Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Non-fiction Picture Books Celebrate

art by Sarah S. Brannen

         Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  

             This is one of my amazing discoveries at the Denver Public Library summer book sale. I try hard to limit myself to one bag. They offer thousands of books, hundreds in the children's section. I weeded through many and found quite a few "wonders". 
             For our Independence Day, this book filled with poetry about all our states is perfect. It is divided into eight sections, each one a geographical grouping from a part of the United States, like The Great Lake States or The Northeast States. Within those groups lies a colorful map showing the states and page (or pages) with small blocks of basic state information, like its birth date, capital, nickname, etc. 
              The glorious part arrives then, the poems. You will recognize names of current/still writing poets, like Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Nikki Giovanni and Lee Bennett Hopkins himself, and then older well-known poets like Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, and Myra Cohn Livingston. Then there are the illustrations where Stephen Alcorn uses broad and powerful strokes of color to accompany the poems and sometimes to surround them with his impressions of grandeur. They are gorgeous, as are the poems. 
              How do choose just one, perhaps only from my birth state, South Carolina and then growing-up state, Missouri and now, Colorado? Or favorite states like Oregon when I visit the ocean.  I will start with "New England Lighthouse" by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, a region I have spent little time in, but wish I could. "It's a turret of lanterns;/a castle of lights--/a compass for ships/as they pass/through the night."  From the Great Lakes States, Gary Snyder writes "Pine Tree Tops", kin to my own mountain state of Colorado: "pine tree tops/bend snow-blue, fade/into sky, frost, starlight." In The Plains States, I connect to "Midwest Town" by Ruth de Long Peterson because that's exactly where I grew up "Farther east it wouldn't be on the map--Too small--but here it rates a dot and a name." Near enough to me in Denver to visit often, I found "Santa Fe, New Mexico" by April Halprin Wayland: "to see surprising piles of clouds,/melting, moving/mounds of white ice cream". April continues to write "Look here what I have found/out here/in this gallery."
         Lee Bennett Hopkins celebrates the collection in a lovely introduction, in which he writes: "Our nations is so exciting, so multifaceted, as are poets who hail from every walk of life--who sing of cities where we "sprawl-in, sit-tall-in," areas where "wheat whirls with joyful wind," where a "mail boat chugs to the Cranberry Islands" of Maine."
The Washington D.C. page, just beautiful for today!

          Enjoy your Independence Day wherever and however you can.


  1. Oh my word, that summer book sale sounds like heaven! I commend you on your self-restraint, I would probably struggle to only leave with one bag of books. :-)

    1. They have this sale two times a year & it is amazing, many pulled from the library, but most from donations. I just don't need more books, hence keeping to one bag! Thanks, Jane!

  2. I love library book sales, one does find some real gems like this one. If I can't give the books I receive to a charity or school, I usually donate them to the library. My branch of the NYPL has a second hand book store and all the proceeds go to the NYPL. I'm definitely going to try to find My America. It looks like a book I can use with young readers. Thanks for writing about it.

    1. Our "main" library has a used bkstore, too, Alex. I don't get there often because I live so close to my branch library, but it is full of good books, too. I hope you enjoy this book when you find it. It's full of great poems that are accessible to all. Thanks!


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