Available TODAY! “Lullaby and Kisses Sweet”

I’ve been telling you about this for awhile, and the day has finally arrived…the very first children’s book I was selected to contribute to is on sale today!

Lullabye coverLullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby is officially out now – in stores and everywhere. This book is unlike most others out there – it is a board book for young children 0-5, yet it is also a poetry anthology comprised of 30 poems by various writers such as Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Charles Ghigna, X.J. Kennedy, David L. Harrison, Marilyn Singer, Laura Purdie Salas, and many others including…little ol’ me.

It feels weird to say that.

I have to thank the wonderful and inimitable Lee Bennett Hopkins, who came up with the concept and compiled the poems for the book. He even contributes a couple of poems, too. And Alyssa Nassner’s cute baby- and toddler-friendly illustrations are the perfect complement to the text.

So today I wanted to share a couple of things: a short interview with Lee as well as the poem I contribute to the project. Before we get to Lee’s interview, though, congratulations are in order.

logo-scbwiLast week, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) announced they had teamed up with Lee to create the SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award which, according to the SCBWI, “recognizes and encourages the publication of an excellent book of poetry or anthology for children and/or young adults” and will be awarded every three years.

(for more information about the award click HERE or click the SCBWI logo)

A lifelong supporter and cheerleader for children’s poetry, Lee has already helped establish two other awards: the annual Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, presented by Penn State University, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins/International Reading Association Promising Poet Award, presented every three years by the International Reading Association (now the International Literacy Association).

LBH BEST PHOTO
Lee Bennett Hopkins

He’s also received his fair share of awards, including the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Poetry for Children in 2009 and the SCBWI’s 1996 Golden Kite Award for his poetry collection, Been to Yesterdays. And with over 120 books under his belt, it was a matter of time before the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records named him “the most prolific anthologist of poetry for children.”

So now without any further ado…let’s get to our interview!

Lee, thank you so much for asking me to contribute a poem to this incredible project. Being a board book anthology makes this book a rather rare sort of species in the world of children’s literature; how did you come up with the concept of creating a poetry collection for very young children?

I have always maintained that poetry should become part of a child’s psyche as soon as they are born – if not before! Lullabies sung by mothers and fathers, kisses sweet given to newborns are as natural as breathing. Why not create a collection for the young that deals with topics they are becoming familiar with – Family, Food, Firsts, Play, Bedtime? A verse such as your “First Tooth” is not only right on for this age group, it is fun, filled with childlike surprise, wonderment.

Well, I’m glad you liked it enough to include it! For my readers, here is my poem from the book, along a sweet little gem from Heidi Stemple:

9781419710377_LullabyandKissesSweet_TX12
Reprinted with permission; all rights reserved. (Click to enlarge)

 

Having already edited so many anthologies before, you are intimately aware of what it takes to put a poetry collection together – but I wonder if there were any unusual steps you needed to take with this particular project? How did the creation of this book differ from others?

LULLABY AND KISSES SWEET began with a definite set of guidelines. Every poem in the collection was especially commissioned by a host of well-known poets as well as introducing new voices, giving many a chance to become published for the first time.  Each verse had to be eight lines or under, had to rhyme and had to have that “I” moment as children awaken to what is going on in their world around them. Realizing what it is to have a grandma take one’s hand, experiencing disappointment as one’s tower of blocks suddenly crash to the floor, a plea for the sound of words as a child asks to be read to again and again.

I have done about 120 collections for all ages. LULLABY… is the first, quite huge board book I’ve ever done.

Tell me about your collaborators – your editor and illustrator.

Working long and hard for several years with a wondrous editor, Tamar Brazis at Abrams, helped shape the book and its conceptual development from the very beginning to the final bound pages. A next important phase after the completion of the manuscript was that of illustration.

It was decided that Alyssa Nassner would do the book featuring anthropomorphic characters — bunnies, bears, tigers, kittens. And she pulled it all off in a most charming, child-friendly, loving way.

Following that line of thought, did you encounter any surprises – such obstacles or poetic perspectives – along the way?

I am always impressed with the hard work, the diligence, poets put into their writing. Many poems were written, edited by me, rewritten and oft time re-re-rewritten. Those who work with me know I have a definite philosophy about what I want to give to our youth. I detest ‘bathroom humor’, light verse that says nothing. Each poem in LULLABY… has been crafted to bring strong self-concept to a child.

A general question for you: What is perfect about children’s poetry these days, what is missing, and what is there too much of?

I wish there was more Poetry with a capital P. There is too much light verse that goes nowhere, straining to be silly. The sidewalk ended a long time ago and very well with the brilliance of Shel Silverstein. It will take giant steps to widen the pathway!

I wish there were more anthologies being published for all ages. There are fewer and fewer. In 2014 we saw two; in 2015 we’ll be lucky to see four – and three of them are mine. We need more diversity, more voice within the genre.

I wish editors would publish books of poetry by a single author on a variety of themes rather than on one subject. Past collections by masters such as Myra Cohn Livingston, Eve Merriam, Lilian Moore, et. al., didn’t have to have one theme. They offered a smorgasbord of work and it was all delicious fare.

I have to agree. Books by folks like Silverstein and Dorothy Aldis, who greatly influenced me, were rarely one-theme books. Are you at liberty to let readers in on any news about future projects?

Forthcoming in Fall is JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES: A BOOK OF POEMS, illustrated by Jane Manning (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press), my heartfelt tribute to libraries, librarians, storytellers and books. A stellar roster of poets are included such as X. J. Kennedy, Nikki Grimes, Jane Yolen, Alice Schertle, as well as never-before-published works.

Another major work will appear this Fall if the book stays on schedule.

Finally, I have to ask…what keeps Lee Bennett Hopkins going?

What doesn’t keep me going? I am interested in everything from idiotic politicians’ points-of views to hunting for purple clothing — from finding a good restaurant to searching for a thrilling theatrical experience.

Then there is that thing called ‘poetry’. Damn it sometimes. It envelopes me — my life, my heart. It is food, drink, manna, stuff that makes life worth living.  I live to pass the poetry…that stuff with the capital “P”.

Lullabye coverAnd we get to share in that love of poetry with you, Lee! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat.

Remember, Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby is on sale now at your favourite bookstore and online, so I do hope you’ll pick up a copy and enjoy it. For a young child’s birthday or even a baby shower – this makes a perfect gift! Thanks again to Lee for believing in me and giving me my first “big break,” and thank you to all of you who take time out of your busy days to read this blog…I appreciate your support, as well!

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48 thoughts on “Available TODAY! “Lullaby and Kisses Sweet”

  1. What a great interview! I’ve read many interviews with Lee, and it’s fun when someone asks a question or two that hasn’t been asked before. This anthology is so charming. I love all of it–the white space, the brief poems, the illustrations, the intention… I am thrilled to be in it with my messy poem. I can’t wait to get my copy and share it during some upcoming library storytimes I have scheduled:>) Thanks, Lee and Matt!

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    1. Bravo Lee, Matt & all the contributors.
      I agree with Laurie about gleaning insights in this Q/A. – thank you.
      Glad for the expected 2015 upswing in anthologies – let that turn into a recurring rollout for all years hence.
      Predicting great good board book bounce from baby wranglers for this kissable new one. How cool for THIS to be your 1st Matt! The start of many more.
      Finally, happy for the tip-off from LBH about the poems of forthcoming
      JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES from Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.

      This post is a font of delight.

      Like

  2. Robyn Campbell

    Love your interview. Congratulations on being included in this lovely anthology. I have ordered my copy. Thank you Lee and Matt.

    Like

  3. Irene Latham

    Here’s to Lee shining his gentle, brilliant light on the world and to more Poetry with a capital P! Such a sweet book — perfect baby shower or baby birthday gift! Thanks, Matt, for sharing, and yay for that first tooth!

    Like

  4. Pingback: Poetry Friday: Have you heard about “Lullaby?” | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  5. Pingback: Poetry Friday: Have you heard about “Lullaby?” | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  6. Congratulations! What a wonderful collection to be a part of! I have many of Lee Bennett Hopkins’ anthologies in my third grade classroom, and the students love them so much. Thanks for sharing with Poetry Friday!

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  7. Thanks for the interview, Matt and Lee. I hang on Lee’s every word because of his passion for poetry is so evident. The anthology looks adorable and charming. I have to get my hands on it. Thanks so much for sharing a spread. Matt, your poem is perfect with a capital “P” 🙂

    Like

  8. Heidi Mordhorst

    As a teacher of 5-year-olds I’m thrilled that Lee and all his authors are bringing to market a collection of “nursery rhymes for the new millenium.” While it’s sad to think that the classic nursery rhymes are falling into disuse, it’s a fact, and kids are coming to school without the experience of rhyme and rhythm to support their language development (unless you count being able to sing “I’m so fancy…let’s get drunk on the minibar.”) Lullaby…is a great antidote to that and I’m going to be cheering for it to be the book you take home from the hospital with your new baby!

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    1. It would, indeed, be a great gift for new parents to bring home! Although it’s sad to think of Iggy Azalea is the new Mother Goose. But it does show the importance of rhyme for kids’ learning – my 18-mo-old sings “Wheels on the Bus” as much as she sings “Uptown Funk!”

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  9. edecaria

    @Catherine: Well, to be more clear, what this interview is making me think is that we can ALL do more to encourage the creation of (or ourselves create) the kind of Poetry that LBH espouses. And as with anything, the best place to start is with oneself. When I look at the work “published” via #MMPoetry (and my own work shared on TKT), I still see a lot more “p” than “P”. That’s somewhat to be expected given the ridiculously-fast-paced nature of the event, and I personally love the variety of styles and subjects and degrees of seriousness on display, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t/shouldn’t do more to create conditions that are more ripe for the creation, reception, and reward of capital-P Poetry. And so I will try to do just that. My “Final Thoughts” in this year’s Authlete Instructions are a start: http://www.thinkkidthink.com/mmpoetry-2015/authlete-instructions/#ft

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  10. edecaria

    @Catherine: I’m not dreaming up anything new as of yet. Rather, what this interview is making me think is that we can ALL do more to encourage the creation of (or ourselves create) the kind of Poetry that LBH espouses. And as with anything, the best place to start is with oneself. When I look at the work “published” via #MMPoetry (and my own work shared on TKT), I still see a lot more “p” than “P”. That’s somewhat to be expected given the ridiculously-fast-paced nature of the event, and I personally love the variety of styles and subjects and degrees of seriousness on display, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t/shouldn’t do more to create conditions that are more ripe for the creation, reception, and reward of capital-P Poetry. And so I will try to do just that. My “Final Thoughts” in this year’s Authlete Instructions are a start: http://www.thinkkidthink.com/mmpoetry-2015/authlete-instructions/#ft

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    1. Good points, Ed! True, we do need to keep an eye on quality as much as meter and rhyme and such during this competition. I wonder if the authletes, public, or students will be able to discern (or agree on) which poems are small “p” poems and which deserve a capital!

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  11. ED: The differences between “P” and “p” is learning, honig the craft, and as Matt states ‘quality’. I hate sounding like a poetry-curmudgeon but writers of poetry must READ work by past masters. Few, in recent years, have come up to the brilliance of McCord, Livingston, Merriam, Kuskin, and Silverstein. STUDY these greats to see the wonders of words, thoughts, ideas, ideology. Write POETRY not poor-etry.

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    1. And if I may add, honing the craft requires a great deal of time and attention to details…it’s not enough to read quality work (although that is, indeed, necessary). One needs to be willing to pore over every word, every line of one’s work. I’m not saying I’m a great writer or anything, but there is a VAST difference in what I’m writing and my method of writing now versus five years ago…and I owe that to Lee and countless others who have helped guide and support me.

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      1. MATT: You are very kind, you are also very good. Your discipline shows. A great problem existing today is that it is difficult to get work published. It is both the fault of editors who don’t know the genre and houses ‘bottom line’ policies. Tenacity pays off eventually. We need more more poetry advocates than ever.

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  12. Congratulations, Matt! I think you’ve chosen the right kind of book with the right kind of editor in which to make your debut! 😉 Your poem is a charmer.

    I enjoyed the P-p discussion as well. I write a mix, but hope that I tend toward the P — but I still have a long way to go. LONG way. But it’s a good journey, no? 🙂

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  13. edecaria

    Lee, I’m not sure the extent to which it shows in my various comments or on my website (probably not very much), but for what it’s worth — I very much appreciate the strong public position you take in support of Poetry, and I am (as I’m sure Matt any Renée and many others are as well) taking your teachings to heart. Lowercase “p” poetry has always come very naturally to me; until a few years ago, it was all I had ever written, all I had ever cared to write … and all I had ever read. But because of you and others I’ve encountered in the Poetry Friday community and met personally through #MMPoetry, my eyes have been opened to a bigger, better world — the world of “P”. And now that I’ve experienced it (and it IS an experience!), I can never un-experience it, nor would I ever want to!

    So … thank you for being a source of inspiration. As a writer, and reader, I too have a long way yet to go.

    With #MMPoetry, I admit at times I must seem a willing pusher of poetic “junk food” to kids and the greater public, as much of what currently flows through the event tends toward that shallow tip of the food pyramid vs. the deeper “nutritious fare” underneath (to use your metaphor in one of the Spotlight on NCTE posts). The event has taken on a life of its own in some ways, and I have only indirect control over what gets published, but I am very conscious of the p-to-P gap and, going forward, will do what I can to advocate and celebrate the latter.

    Onward …

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    1. ED: I truly appreciate your comments. Truly! We can never stop learning, never stop trying to reach further. Myra Cohn Livingston, one of my dearest, beloved friends once told me: “There are poems I have tried to write for twenty years that have never come out right…Searching for the right form to express certain ideas takes time…Nothing that comes easily is worth as much as that which is worked at, which develops through the important process of growing, discarding, and keeping only the best.”

      And it IS only the best we should offer to eventually give to youth. They deserve the best now more than ever. Thank you for this post.

      Like

  14. Pingback: Priorities, priorities… | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  15. How is it possible that I never commented on this post, Matt? I know I’ve read it more than once, and once again just now with all the comments. I’ve gained something new with each reading. Thanks to you and Lee for your wonderful and insightful “chat,” and especially to Lee for living and breathing children’s poetry and delivering it with TLC to the rest of the world.

    Matt, I’m delighted that Lee saw in you what the rest of us have seen, that you are a hardworking and emerging force in this children’s poetry community. Congratulations to you! Your poem is darling.

    Like

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