Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Collective Memories

You can read them over the course of days or in hours.  You may find yourself whispering, "Oh my goodness."  You may stop at a point and softly gasp.  You may begin to cry.  You may feel a large grin begin to spread across your face.  This is the effect carefully chosen words by authors and articulately created art by illustrators has on readers.

As I hold I Remember: Poems And Pictures Of Heritage (Lee & Low Books Inc., October 22, 2019) edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins in my hands quietly turning the pages, I am emotionally invested and captivated.  It is a slim volume, but when opened, a world is released and surrounds you.  This stirring compilation of fifteen poems by fourteen authors and illustrations by sixteen artists is certain to encourage readers to reflect on their own lives.  In his short introduction, the late poet, Lee Bennett Hopkins, ends with these five words, staggered and each on their own line:


We are carried by words and illustrations to a special Mother's Day when a mother with a compassionate heart understands the value of a gift, to a conversation between boys where one clearly does not comprehend the word American and the strength found when a man looks back on his boyhood, recalling the multitude of descriptive details in his daily life with his family.  We find comfort in the connection between a visiting grandmother and her granddaughter working together on their embroidery.  Miles and days of separation are closed by a deep affection.

We learn of a sofer and his writing still impacting those who read his work fashioned with

quill and ink on parchment.

A young girl finally meets her Auntie Anne whose feats are legendary through story.  There will be more stories but now the truth will be told and respectively listened to by those present.  A poem on PEACE as an individual being stirs up contemplative musings.

A river becomes a center for remembering.  A highway becomes the means for expressing a very real fear.  A single question gives us a history of answers.  A recipe, and the meal it makes, always takes you home.

Reminiscing brings us into poignant childhood thoughts of captured specific moments.  A realistic portrait of life on a reservation speaks of truth and resilience.  A woman ends her poem with a question and we fully realize the answer.  In the final poem we step into the authentic fears of a fifteen-year-old but are bolstered, as she is, by the foundation of rock, then, now and tomorrow, that is family.

The poets (in order of appearance) Janet Wong, Kwame Alexander, Margarita Engle, Douglas Florian, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jorge Tetl Argueta, Marilyn Nelson, Nick Bruel, G. Neri, Jane Yolen, Joseph Bruchac, Carole Boston Weatherford and Guadalupe Garcia McCall have placed their souls on these pages.  Their voices, employing a variety of poetic forms, speak with clarity.  Their shared memories are bridges from their stories to our stories.

The illustrators (in order of appearance) Sean Qualls (dust jacket and book case), Simone Shin, Insoo Kim, Michele Wood, Paula Barragan, Neil Waldman, Jeanne Rorex Bridges, Sawsan Chalabi, Rafael Lopez, R. Gregory Christie, Janine Macbeth, Charlotte Riley-Webb, Julie Downing, David Kanietakeron Fadden, Daniel Minter and Juliet Menendez like the writers have placed the essence of themselves and their art on these pages.  Their techniques and mediums are a reflection of their personal expression but also complement and elevate the poems.  It's like walking through a gallery, each one ready to come to life.

In most of my posts I will feature passages from the text and a favorite illustration.  It's impossible with this title.  Each poem and each image sing a tune, separate, but also a part of a symphony, a symphony that is us.

I Remember: Poems And Pictures Of Heritage edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins is a remarkable collection of words and art.  The authors address poetry and its meaning prior to their poems.  The illustrators speak about their art beneath their pictures.  In tiny print at the bottom of a page after a poem are words readers might not know with their pronunciation and a definition.  At the close of the book, ten pages are dedicated to small biographical sketches of each author and illustrator showing childhood and adult pictures.  From this work readers will be energized to write their own poetry or make their own art with respect to their personal stories.   I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about the authors and illustrators, please follow the links embedded in their names to access their websites or websites containing more information about them.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.

UPDATE:  I believe you will enjoy this interview at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's website, Cynsations with the editor of this anthology, Louise May.   

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

1 comment:

  1. Anxiously awaiting this title with poems and illustrations lovingly gathered by the late, great Lee Bennett Hopkins!