You know it's true. Twinkling eyes glance in your direction. A shy smile slowly blossoms on a face. A tender touch brushes your hand. Wise words lift your spirit.
These are signs of another heart holding you in affection. You may encounter them every day from family or friends or when seemingly lost and alone, a stranger will send one of them to you. I AM LOVED: a poetry collection (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, January 9, 2018) with poems written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrations by Ashley Bryan are selections declaring an eternal truth.
I wrote a poem
for you because
my little boy . . .
These eleven marvelous odes speak of love; a never ending love binding generations together. This love supplies a safety net. If there is a tumble, the beloved is caught.
Encouragement is given to those living in this love. Each day is to be honored with joy. In the voice of a fashioned fabric days of service are remembered. Those days are numbered but even in final moments soft soothing words can provide comfort.
We love in the present. We mourn those loved from our past. Songs and dances celebrate shared love. Words speak of weaving a child into the beauty of lyrical phrases.
A prized pet with singular intelligence happily plans a future. Another melody from a full heart sings of simple delights, free to those willing to see. Everyone needs to know deep in their soul, they are loved. They will always be loved.
One dating back nearly fifty years, these poems by Nikki Giovanni literally sing off the pages. It's as if we are members of an audience at an extraordinary musical event. We are fortunate in being able to attend it repeatedly; every time we open this book. Her words portray a world in which children, the child in all of us, can be secure in the knowledge of being loved. Here is a portion of one of the poems.
How can there be
When rain falls
gently on the grass
When sunshine scampers
across my toes
When corn bakes
When wheat melts
into cake . . .
Upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case the fluid lines and rainbow colors masterfully and lovingly painted by Ashley Bryan span from edge to edge, left to right. On the back stars, a crescent moon and vibrant lines frame the closing lines of the first poem. The picture on the front is an interior image for the poem Leaves. One voice is telling another of their hope; a hope of love.
The opening and closing endpapers exude warmth. The golden yellow, orange and red are patterned like striped fabric. A page turn gives readers two pages framed in white with yellow backgrounds. On the left is an opened book titled POEMS. On the right are the words
I AM LOVED.
The formal verso and title pages have yellow backgrounds containing Ashley Bryan's remarkable birds. Along the bottom of the title page are a row of vibrantly hued homes.
For each of the eleven poems there is a breathtaking illustration opposite the words with the exception of one of the poems. For Quilts, a longer series of verses, two pages frame the words, depicting the use and age of the fabric on wide borders. The human faces are a reflection of the emotions found in each poem.
One of my favorite of many pictures is for A Song of a Blackbird. Deep blues, black, and purple are prominent. Woven into these hues are yellow, orange, red and muted greens and a gray. Against a night sky a large blackbird is perched on top of a building. Behind the lower portion of its body is a rainbow holding notes. Text flows beneath these notes. The title of the poem is placed on the street. This image looks like a treasured tapestry, rich and rare.
Whether read silently or aloud I AM LOVED: a poetry collection with poems written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrations by Ashley Bryan is a title for all of us. The blend of words and illustrations are guaranteed to fill readers with a very real sense of peace. I highly recommend it for your professional and personal collections.
To learn more about Nikki Giovanni and Ashley Bryan and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites. Nikki Giovanni and Ashley Bryan are interviewed at Mile High Reading by Dylan Teut, director of the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival. Nikki Giovanni and Ashley Bryan also join Roger Sutton at The Horn Book for a chat. I know you will enjoy viewing the interior images from this book at the publisher's website.