written by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
The poems about twenty-three different animals (some common and some very unusual) are told using free verse--not a typical choice in collections for children these days (at least not when it's the sole type of verse). And these poems are spectacular in their use of imagery and metaphor. One of the standout solo collections of the year.
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village
written by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd and Trina Schart Hyman
This book is distinctive, with its echoes of Canterbury Tales, a bit of Shakespeare, and Catherine Called Birdy all rolled into one. Besides being rich in history, language, and voice, it is understandable and accessible to middle grade kids. Plus, it lends itself to oral reading and performance.
Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
edited by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
A true delight. There is a real freshness to this volume in that many of the poems include in it won't be found in other anthologies. The selected poems speak to the exuberance of childhood and the simple, everyday things that little children often think about.
Poems in Black and White
written and illustrated by Kate Miller
Front Street/Boyds Mills Press
The premise behind Kate Miller's collection of poems and art is simple: all are about objects that are black and white (cows, a comet in the night sky, etc.). The poems range from funny to melancholy, and are all marked by a keen observation of life. Each poem reads as if the poet froze a moment and recorded it with great clarity and insight in the best possible words.
This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness
written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Joyce Sidman has imagined a teacher, Mrs. Merz, and a classroom full of sixth graders from different backgrounds, all of whom write poems of apology to someone or some thing they've wronged; in the second half, forgiveness or explanation is returned to the students. The individual poems in the book are excellent, but cumulatively this book is a killer, in the best possible sense. It moves on as a finalist because of its emotional impact and poetic virtuosity.
Twist: Yoga Poems
written by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Twist gets high marks for innovation and freshness and for the insights it provides into yoga, which is a new topic for a poetry collections. The poems are evocative and really speak to both the physical and Zen nature of the yoga poses included.
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath
written by Stephanie Hemphill
Random House Children's Books
Hemphill's collection of poems about Sylvia Plath convey emotion through imagery. The use of period verse attributed to a variety of people who knew Plath in order to convey both the facts and emotional content of her life and work is extraordinary.