back in Wonder. It also includes To You, a poem by Langston Hughes that was never before published. Other writers whose poems appear in this book include Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton, and Walter Dean Myers.

UNDER THE SUNDAY TREE
Poems by Eloise Greenfield
Paintings by Mr. Amos Ferguson
Harper & Row, 1988

The poetry and paintings in this book give us a glimpse of life in the Bahamas. The poems speak of the inhabitants, tourists, plants, animals, and island life. There is a spare simplicity to both Ferguson’s colorful folk-art style paintings and Greenfield’s poetry.

MEET DANITRA BROWN
Written by Nikki Grimes
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1994


Friendship is the theme of this collection of thirteen poems about two girls who are best buddies—Danitra Brown and Zuri Jackson. The poems are written in Zuir’s voice, which is infused with a childlike quality. Cooper’s illustrations capture the spirit and warmth of the two friends and their close relationship.

From You Oughta Meet Danitra Brown

You oughta meet Danitra Brown,
the most splendiferous girl in town,
I oughta know, ‘cause she’s my friend.

She’s not afraid to take a dare.
If something’s hard, she doesn’t care.
She’ll try her best no matter what

NOT A COPPER PENNY IN ME HOUSE: POEMS FROM THE CARIBBEAN
Written by Monica Gunning
Paintings by Frane Lessac
Wordsong, 1993


Poems by Jamaican-born Gunning and folk-art style paintings by Lessac give readers a flavor of island life in the Caribbean. The poems tell about roadside peddlers, washing clothes in the river, milking cows, fetching plants with “velvet leaves” for washing dishes, a tropical hurricane, a Jamaican market bus, and a picnic at the seashore.

From Grandpa Milking Cows

I’m off to the paddock,
running in the dew
with my Grandpa.

Grandpa pulling on the udders
fills his pail
with foaming milk.

FAMILIES: POEMS CELEBRATING THE AFRICAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Selected by Dorothy S. Strickland & Michael R. Strickland
Illustrated by John Ward
Wordsong, 1994


This anthology includes a fine selection of twenty-three poems by some of America’s most well-known African American children’s poets, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Grimes, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, and Eloise Greenfield.

I HAVE HEARD OF A LAND
Written by Joyce Carol Thomas
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins, 1995

This picture book about African American pioneers is written in lyrical language and reads aloud like poetry. Thomas drew upon her own family history when writing this uplifting homage to the memory of a brave and hopeful group of people.

Excerpts from the book:

I have heard of a land
Where the earth is red with promises
Where the redbud trees catch the light
And throw it in a game of sunbeams and shadow
Back and forth to the cottonwood trees…

I have heard of a land where the flapjacks
Spread out big as wagon wheels
Where the butter is the color of melted sun
And the syrup is honey
Stirred thick by a thousand honeybees


The book includes an informative Author’s Note.

BIRMINGHAM, 1963
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford
Wordsong, 2007

This book-length poem tells readers about one of the most ugly and hateful incidents in American history—the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The poem’s narrator, a fictional witness to the bombing, recalls for us the fateful event that took place on the day she turned ten years old. Illustrated with photographs, this book is the recipient of the 2008 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.

An excerpt from the book:

The day I turned ten
Someone tucked a bundle of dynamite
Under the church steps, then lit the fuse of hate.

DEAR MR. ROSENWALD
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Scholastic, 2006


This collection of poems takes us back to America of the 1920s and 1930s—and a time when a man named Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, was donating money to help finance schools for African American children. The poems tell of a community banding together to raise funds, secure land, and get white people to help in order to receive funds from Rosenwald’s foundation. The poems in this book are told in the voice of a ten-year-old girl.

Here’s an excerpt from the final poem, Dear Mr. Rosenwald:

Dear Sir,
I am ten. I like to read books.
My best subject is arithmetic.
My parents are counting on me
to learn all I can. This school
is the first new thing I ever had
to call my own. I’m going to stitch me
a dress in the sewing classroom.
One day, I’ll be a teacher like Miss Shaw.
Thank you, Mr. Rosenwald.
Yours truly,
Ovella

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