Return to the CSK Award for Poetry Month

The Coretta Scott King Award has honored many poetry books, both for the poems themselves and for their beautiful illustrations.  Here are a few your library staff have enjoyed:

Ashley Bryan’s ABC of African American Poetry
  by Ashley Bryan
1998 Illustrator Honor Book

Ashley Bryan has selected and illustrated a wide sample of works by African American poets in this colorful book.

The selections range from short poems repeated in full to excerpts from longer works.  The style and the tone of the poems change from page to page.

Topics range from animals, such as Countee Cullen’s well-known “First Came L. E. Phant’s Letter,” to heroes such as “Harriet Tubman” by Eloise Greenfield, to imaginative topics, to everyday people.  Several are about being Black, or reflect elements of African American culture.

Not all of the poets represented are known for writing for children, but all the pieces here feature subjects or imagery that children (at least older children) will be able to understand.

Ashley Bryan states in the foreword that the book is “not so much to teach the alphabet to the very young,” and the design would confuse young children (The elephant poem mentioned above illustrates the letter D, not E, because the first two words in the accompanying poem are “Dear Noah”).

As an introduction to African American poets, the book succeeds beautifully.  Bryant’s unique painting style unifies what might otherwise seem like too miscellaneous a collection.

The selected poems are just enough to give readers a taste of several excellent writers.  For readers who find their appetites whet, notes at the end of the book explain which poems appear in full and which are fragments, and give a bibliography where readers can find more.  -Miss Sarah

The Blacker the Berry: Poems
 by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
2009 Illustrator Award Winner and Author Honor Book

There are wonderful illustrations.  The poems refer to colors which Joyce Carol Thomas uses to celebrate the many shades of black.  -Miss Ashley

Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea
Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea
by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
1994 Coretta Scott King Honor for author and illustrator 

Ms. Thomas has a collection of poems which focuses on family and heritage.  My favorite poem in the book was “Family Tree.”  -Miss Ashley
This is a poetry book filled with poems about family life filled with
love, dreams of the future and freedom.  -Mrs. Cathy

The Other Side: Shorter Poems
by Angela Johnson
1999 Coretta Scott King Honor for author

On a journey back in time, Angela Johnson recounts her thoughts about growing up in Shorter, Alabama–about the people and the landscape of childhood and adolescence.  Ms. Johnson writes with a clear voice, rich in emotion, that young and old alike will understand.  Her deceptively simple poems are focused, honest, and thoughtful.

When Ms. Johnson commits her feelings to paper, the result is poetry and an invitation for young reader to do the same. -Miss Mary

The Secret Olivia Told Me
by N. Joy, illustrated by Nancy Devard
2008 Coretta Scott King Honor for illustrator

Olivia has a BIG secret.  It’s a secret that she tells only to her best friend.  Her friend promises that she won’t say a word.  But the secret is really BIG and really Juicy.

What happens when a trusted friend slips and the secret gets out?

Can you keep a secret?  In The Secret Olivia Told Me, find out just what happens when Olivia’s friend can’t.

Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman
by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
2003 Coretta Scott King Award Author Honor
2003 Coretta Scott King Award for illustrator

This fictional biography of Bessie Coleman is filled with remembrances
of people who knew her.  Many facts are given about her yearning to
make something of herself.  She was the first Negro woman to earn her
pilot’s license by going to France to study aviation.  She purchased her
first plane with the help of Coast Tires, an African American company.
Bessie wanted to open a school for other African Americans who wanted
to learn to fly.  But she didn’t see her dreams come true as she died
in a plane accident while practicing for an air show in Florida. -Mrs. Cathy

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