Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf we are featuring recent and coming soon books of poetry! It’s poetry month so find some verses! In Behold our Magical Garden Allan Wolf brings to life the fun of gardening through verse, supported by the illustrations of Daniel Duncan! Check it out along with the other titles below!

Behold our Magical Garden
Written by Allan Wolf and Illustrated by Daniel Duncan
Published by Candlewick
Available Now!

First & Last: The Changing Season
Written by Leda Schubert and Illustrated by Clover Robin
Published by Candlewick
Available Now!

Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play Among Figures of Speech
Written by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek, Illustrated by Richard Jones
Published by Candlewick
Available Now!

Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku
Written by Sally M. Walker and Illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Published by Candlewick
Available Today!

Take Off Your Brave: The World Through the Eyes of a Preschool Poet
Written by Nadim Shamma-Sourgen and Illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
Published by Candlewick
Available Now!

Welcome to Your World
Written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Illustrated by Jamie Kim
Published by Candlewick
Available Now!

Two of a Kind: Fiction in Verse

With National Poetry Month coming to an end, here are two new novels in verse featuring young teens navigating difficult situations:


Ebb & Flow – Heather Smith
Kids Can Press
April, 2018

Jett has not had a great year – after his father goes to jail for his involvement in a drunk driving accident, he and his mother move away for a “fresh start” that doesn’t go the way either of them wanted. Now, Jett is back on the Eastern coast to spend the summer with his Grandma Jo, who speaks in puns and tells him stories about herself at his age, a young Joanna. Slowly, Jett tells his own story, and struggles with wanting things to go back to how they were while also hoping the summer will help him move on from the mistakes of the past year.

As Grandma Jo says:
“…life is like the tides.
In, out.
Back, forth.
Push, pull.
High, low.
You just have to go with the flow, you know?” (p. 177)

Told in verse from Jett’s perspective, Ebb & Flow mimics the tides it refers to – swelling with emotion, pulling back, and surging again as Jett reveals his truths and secrets.



Knockout – K. A. Holt
Chronicle Books
March, 2018

Levi was born prematurely, and as a result he’s smaller than most of his classmates. And while sometimes he needs an inhaler or gets tired easily, he’s still mighty, and wants to prove he’s not as weak as his mom and brother think. When his dad offers to pay for a sport – any sport – he chooses boxing. That will show everyone how strong he is, right?

Shape poetry and Levi’s quick and punchy voice give this novel in verse plenty of heart. Readers will cheer for Levi as he makes his way through seventh grade, trying to avoid drama, keep his friendship with Tam, and impress everyone with his boxing.

2018 Picture Book Poetry

April is National Poetry Month – celebrate with us by checking out new collections and illustrated poems. You can find these titles, novels in verse for older readers, and other lyrical picture books for children here at Butler Children’s Literature Center!


Black Girl Magic (Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press, January 2018)
Written by Mahogany Browne
Illustrated by Jess X. Snow

With a dedication stating “This book is for you,” this spirited poem of strength and finding beauty in yourself despite what the world expects of you lifts up black women, acknowledging their accomplishments and struggles, and gives young black girls an anthem of support. The text is accompanied by striking black, white, and red illustrations that amplify the empowering message of the poem.


In the Past (Candlewick Press, March 2018)
inthepastWritten by David Elliott
Illustrated by Matthew Trueman

This collection of poems about ancient creatures ranges from the humble Trilobite to the mighty Quetzacoatlus and proves that anything can be poetic. Perfect for dinosaur fans of any age, In the Past includes a geologic timeline and notes for each ancient creature along with realistic mixed media images. The poetry is light-hearted and informative and plays on the illustrations on each page.


martinrisingMartin Rising: Requiem for a King (Scholastic Press, January 2018)
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

In this collection of “docu-poems,” author Andrea Davis Pinkney presents the final months of Dr. King’s life. With a musicality of language and along with Brian Pinkney’s illuminating and spiritual paintings, each poem carries a different emotional tone and honors multiple facets of King’s life – his work, his family, and his ministry. This selection works on its own as a memorial of Dr. King’s life, but would also be a powerful read aloud in a classroom or theater setting, or as a part of a larger program for students at any age.


The Horse’s Haiku (Candlewick Press, March 2018)horseshaiku
Written by Michael J. Rosen
Illustrated by Stan Fellows

This collection of haiku about horses is organized into three sections: In the Field, At the Barn, and Under Saddle. Watercolor illustrations on each page allow the reader’s eye to graze while the mind contemplates the sparse verse. A note on haiku concludes the collection and teaches the reader how to enjoy haiku in everyday life. The Horse’s Haiku would be suitable for a read aloud for younger children, or as a read along as part of a larger poetry unit for older elementary students.


withmyhandsWith My Hands: Poems About Making Things (HMH/Clarion Books, March 2018)
Written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Illustrated by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

This collection celebrates the “joy of making” with over 20 poems about different creative activities, each written in unique styles. The illustrations are also varied, ranging from crayon and colored pencil sketches to mixed media collages and paintings. With My Hands would pair well with an arts and crafts session, or as inspiration for creative pursuits of all types.


Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up (Candlewick Press, February 2018)earthverse
Written by Sally M. Walker
Illustrated by William Grill

Geographical concepts and natural events like minerals, fossils, earthquakes, and volcanoes are explored in this collection of haiku, accompanied by impressionistic and muted colored pencil illustrations. Each concept is explained in further detail at the end of the book, and a suggested reading list is also included, making this a perfect poetic tie-in or an added “layer” of a geology curriculum.



Did You Hear What I Heard? Poems About School (Penguin Random House/Dial Books, February 2018)
Written by Kay Winters
Illustrated by Patrice Barton

Over 30 poems fill this colorful collection – all about bus rides, fire drills, recess, field trips, tests, and teachers. Stylistically, the poems range from structured stanzas to free verse to singsong rhymes. Bright and playful illustrations make this collection suitable for younger students and perfect for classroom read-alouds or as a starting point for students to write their own school-themed poems.

God got a dog

godgotadogGod got a dog

by Cynthia Rylant, illlustrated by Marla Frazee

Beach Lane Books, 2013

Cynthia Rylant is a visionary, the sort of author who seems compelled to challenge literary constructs, and herself, ever in pursuit of some deeper truth that she needs to express. At least she has always seemed like a visionary to me, judging by her extraordinarily varied, generally innovative and uniformly personal body of work. Whether it is the Newbery-winning Missing May, with its put-your-head-on-the-desk heartbreak, the bold sweetness of her self-illustrated picture books like Cat Heaven and Dog Heaven, or the inspired, uncommon poetry of Boris or Something Permanent, her work transcends the expected in order to achieve the basic. In 2003 she published God Went to Beauty School, a collection of page-long poetic essays, each about God undertaking some commonplace activity, from opening His own nail salon to cooking spaghetti. These episodes, in their essential combination of the mundane and the sublime, express a rainbow of grace. In this year’s God got a dog a number of these poems is recollected and illustrated by Caldecott-honor illustrator Marla Frazee, who brings her own generous accessibility to the project. Frazee adds to the flavor of the book. Hand-lettering contributes a sense of innocence. Light permeates each tableau. But most striking is her casting of God in each episode. Rylant’s work already used both female and male pronouns to refer to God, but Frazee takes the plurality a step further, diversifying the personifications of God as much as possible: old and young, big and small, country and city, race after race. None of these updates represents a huge departure from the tone and intention of the original work. This new books, like its predecessor, is a soft, welcoming meditation on the sanctity of our daily lives and the reflection of the divine in simple things (even if those reflections are upside-down). But there is whimsy in this new package, a luminous, bubbly sort of warmth that unifies the different experiences and personifications, softening the edges and opening the doors. Rylant’s God is us, and Frazee’s us is God, and there you have it.

Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things

“Emily Dickinson is the perfect thing to hand to a 16-year old girl,” advised fellow blogger lynchlibrarian recently. What is it about Emily? Indeed, I was 16 when I purchased my paperback copy of her complete works (at the local Borders bookstore, my idea of the cool hangout spot), and I vividly remember discussing “Success is counted sweetest” in my high school’s U.S. Literature class. Certainly I considered her words earlier and later in life, though not by much: an eager seventh grade teacher chalked “I never saw a moor” on the board for the daily quote; in my second year of college, fellow English majors and I spent the better part of a class dissecting the differences between her 1859 and 1861 versions of “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers” (the power — of a dash!).

So what is it about Emily that resonates during young adulthood? While increasingly introspective teens may be intrigued by her famously reclusive habits, it’s her words that truly inspire. At a time when teenagers feel pulled between their past and future selves, her voice simultaneously offers innocence and wisdom. As they encounter the terribly great problems of the world and personal decisions to make, her subject matter rings with the impossible brightness and darkness of life’s great questions. Through succinct, tender verses, Emily provides young people with a “nugget of pure truth” to grasp in their hands and hearts. (My Virginia Woolf obsession came later in life.)

  Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson   Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things

If young people miss out on enthusiastic teachers reading Emily’s poetry aloud, I’m happy to know they may also discover her in the pages of fiction. Jacqueline Woodson’s beloved Feathers (Putnam, 2007) perfectly pairs “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” with a story that examines the power of friendship over divisions and discrimination during the 1970s, a fragile, precariously hopeful time in our nation’s history. What a perfect story for a 12-year-old.

For older readers, Kathryn Burak’s novel Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things (Roaring Book Press, 2012) explores Emily’s darker side. After experiencing personal tragedy, Claire and her father attempt to start fresh by moving to Amherst, Massachusetts, the home of Emily Dickinson. Claire is a poet herself  and finds herself drawn to Emily’s words, rich with poignant examinations of death, and to Emily’s house, now of course a museum where Emily’s personal belongings are artfully arranged for tourists to view. As if in a creative trance, she breaks in, night after night, to write while wearing Emily’s white dress — until the day the college-aged student teacher Tate discovers her. Instantly linked by this strangely intimate crime, they run, stealing the dress in the process. Burak’s poetry is the star of this novel, both in the actual verses Claire writes — the portals by which she gradually shares the tragic details of her past — and in the crisp, shimmering prose of Claire’s narration:

The smell of snow on the winter air fades. I take a deep breath. I smell paper. Here I have the cool, clean feeling of paper, too.

I am so glad to get away. To be in Emily Dickinson’s house.

With a frigate like this book, the reader will certainly agree.

Make Magic! Do Good!

make magic

Make Magic! Do Good!

by Dallas Clayton

Candlewick, 2012

We who work at the Butler Center have the privilege of opening up new packages of books nearly every day, sometimes fresh from the press. Books get stacked, fiction and non-fiction become intermingled, and it is easy for a wonderful book to get lost amidst the chaos. But then each book is picked up and entered into our system. I always look at each book as a new experience, a wonderful possibility for my next read. But then I move along because, well…it’s my job to.

Yet, sometimes the reader inside gets the best of me, and I find myself lost in a book. It is a rare occasion, because I am a very diligent worker, but sometimes a book grabs me so tightly that I have no chance of becoming free until I turn the final page. This recently happened to me here in the Butler Center with Dallas Clayton’s 2012 book of poetry titled Make Magic! Do Good!

Sometimes quiet, sometimes loud, sometimes joyful, sometimes gently sad, this book respects the child reader and understands that he or she experiences profound, deep feelings just as much as grownups. There are forty-nine poems in the collection, all illustrated in a simple, sketch-like style with vibrant colors and dynamic expression. About the artistic medium, the front matter states, “The illustrations were done in two parts positive vibes and three parts watercolor rainbow sprinkles.” This captures the whimsical, creative, playful spirit of the poetry. The silly poems, such as “Amanda the Panda” and Xavier Xing Xu” wholly encapsulate the spirited, snappy mind of a child. Clayton’s humorous illustration note does not demonstrate the incredible emotional depth several poems communicate. One of my favorites is titled “Slumber,” and it’s only four, simple lines:

You won’t know all the answers

You won’t get everything right

But once you learn you don’t have to know ‘em

You’ll sleep the best at night.

The illustration accompanying this poem is a big, pink animal, fast asleep in a bed covered in a blue and orange starred comforter, and the vast white space comforts the eye. I opened this page, experienced both text and image, and I had to experience it again. As a person who struggles with perfectionism and anxiety, this poem is the perfect mantra for peace. What a lesson to learn, and absolutely beautiful that Clayton is telling it to children.

It doesn’t stop there. Clayton’s honest poems and imaginative illustrations include topics as varied as enemies, decision-making, love, sharing, friendship, money, and the potential end of the world, and he tackles them with vibrant energy, poignant honesty, and joy. And there are some pretty darn silly ones along the way.

I haven’t been stopped like this by a book here at the Butler Center in a while, but Make Magic! Do Good! certainly shouted my name that day and echoed in my heart and mind for the days and weeks to come. In a world that we all know is filled with bad stuff—violence, sadness, sickness—it is lovely to find a book filled with message of hope, love, strength, silliness, honesty, warmth, and peace, peace, peace.

Please watch this animation based on the book, and listen to the profound poem that closes the work, the title poem of the collection, Make Magic! Do Good!