OUT OF WONDER: Poems Celebrating Poets

BookendsLynn: Regular readers know that we are seldom speechless—but that’s exactly what I was however when I finished Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets (2017) by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth. My powers of speech have definitely returned, but the awe has remained. There is so much that I love about this book that I hardly know where to start.

In his preface, Alexander quotes poet and author Lucille Clifton: “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.” Alexander believes that by reading other poets’ work, we can find our own wonder. He, Colderley, and Wentworth have chosen 20 of their favorite poets to celebrate and introduce young readers to them and their work. Readers will be familiar with some of these poets, and some will be brand new, but each of the 20 poems written to honor them is a treasure box, a joy in itself, and a beautiful example of the celebrated poet’s work. Some of the poems are fanciful, some moving, some thoughtful. Together, they open door to a whole new world of expression. I loved all the poems, but my favorites include Marjory Wentworth’s “In Every Season,” celebrating Robert Frost, and Chris Colderley’s “No Idle Days,” celebrating William Carlos Williams.

out of wonderAnd I love the artwork as much as I love the poems. Ekua Holmes has outdone herself here, creating perfect, vibrant interpretations of every tribute. Her collage illustrations burst from the pages. This is a book to give to any classroom teacher or young reader who loves words.

Cindy: If you’re tired of me raving about Kwame Alexander’s books, you probably need to turn away from the screen now. In this recent Booklinks interview, Alexander talks about how much he enjoys collaborating on book projects, and he certainly chose well here. This collection certainly belongs in every public and school library, but buying a personal copy would be a great way to celebrate the last week of National Poetry Month. You won’t regret it. Teachers will find many uses for this book in the classroom, from introducing famous poets, poetry forms and styles to inspiring students to write their own poems in the style of their own favorite poets. You can get a further taste of this book in this NPR interview with Alexander.

Ekua Holmes won a 2016 Caldecott Honor for her debut children’s book, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movementand her illustrations are magnificent here as well. The cover artwork is from the illustration for the poem “Spin a Song,” which celebrates Rumi and exudes the joy of outdoor exploration, dance, and taking time to “listen to the songs rising up from the earth.” Each of the collages suits the poem it illustrates. Although each collage has a different palette and style, they work together to form a whole that is simply stunning. Lynn and I have been discussing our longing for framed art from many of the picture books we have read this spring, but I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite illustration from this book. In fact, it would make a fabulous traveling exhibit.

One of my all-time favorite poems is Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman. Alexander’s final lines, which celebrate Angelou, do double-duty as praise for this collection:

Shine on, honey!
Know you
are phenomenal.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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