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Are picture books with rhyming verse considered poetry?


I’ve always thought of picture books in verse as poetry. But apparently not everyone agrees. And what about picture books in which there is a rhyme, sometimes repeating, within the story?

Some of my kids’ favorite books were the Frances books by Russell Hoban. Frances is a badger, and her stories relate to some of the insecurities that young children experience. Titles about Frances include BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES, A BABY SISTER FOR FRANCES, and BEDTIME FOR FRANCES.

A common trait in the books is that, at times, Frances makes up rhymes. For my kids, a favorite Frances rhyme (BEDTIME FOR FRANCES) goes like this—

“S is for sailboat,
T is for tiger,
U is for underwear, down in the drier…”

They would read that line over and over! I’m sure the rhymes in these books played a part in their enjoyment of poetry as well as honing their reading skills. The rhymes, and the humor, make these books fun to read.

BELLA & BEAN by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, is a story about two mice with different personalities who are friends. Bella is a poet. In this book, not all of the poems that Bella writes rhyme. She writes lists of words, and then uses them to create a poem. At the end she writes a poem about the two friends. It begins—

“One blanket
holds two friends
calm and cozy
at the edge of a pond….”

To me this book is about creating a poem as much as it is about friendship. And it brings home the point to young children that all poems do not have to rhyme.

Please stop by this Wednesday for an Interview with Donna M. Bateman, author of two wonderful picture books in verse about nature!

The Frances books by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Garth Williams, HarperCollins Publishers 1960’s
Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Aileen Leijten, Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2009

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A Visit with Amy Sklansky, Children's Author and Poet


Amy Sklansky is an award winning author of children’s picture books and poetry.

Her picture book, OUT OF THIS WORLD (Alfred A. Knopf 2012), is a collection of poems and facts about space. Publishers Weekly calls it “an evocative mix of the whimsical and the scientific.” OUT OF THIS WORLD was selected as an "Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2013" by the National Science Teachers Association and the Children's Book Council, and as one of "Our Favorite Children's Books of 2012" by Smithsonian's Air & Space Magazine. It was #4 on the St. Louis Independent Bestsellers List.

Amy’s newest book, YOU ARE MY LITTLE PUMPKIN PIE, will be released from Little, Brown this fall. It is a follow-up to YOU ARE MY LITTLE CUPCAKE.

Welcome, Amy! Thank you for celebrating Poetry Month with us here on my blog.

Your picture book, OUT OF THIS WORLD: Poems and Facts About Space, was just nominated for the Utah State Beehive award. Congratulations, Amy! I enjoyed the different poetic forms and the interesting facts about space and space travel.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?
A: Space is one of our last true frontiers. I loved exploring what is known about space and learning what is still unknown. I think kids feel the same way. And there is so much to write about.

And your book makes learning about space a lot of fun! What kind of research went into working on this project?
A: My library card got some heavy use as I read both in the children’s and adult sections about any of the topics I was interested in writing about – the moon missions, what stars are, how astronauts prepare to live and work in space, etc. The NASA.gov website is a fantastic resource and one I made good use of as well. Ultimately, my editor showed the manuscript and sketches to an astronomy professor just to make sure all my scientific facts were correct. I refined what I knew with each research step.

The illustrations and placement of your words on the page add so much to this book. Did you include notes for the illustrator with your text?
A: A great illustrator knows her stuff, and Stacey Schuett is a great illustrator! There were some poems in which I had roughly laid out how I thought the text should be placed, where verses should be placed, etc. “Black Hole” is one example of this. But as far as illustrations go, that was all Stacey. I like the way she combined traditional and digital art.

Did you have any input regarding the illustrations or who the illustrator would be?
A: As is common practice, the publisher chooses the illustrator. Lucky me that Knopf chose so well. I looked at sketches and had some minor comments and occasionally rethought the placement of text on the page once I’d seen a sketch (because sometimes she had a better idea), but that’s it. I leave the art directing to the publisher and the illustrator.

You’ve written other poetry collections and rhyming picture books. When did you begin to write poetry?
A: I have a copy of a short poem I wrote back in 3rd grade, so I’ve been writing at least that long. I published my first book in 2002. It was a poetry collection called “From the Doghouse: Poems to Chew On.”

Do your poems come easy for you, or do you spend a lot of time writing a poem?
A: I probably revise each poem anywhere from 7 – 12 times before it is completely and forever finished. The same is true for prose. The thing I find most helpful is some distance, coming back to my writing a few days later and looking at it with fresh eyes.

Are there any books or authors that have influenced you as a children’s writer?
A: Some of my favorite children’s poets writing today are Joyce Sidman, Kristine O’Connell George, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Douglas Florian.

Your newest book, YOU ARE MY LITTLE PUMPKIN PIE, is a board book for toddlers. Can you tell us a little bit about this book?
A: This sweet (pun intended) book is a celebration of parents’ love for their child. I love the way Talitha Shipman illustrates a variety of parents in terms of race, setting, and sex. Everyone who loves their child should be able to see themselves and their child in this book.

Board books for toddlers are very short, and that can make them look easy to write. I know this can be deceiving. Is this a difficult genre to write for?
A: Being a parent of two wonderful children myself, I find it fairly easy to write for this genre. However, as in any poem, each word has to be carefully weighed and balanced. There are so few words in a board book, and each one is important. I also like to read board books aloud and make sure they are successful when enjoyed this way.

Do you have any other projects that are currently in the works?
A: I’m attempting my first chapter book – a whole new challenge for me. I’m also researching a nonfiction project – a story I plan to tell with poetry.

Besides writing, you also do author visits to schools. How should someone contact you about doing an author visit?
A: I love visiting schools in person or virtually via Skype or videoconference. Information about some of my typical programs, photos of me at schools, a map of schools I’ve visited, etc can be found on my website: www.amysklansky.com. Anyone can email me from there for further information.

Thank you for sharing a bit of your writing life with us here, Amy!

Readers can find more information about Amy and her books on her website.

OUT OF THIS WORLD: (illustrated by Stacey Schuett)
ISBN-10: 0375864598
ISBN-13: 978-0375864599
YOU ARE MY LITTLE PUMPKIN PIE: (illustrated by Talitha Shipman)
ISBN-10: 0316207144
ISBN-13: 978-0316207140
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Poetry Month—and Book Giveaways!

It’s April 1st and the official start of Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month was established in the United States in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.

Here on my blog during the next four weeks I’ll be posting interviews with four terrific children’s poets. Check back this Wednesday to hear from my first guest, Heidi Bee Roemer, children’s author and poet, teacher, and editor!

I’ll be sharing some favorite websites featuring children’s poetry, and links to other ways to celebrate poetry.

I’ll also be giving away copies of my picture books, NAME THAT DOG! and FROM DAWN TO DREAMS, to two lucky blog readers in a drawing at the end of April. No fooling! To be entered in the drawing just leave your comment on any of my blog posts this month. Official rules are posted on the left on my blog page.

Here are some poetry books for children that I’ve recently read and recommend—

OUT ON THE PRAIRIE by Donna M. Bateman, illustrated by Susan Swan; Charlesbridge 2012, picture book/poetry/non-fiction

OUT OF THIS WORLD, Poems and Facts About Space, by Amy E Sklansky, illustrated by Stacey Schuett; Alfred A. Knopp, 2012, picture book/poetry/non-fiction

SERENDIPITY and ME by Judith L. Roth, Viking 2013, middle grade novel in verse

AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!, a Global Gathering of Sports Poems, compiled by Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer, illustrated by Kevin Sylvester, Friesen Press 2012, middle grade anthology/poetry

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate, Harper 2012, middle grade novel in verse, 2013 Newberry Medal winner

Two other places that are giving away books during poetry month are:

To win an autographed copy of AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!, A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, on Story Patch go to Story Patch.

The Academy of American Poets: The Academy will edit and distribute 30,000 free copies of a special anthology of poetry for children ages 10 to 14, HOW TO EAT A POEM: a Smorgasbord of Tasty and Delicious Poems for Young Readers. With a foreword by U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, the anthology includes 70 poems by well-known poets such as W.S. Merwin, Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Kenneth Koch, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, and Thom Gunn. Find out more at The Academy of American Poets website.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you here during April!  Read More 
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