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May 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Classroom Connections
In this evolving digital world, it is getting easier to have access to literature for young people from around the globe. What a great opportunity to share stories and poems created for children in countries outside the U.S. In this way, we can help grow the next generation of readers, thinkers, and leaders with a worldview that might have a more inclusive and compassionate perspective. Poetry in particular is a concise and powerful package that can cross borders and boundaries in various ways—in print, web, audio, video, and even game and gift formats.
By and large in the U.S., we’re looking for poetry in English, whether from English-speaking countries around the world or translated into English. That’s a good place to start, and it’s what the resources below focus on. Still, resources for finding children’s literature in many languages do exist. Where can we find quality poetry for young people from around the world in print and online? Let’s take a look.
Global Literature in Libraries Initiatives
Rachel Hildebrandt initiated a new blog with an exclusive focus on international literature and books in translation called the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative. Its focus is “to raise the visibility of world literature for adults and children at the local, national and international levels.” Its outreach is to translators, librarians, publishers, editors, and educators, in order to encourage crossover connections and collaboration. The blog includes helpful book lists, lists of publishers, a list of international literature journals, and links to 15 other blogs that focus on international literature.
Another excellent blog with an even more specific focus on international literature for children is Global Reading, maintained by Robin Gibson. She offers programming ideas and lists of international books for storytimes, such as the poetic picture books New Clothes for New Year’s Day (2007), by Korean author-illustrator Hyun-Joo Bae, and In the Meadow (2011), set in Japan, written by Yukiko Kato, illustrated by Komako Sakai, and translated by Yuki Kaneko.
World Kid Lit
Translator Avery Fischer Udagawa puts together a tremendous annotated list, 100 Translated Children’s Books from around the Year, to celebrate World Kid Lit Month in September on the blog World Literature for Kids. Several poetry books are featured, including Rain Won’t (2013), by Kenji Miyazawa, illustrated by Koji Yamamura, and translated from the Japanese by Arthur Binard; Sky Blue Accident / Accidente celeste (2007), by Jorge Elias Luján, illustrated by Piet Grobler, and translated from the Spanish by Elisa Amado; and Night Guard (2016), by Synne Lea, illustrated by Stian Hole, and translated from the Norwegian by John Irons.
World of Words
At the World of Words center in Arizona and on the web, “Readers are invited to immerse themselves into story worlds to gain insights about how people live, feel, and think around the world in order to develop emotional connections and empathy as well as knowledge.” Toward that aim, this site offers a searchable database of book reviews of many poetry selections, such as Salsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem (2015), by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, and translated by Elisa Amado. This site also provides “Language and Culture Kits” with annotated lists of books from countries and cultures whose primary languages are Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish.
International Children’s Digital Library
I’ve written before about the amazing International Children’s Digital Library, which aspires to “build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world.” These are the full texts of more than 4,600 books published in 59 languages. A quick search for books of poems reveals more than 600 books of poetry and nursery rhymes in English, Russian, Mongolian, Serbian, Hebrew, Spanish, Persian/Farsi, Yiddish, Finnish, Swedish, Arabic, Hungarian, Croatian, Dutch, Danish, German, French, and Polish.
Young Poets Network
For a British perspective (but open to all), check out the Young Poets Network for opportunities for young people to submit their own original poetry, including through multiple competitions, as well as “advice and guidance from the rising and established stars of the poetry scene.” The “Features” section includes reviews of new poetry books (primarily for young adults) and interviews with poets, too.
Children’s Poetry Archive
The Children’s Poetry Archive web resource is a repository of recordings of poems read by the poets themselves, primarily by British poets (many of whom have books published and distributed in the U.S., such as Allan Ahlberg, Michael Rosen, Tony Mitton, and more). Grounded in the belief that “poetry doesn’t just live in books—it lives in the sound of the words, the voice of the poet,” this site is a growing resource of poet recordings and more. The “Ask a Poet” section offers insight into the writing process, and poets share some of their favorite poems in audio “Guided Tours.” The additional links on this site are extensive and feature BBC recordings, among many other connections to poetry across the UK. You can even search by poem form and topic.
Australian Children’s Poetry
If you want to explore the world of Australian Children’s Poetry, you can do no better than this site, which features links to more than 50 Australian poets who write for young people, many of whom, like Sally Murphy, Kathryn Apel, and Steven Herrick, also publish in the U.S. In addition, this comprehensive website includes articles and reviews, competitions, interviews, and lots of links. The “Poem of the Day” feature is fresh and new every day and instantly shareable, similar to the PoetryMinute in the U.S.
International Book Awards
When it comes to seeking international children’s poetry books in print, it can be a bit more challenging. So few poetry books from other countries are translated and/or published in the U.S., compared with the output of U.S. authors and poets. Plus, the challenge of translating poetry from another language into English while maintaining both the music and the meaning of the original text is quite challenging. Still, it can be interesting to share poetry by writers outside the U.S. with the children we serve. Normally, we might look for Batchelder Award winners, but very few of those awardees are works of poetry. One notable exception is The War within These Walls (2013), written by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki, and translated by Laura Watkinson.
We can also look for books by recipients of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, given to an author from any country in the world for her or his body of work. Several writers of poetry have received this prestigious award, including Maria Teresa Andruetto (Argentina), Michio Mado (Japan), Annie M. G. Schmidt (Netherlands), Cecil Bødker (Denmark), James Krüss (Germany), and Eleanor Farjeon (UK).
Lists of International Books
There are also several helpful and searchable lists of recommended books that depict countries and cultures around the world. The Outstanding International Books List, established by the U.S. Board on Books for Young People, is published every year and focuses on books published or distributed in the U.S. that originated or were first published in a country other than the U.S. This list typically includes several books of poetry. The most recent list, for example, highlighted these poetry books: The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Ban” (2016), by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Sydney Smith; and Somos como las nubes / We Are like the Clouds (2016), by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano, and translated by Elisa Amado, and, once again, Night Guard (2016).
The International Literacy Association also creates an annual list of outstanding international books published in the U.S. for “enhancing student understanding of people and cultures throughout the world.” That list, the Notable Books for a Global Society, also regularly includes books of poetry and novels in verse, such as Garvey’s Choice, by Nikki Grimes (2016); A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day (2016), by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson; Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan (2016), written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan; and Freedom in Congo Square (2016), by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.
For guidance in locating international literature for young people, look for the Bridges to Understanding series of annotated bibliographies of international books published in the U.S., assembled by the United States Board on Books for Young People. There are currently five volumes in this series, and the latest is Reading the World’s Stories: An Annotated Bibliography of International Youth Literature (2016), edited by Annette Goldsmith, Theo Heras, and Susan Corapi. Each volume includes an exhaustive book list organized by geographic region and country as well as introductory essays, lists of publishers, and more helpful information for those wanting to bring the world to their community. Every guide includes poetry selections as well as books from other genres.
Like so many things, once you start looking for international literature and poetry in particular, you can find it in many places. For example, the popular Pinterest site is a gathering place for many visual teaching tools, including poetry resources. SoundCloud hosts audio files of all kinds of poetry by all kinds of poets all around the world. In Germany, you can purchase an annual calendar, Arche Kinder Kalender that features weekly poems for young people from around the world (in the native language and in German), along with beautiful visuals. In the Netherlands, the Poem Express is a large-scale poster competition that takes art supplies, poster paper, and poetry to groups of kids and guides them in creating and writing. There are even videos of that project in action on YouTube.
Are you looking for an app that offers full-text international poems on your tablet or cell phone? Try IF Poems (Clickworks Limited) from the UK, which features 270 classic poems and audio readings by actors Helena Bonham Carter, Bill Nighy, Tom Hiddleston, and Harry Enfield. If you’re looking to introduce students to literature from around the world, poetry is a great place to start. As the award-winning Slovene poet Boris Novak observed, “Childhood is the poetry of life. Poetry is the childhood of the world.”
Freedom in Congo Square. By Carole Boston Weatherford. Illus. by R. Gregory Christie. 2016. little bee, $17.99 (9781499801033). Gr. 1–3.
Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan. By Ashley Bryan. Illus. by the author. 2016. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, $17.99 (9781481456906). Gr. 3–5.
Garvey’s Choice. By Nikki Grimes. 2016. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781629797403). Gr. 4–6.
In the Meadow. By Yukiko Kato. Illus. by Komako Sakai. Tr. by Yuki Kaneko. 2011. Enchanted Lion, $14.95 (9781592701087). PreS–K.
New Clothes for New Year’s Day. By Hyun-Joo Bae. Illus. by the author. 2007. Kane/Miller, $15.95 (9781933605296). K–Gr. 2.
Night Guard. By Synne Lea. Illus. by Stian Hole. Tr. by John Irons. 2016. Eerdmans, $17 (9780802854582). Gr. 7–12.
A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illus. by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson. 2016. Viking, $18.99 (9780425287682). Gr. 2–5.
Rain Won’t. By Kenji Miyazawa. Illus. by Koji Yamamura. Tr. by Arthur Binard. 2013. Imajinsha, o.p. K–Gr. 3.
Salsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem. By Jorge Argueta. Illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Tr. by Elisa Amado. 2015. Groundwood/House of Anansi, $18.95 (9781554984428). Gr. 2–4.
Sky Blue Accident / Accidente celeste. By Jorge Elias Luján. Illus. by Piet Grobler. Tr. by Elisa Amado. 2007. Groundwood, o.p. K–Gr. 2.
Somos como las nubes / We Are like the Clouds. By Jorge Argueta. Illus. by Alfonso Ruano. Tr. by Elisa Amado. 2016. Groundwood, $18.95 (9781554988495). Gr. 5–9.
The War within These Walls. By Aline Sax. Illus. by Caryl Strzelecki. Tr. by Laura Watkinson. 2013. Eerdmans, $17 (9780802854285). Gr. 9–12.
The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Ban.” By Jo Ellen Bogart. Illus. by Sydney Smith. 2016. Groundwood, $18.95 (9781554987801). Gr. 2–4.
Sylvia M. Vardell, a professor of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University, is the author of the Poetry for Children blog and co-editor (with Janet Wong) of the Poetry Friday Anthology series for children, middle-schoolers, science study, holidays, and more.
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