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Claudia Lewis Award

on June 30, 2014

The Claudia Lewis Award is given by the Bank Street College Children’s Book Committee for the best poetry book of the year.  Established in 1998, this award honors the late Claudia Lewis, distinguished children’s book expert and longtime member of the Bank Street College faculty and Children’s Book Committee.

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2014: What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings by Joyce SidmanWhat the Heart Knows : Chants, Charms & Blessings

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings is a collection of poems to provide comfort, courage, and humor at difficult or daunting moments in life. It conjures forth laments, spells, invocations, chants, blessings, promises, songs, and charms. Here are pleas on how to repair a friendship, wishes to transform one’s life or to slow down time, charms to face the shame of a disapproving crowd, invocations to ask for forgiveness, to understand the mysteries of happiness, and to bravely face a dark and different world. These words help us remember or grieve; they bolster courage and guard against evil; they help us celebrate and give thanks. This elegant gift book also includes a red ribbon for readers to mark their favorite poems. 

Poet extraordinaire Joyce Sidman won the Newbery Honor Medal for Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night and continues to write poetry for children that has been called “fresh,” “inspiring,” and “accessible” to her young audience. She is intrigued by the idea of “words of power”—chants and charms that were once believed to have real influence in everyday life. Caldecott Honor-winning Pamela Zagarenski’s beautiful art captures a world of emotion and the essence of Sidman’s words.


2013: National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs that Squeak, Soar, and Roar! selected by J. Patrick LewisNational Geographic book of animal poetry : 200 poems with photographs that squeak, soar, and roar!

“Out of a windless August night/A luna moth in ghostly light
Beat softly on my window screen/Tick-tick-ticking-all silver green.
She whispered secrets in my ear–/I am but a stranger here.
The stars are scrawled across the sky/By ghostwriters, the Moon and I.
You will not see me here tonight–/I have a thousand stars to write.”

What could be better than cuddling up with your child and this book on your lap and allowing your imaginations to soar with the words and images? Lovingly selected by U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis and paired with vibrant animal photography, this collection of poems is an exuberant celebration of the animal kingdom and a beautiful introduction to this genre of literature. Designed for family sharing but targeted to ages 4-8, this dynamic, fresh, yet still classic collection of animal poems is a must-have for the family bookshelf.

Featured poets include J. Patrick Lewis, Dorothy Aldis, Emily Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, Jack Prelutsky, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and many more.

Divided into chapters that group the poems by theme for extra resonance, the collection is a mix of old and new, classics, and never-before-published. A foreword from Lewis, sets the scene for helping children appreciate this gift of language and this visual feast for the eyes. Chapters include:
Welcome to the World (birth of animal young)
Big Ones (large animals–elephants, hippos, rhinos, bears)
Little Ones (small animals–worms, insects)
Winged Ones (birds and other flying creatures) 
Water Ones (aquatic animals–fish, dolphins, crabs)
Strange Ones (curious creatures–armadillos, centipedes)
Noisy Ones (loud animals–lions, hyenas)
Quiet Ones (silent or still animals–hens, rabbits, snakes)
Last Thought (a reflection on the world we share with animals)


2012: Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Nancy CarpenterEmma dilemma : big sister poems

Jessica celebrates all the fun she has with her little sister,Emma, but also describes the ways in which Emma‘s behavior can be frustrating.





2012: The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan WolfThe watch that ends the night : voices from the Titanic

Recreates the 1912 sinking of the Titanic as observed by millionaire John Jacob Astor, a beautiful young Lebanese refugee finding first love, “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, Captain Smith, and others including the iceberg itself.







2011: Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. ReynoldsGuyku : a year of haiku for boys

A treasury of lighthearted haiku poems celebrates the experience of the outdoor world and its imagination-sparking wonders, in a volume that celebrates pastimes ranging from splashing in puddles and climbing trees to icicle sword fighting and skipping rocks.





2010: Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela ZagarenskiRed sings from treetops : a year in colors

The names of colors are woven into unrhymed poems that celebrate the seasons. 





2009: The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita EngleThe surrender tree : poems of Cuba's struggle for freedom

Cuba has fought three wars for independence, and still she is not free. This history in verse creates a lyrical portrait of Cuba.







2008: Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly DunbarHere's a little poem : a very first book of poetry

Sit back and savor a superb collection of more than sixty poems by a wide range of talented writers, from Margaret Wise Brown to Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes to A. A. Milne. Greeting the morning, enjoying the adventures of the day, cuddling up to a cozy bedtime — these are poems that highlight the moments of a toddler’s world from dawn to dusk. Carefully gathered by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters and delightfully illustrated by Polly Dunbar, HERE’S A LITTLE POEM offers a comprehensive introduction to some remarkable poets, even as it captures a very young child’s intense delight in the experiences and rituals of every new day.



2008: This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela ZagaenskiThis is just to say : poems of apology and forgiveness

When Mrs. Merz asks her sixth grade class to write poems of apology, they end up liking their poems so much that they decide to put them together into a book. Not only that, but they get the people to whom they apologized to write poems back.

In haiku, pantoums, two-part poems, snippets, and rhymes, Mrs. Merz’s class writes of crushes, overbearing parents, loving and losing pets, and more. Some poets are deeply sorry; some not at all. Some are forgiven; some are not. In each pair of poems a relationship, a connection, is revealed.



2007: no award


2006: A Kick In The Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris RaschkaA kick in the head

In this splendid and playful volume, acclaimed poetry anthologist Paul B. Janeczko and Caldecott Honor illustrator Chris Raschka present lively examples of twenty-nine poetic forms, demonstrating not only the (sometimes bendable) rules of poetry, but also the spirit that brings these forms so wonderfully to life. Featuring formal poems, some familiar and some never before published, from the likes of Eleanor Farjeon (aubade), X. J. Kennedy (elegy), Ogden Nash (couplet), Liz Rosenberg (pantoum), and William Shakespeare, the sonnet king himself, A KICK IN THE HEAD perfectly illustrates Robert Frost’s maxim that poetry without rules is like a tennis match without a net.



2005: Here in Harlem: poems in many voices by Walter Dean MyersHere in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices

Here are powerful and soulful first-person poems in the voices of the residents who make up the legendary neighborhood: basketball players, teachers, mail carriers, jazz artists, maids, veterans, nannies, students, and others. These poems capture the energy and resilience of a neighborhood and a people.






2005: Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Barry MoserHummingbird nest : a journal of poems

When a mother hummingbird builds a nest on a family’s porch, they watch and record her actions and the birth and development of her fledglings.





2004: The Way a Door Closes by Hope Anita Smith, ill. by Shane W. EvansThe Way a Door Closes

With a click, a bang, a whisper—or no noise at all. There are so many ways that a door can close, but it’s not just the closing; it’s the knowing. And thirteen-year-old CJ knows too much—about losing his father, about his family’s pain, and especially about what it means to hold things together when times are the toughest. 

In this beautifully written and powerfully moving novel in poems, Hope Anita Smith tells the story of a young man’s struggle to accept a father who has walked out on his family. Here, in CJ’s words, is a portrait of hurt and healing, and finding the strength to open the door again. 



2004: Yesterday I Had the Blues by Jeron Ashford Frame, ill. by R. Gregory ChristieYesterday I Had the Blues

Moods change from day to day, and you never know what tomorrow will bring. But one thing’s for sure: when you’ve got love around you, the blues won’t stick around long.





2003: Little Dog and Duncan by Kristine O’Connell George, ill. by June OtaniLittle Dog and Duncan

When Duncan comes to stay overnight, a little girl and her little dog are not quite sure what to make of this rather large and strange dog, but soon Little Dog and Duncan discover that even though they are very different, they have a lot in common, including eating cookies and getting into trouble, in a lively collection of poems. 




2002: Love That Dog by Sharon CreechLove that dog

A young student, who comes to love poetry through a personal understanding of what different famous poems mean to him, surprises himself by writing his own inspired poem.






2002: Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart by Vera B. WilliamsAmber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart

Essie is smart. She can read hard library books and make cocoa. Amber is brave. She isn’t afraid of the rat in the wall or of climbing up in high places. Amber and Essie are sisters and best friends. Together, they can do anything.







2001: Mammalabilia by Douglas FlorianMammalabilia : poems and paintings

A collection of twentyone humorous poems and paintings about mammals combines humor with scientific information to present a zooful of furry fun about such animals as the tiger, gorilla, coyote, ibex, and rhebok. 




2000: Stop Pretending by Sonya SonesStop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy

It happens just like that, in the blink of an eye. An older sister has a mental breakdown and has to be hospitalized. A younger sister is left behind to cope with a family torn apart by grief and friends who turn their backs on her. But worst of all is the loss of her big sister, her confidante, her best friend, who has gone someplace no one can reach.





1999: I, Too, Sing America by Catherine ClintonI, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry

From the first known African American poet, Lucy Terry, to recent poet laureate Rita Dove, I, TOO, SING AMERICA captures the enormous talent and passion of black writers. This powerful and diverse, this unique collection spans three centuries of poetry in America as poets bare their souls, speak their minds, trace their roots, and proclaim their dreams in the thirty-six poems compiled here. The voices of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, W. E. B. Dubois, and Gwendolyn Brooks, among others, create an energetic blend of tone and tempo, ardor and awe. From lamentations to celebrations, these poems reveal the ironies of black America, juxtaposing themes of resistance and reconciliation, hope and despair. Each poem is further illuminated with notes, a brief biography of the poet, and stunning visual interpretations. Clinton and Alcorn have created a stirring tribute to these great poets, as well as a remarkable volume that will move any reader.



1998: The Invisible Ladder: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers edited by Liz RosenbergThe invisible ladder : an anthology of contemporary American poems for young readers

Sitting by the barbecue
waiting for sausages and hot dogs
I see a tiny spider
a silver speck
at its mouth,
climbing the invisible ladder

–from “Dinner Together” by Diana Rivera

This anthology of poems by America’s best poets glistens too, and offers its own silvery ladder for readers to climb.

Liz Rosenberg, herself an accomplished poet, wanted to make contemporary poems for adults accessible to a broader readership. She searched for works which, in both feeling and expression, could reach from one age group to another. Then she asked the poets to write about the links between poetry and childhood, and to send photos that showed how they looked when they were young, and who they are today.

The Invisible Ladder is a gift from everyone who contributed to it: a hand extended from those whose art is crafting words to a new generation of readers and writers.

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