A bilingual celebration of family, Family Poems for Every Day of the Week (Poemas Familiaries para cada día de la semana) is a collection of poems that reflect the multicultural life experiences of many Latino children today. The poems were written by Francisco X. Alarcón and are based on his childhood experiences and his family. Maya Christina Gonzalez beautifully illustrates these poems with vibrant colors and swirling patterns that immediately captivate the reader.
There are multiple poems for each day of the week that describe the feelings and events of that particular day. From a sleepy and grumpy Monday, to a trip to el mercado (the market) on Wednesday, followed by a day of non-stop play on Saturday… the week is always full. Each day is linked to a planet as a nod to the historical roots and rich worldwide heritage of the concept of the week while also highlighting the similarities between Spanish and English.
This collection of poems describes each day of the week as a member of a family (much like that of the author), where every one is a unique individual but fits together perfectly to create one amazing whole.
This book was published posthumously as Alarcón passed away in 2016. However, the legacy he left behind as a celebrated poet whose words have impacted the lives of many children will continue to live on through his many works. Maya Christina Gonzalez used the illustration of this story as a way to honor Alarcón and all of the work they had created together.
Inspired by Mexico’s indigenous crafts, the patterns and images of this book were designed to bring history into the present and enhance the way we see the world. The circle imagery throughout the book is Gonzalez’s way of celebrating and continuing the life of Alarcón by pulling his work back into his family. The themes of timelessness and the cyclical nature of the world drive this story and allow it to share a special message with the reader: each day will come and each day will go, but regardless of what happens every day is to be celebrated, appreciated, and loved.
Out of Wonder is by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Majory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmwa. This book celebrates and honors 20 poets by “adopting their style, extending their idea, and offering gratitude to their wisdom and inspiration”. The famous poets include Robert frost, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Emily Dickinson. It encourages poetry by highlighting its exploration of creativity and the freedom that comes with writing.
The poems are separated by three parts: 1. Got Style?, In Your Shoes, and Thank You. Got Style? celebrates the unique styles and rhythms allowed in poetry such as Nikki Giovanni using lowercase letters at the beginning of sentences. It also pays tribute to Langston Hughes with a poem that describes his parents’ musical talents helping them paying the rent.
The In Your Shoes section is about incorporating the feelings and common themes of the poets. The poem celebrating Emily Dickinson is about roses (a common theme of her poetry was flowers).
The last part, Thank You, emphasizes how these poets have positively impacted people with their words. One poem includes positive words of encouragement gained from Maya Angelou such as “Be brave” and “Know your beauty”.
The book includes biographies of all the poets at the end. The illustrations were done in collage on paper and are vibrant, colorful and vary in beautiful styles. Some feature people and various scenes, and others expand on the objects discussed in the poem. This book would be great to inform children about poetry. It exposes to them various styles and poets from different centuries with positive, inspiring messages.
Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, tells the story of Arturo Schomburg, a black man living in the Harlem Renaissance. Schomburg collected books, music, art, and other works from Africa and people of African descent to bring to light these often forgotten historical documents and figures. The book follows Arturo’s life from a young black boy in Puerto Rico, curious about the contributions his ancestors made to history, through his journey to New York, and his years of researching and collecting the artifacts of “Africa’s sons and daughters.” When his collection became too big for him to keep, he sold it to the New York Public Library, where it soon became the “cornerstone of the Division of Negro History, Literature and Prints.” Arturo Schomburg left a legacy that lives on today; his work has acted as a beacon for scholars all over the world. Through the use of poetry with titles reflecting both the different chapters of Schomburg’s life and the many black historical figures whose work he collected, as well as amazingly realistic illustrations, Schomburg beautifully captures the essence of a man who was always busy working to make sure that his people had their rightful place in history. Written for an older elementary school audience, the book also extends the prime picture book age to include these older children.
Schomburg gives readers short biographies of many black historical figures, some of whom are well-known today for their contributions to the history of our country. However, while many of these men and women have become household names, their full stories often go untold. The book attempts to bring light to some of the lesser-known aspects of their lives.
In addition to giving readers more details about many already well-known black historical figures, Schomburg also features many “whitewashed” historical figures: those who were descended from slaves or of African descent but whose ties to Africa are left out of popular history.
The book ends by returning to focus on the life and legacy of Schomburg himself. As written in the final poem of the book, “Epitaph: 1938”: “There was no field of human endeavor / that he did not till with his determined hand… / or that he did not water with a growing sense / of African heritage and awareness.”
This book is sorely needed in the world of children’s literature, because it features not only a wide range of black historical figures and those with African heritage, but also the man who made sure that these men and women had their rightful place in history. This book should be read in all schools to ensure that the youth of today get to know this incredible man, and that they can feel the pride of seeing themselves represented in history.
This 2017 book is a poem by English poet John Keats and is illustrated by Chris Raschka. Keats wrote this poem in a letter to his young sister while he was away on a visit to Scotland. It tells of a young, carefree boy that packs up his belongings and goes on an adventure from England to Scotland.
The poem has lighthearted rhymes and is illustrated by bright, colorful watercolors. The mischievous character goes and enjoys his favorite things, like writing poetry and fishing with his hands. After his adventurous experience, the young boy realizes that even in a different location, many things are the same. The poem says,
“Was as red- that lead
Was as weighty,
Was as eighty,
That a door
Was as wooden
As in England-“
I liked the playfulness of the poem and think it would be a enjoyable book to read to a group of children. It would also be useful for getting children interested in poetry.
Souls Look Back in Wonder, illustrated by Tom Feelings, is a collection of poems by various Black poets (including Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Walter Dean Myers) that all have messages of uplifting Black children and encouraging them to embrace their blackness and their culture. I was drawn to the rich, colorful illustrations that convey meaning and emotion to every poem featured in this book; I was also drawn to the powerful words targeted at Black youth who already have very little representation in children’s literature, let alone children’s poetry.
Tom Feelings art style for this book of poems emphasizes the beauty of Black children. The colors he uses are warm and vibrant and inviting to the reader (the illustrations usually take up the whole page with no gutters), and he uses all shades of brown for his people. The illustrations give meaning to the poems, and can give the reader insight into different interpretations of the words. Feelings uses shape and color to create interesting compositions and illustrations for the poems and brings life to his Black characters, who are often seen doing activities that regular youth do.
The poems that the illustrator selected to include in this collection of poems speak to the experiences and feelings that young Black children might have, and it shows them that someone understands their identity and what they might be going through. Every poem, explicitly or not, includes messages about self-love of your skin color and your heritage. The poems have been crafted and put together so that the book reads as the hopes and dreams and loves of Black children and it makes poetry relatable and in one’s reach, especially to children who may not have been exposed to poetry as a form of literature before. The poems address advanced struggles of identity and the future that speak to teenagers, but they can definitely be appreciated by younger elementary students as well. The poems are short but powerful, and an excellent introductory piece of poetry in any classroom for Black History Month.
Souls Look Back in Wonder is a great book to introduce poetry to young readers and the illustrations make the poems interesting and relatable. Especially poignant about this collection is its aim at Black youth to get them to love themselves and their blackness and to embrace where they come from. Diversity is needed in children’s literature, especially in poetry so that it is more accessible to all children, and this book does a nice job of this.
Posted by Ashanti Charles
Take a trip back in time with Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph. Using a collection of original poems, writer Roxanne Orgill tells the stories of jazz musicians like Thelonious Monk, Rex Stewart, and Maxine Sullivan who all gathered one day on 126th Street.
This story started with an idea—all the good ones do—and this idea was a spectacular one in its own right. As told in the book’s introduction, Art Kane, in 1958, decided to take a picture. But not just any picture mind you, but rather a picture containing as many American jazz musicians as possible. Not even owning a camera, Art Kane partnered with Esquire magazine to help make this photograph a good one.
Armed with the Francis Vallejo’s tantalizing artwork, Orgill tosses us lightly onto those sun-bathed sidewalks, surrounded by laughter, chatter, and smiles. We are no longer viewing the book from 2016, because we are standing next to Rex Stewart as he passes a small cornet to a little boy named Leroy. We are standing next to a group of men wondering where Duke Ellington is at the moment. We are comforting a frantic photographer who is attempting, without prevail, to get everyone’s attention.
This is a great book to remind kids that history isn’t dead. Instead history is in the poetry found between the covers of a book, or in Vallejo’s exquisite illustrations, or in the smooth jazz that they might hear in an elevator, or even in a single photograph.
Post by: Stephanie Thompson
That not only means that it’s time for the weekend, it’s also time for Free Fridays! This Free Friday is dedicated to Malathai Iyengar’s Tan to Tamarind: poems about the color brown. Tan to Tamarind explores the different shades of brown and the cultures that are often associated with people of those shades. Each poem is short and paired with a full page illustration depicting people of that culture in action. For example, the poem “Cocoa” depicts darker skinned African Americans and a young African American boy sipping on a cup of hot cocoa. The poems include light shades, such as sepia, representing Chinese culture, to dark shades like Cocoa and shades in between, like Sienna, representing Southwestern American culture.
Tan to Tamarind is a delightful way for children of color and children from various cultural backgrounds to see themselves represented in literature. Having diversity in children’s literature is crucial for children to form positive identities, and increases the joy that comes for reading books.
This book can be used in different ways. Teachers in a classroom can pair this book with lessons on cultures in different countries and within our own. It would also make a wonderful addition to children’s home and personal libraries. The poems are short, making it ideal for kids to read on their own or with their parents. It also provides a good opportunity for children to explore their own heritage and cultures.
I am so glad that I came across this book. It made me happy to see such a unique book celebrating children of color and their uniqueness.
This weekend, take the time to explore a new culture and reconnect with your own. Happy Friday!