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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Everyday Poetry
Award-Winning Poetry for Youth
How do we identify which poetry books are the best for children and young adults? One way to begin is by looking for poetry award winners.
The NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children
One major award for poetry for children is given by the National Council of Teachers of English to a poet in the U.S. for her or his entire lifetime of writing for children ages 3–13. Established in 1977, it was given annually until 1982, then every three years, and then biennially beginning in 2008. Award criteria fall into four major categories: literary merit, including imagination, voice, persona, universality, and timelessness; the poet’s or anthologist’s aggregate work, including growth and evolution of craft; the poet’s technical and artistic development; and the work’s appeal to children. The recipients are a who’s who of poetry creators.
NCTE Poetry Award Recipients
2011 J. Patrick Lewis
2009 Lee Bennett Hopkins
2006 Nikki Grimes
2003 Mary Ann Hoberman
2000 X. J. Kennedy
1997 Eloise Greenfield
1994 Barbara Juster Esbensen
1991 Valerie Worth
1988 Arnold Adoff
1985 Lilian Moore
1982 John Ciardi
1981 Eve Merriam
1980 Myra Cohn Livingston
1979 Karla Kuskin
1978 Aileen Fisher
1977 David McCord
In addition to books from these poets, look for Another Jar of Tiny Stars, compiled by Bernice Cullinan and Deborah Wooten (2009), which features NCTE award-winners’ poems that were chosen by children as their favorites. Also included are biographical information, sketches, and quotes from the award poets.
IRA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award
Another source of quality poetry for children is an award given every three years to “up-and-coming” poets. The Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award was established in 1995 by Hopkins, along with the International Reading Association, to encourage new poets in their writing for children and young adults. To qualify for the award, these poets should have only published two books, but their work will have already been judged to be of high quality.
IRA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award Recipients
2010 Gregory Neri
2007 Joyce Lee Wong
2004 Lindsay Lee Johnson
2001 Craig Crist-Evans
1998 Kristine O’Connell George
1995 Deborah Chandra
Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children’s Poetry
Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, established in 1993, is presented annually to a living American poet or anthologist for the most outstanding new book of children’s poetry published in the previous calendar year. The award is made possible by a gift from Hopkins and The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, the University Libraries, and the Pennsylvania School Librarians’ Association. The award criteria specify that “good poetry is imaginative. It deals with emotion and has significance beyond the act of creation. It uses figurative language, yet is compact in thought and expression. Good poetry has an element of beauty and truth which appears unstable outside of the poem.” Check out these rich and varied winners.
Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Recipients
2011 The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane, by C. M. Millen
2010 Button Up, by Alice Schertle
2009 Diamond Willow, by Helen Frost
2008 Birmingham, 1963, by Carole Boston Weatherford
2007 Jazz, by Walter Dean Myers
2006 Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems, by Joyce Sidman
2005 Here in Harlem, by Walter Dean Myers
2004 The Wishing Bone and Other Poems, by Stephen Mitchell
2003 Splash! Poems of Our Watery World, by Constance Levy
2002 Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts, by Anna Grossnickle Hines
2001 Light-Gathering Poems, by Liz Rosenberg
2000 What Have You Lost?, by Naomi Shihab Nye
1999 The Other Side, by Angela Johnson
1998 The Great Frog Race, by Kristine O’Connell George
1997 Voices from the Wild, by David Bouchard
1996 Dance with Me, by Barbara Juster Esbensen
1995 Beast Feast, by Douglas Florian
1994 Spirit Walker, by Nancy Wood
1993 Sing to the Sun, by Ashley Bryan
For readers’ guides and promotional digital trailers for nearly all the LBHP Award winners and Honor Books, go to the Lee B. Hopkins Poetry AwardTeaching Toolbox blog at http://www.leebennetthopkinsaward.blogspot.com.
Claudia Lewis Award
The Claudia Lewis Award was established in 1998 in honor of the late Claudia Lewis, a distinguished children’s book expert and longtime member of the Bank Street College faculty, and is given in recognition of a single poetry title each year, from anthologies to humorous collections to verse novels and more.
The Claudia Lewis Award Recipients
2011 Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys, by Bob Raczka
2010 Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors, by Joyce Sidman
2009 The Surrender Tree, by Margarita Engle
2008 Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry, edited by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters
2007 No award given
2006 A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, edited by Paul B. Janeczko
2005 Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices, by Walter Dean Myers
2004 The Way a Door Closes, by Hope Anita Smith
2003 Little Dog and Duncan, by Kristine O’Connell George
2002 Love that Dog, by Sharon Creech; When Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart, by Vera B. Williams
2001 Mammalabilia, by Douglas Florian
2000 Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy, by Sonya Sones
1999 I, Too, Sing America; Three Centuries of African American Poetry, edited by Catherine Clinton
1998 The Invisible Ladder: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers, edited by Liz Rosenberg
As we strengthen the poetry holdings in library collections with award-winning titles, one extra step that may help patrons is to mark the circulation records of these titles with poetry awards received, which can also assist us in compiling bibliographies and recommended-reading lists.
Of course, other local and regional organizations offer poetry prizes, too, and you can initiate your own recognition of new poets and poetry books—even involving children in voting for their favorites or hosting “virtual” poet visits. Plus, let’s be sure to keep poetry on our radar when selecting “best” books for other general literary awards.
Sylvia M. Vardell is a professor of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University and the author of the Poetry for Children blog.
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