Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Library Bag Fave: A RIVER OF WORDS by Jen Bryant and Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

It was Melissa Sweet's illustrations that I recognized first on the cover of A River of Words. She wrote and illustrated the award winning BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY, the story of Tony Sarg: a puppeteer who made the Macy's Day Thanksgiving parade what it is today. My students and I adored this book. Her unique collage illustrations incorporate photos, drawings, and whatever she feels she needs.

Then I opened the cover of A River of Words and saw this:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

I knew it from Sharon Creech's LOVE THAT DOG, a book written in verse, and that the poem was by a famous poet. But that was the extent of my knowledge. His name is William Carlos Williams, the subject of A RIVER OF WORDS by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. It won a Caldecott Honor book award in 2009.

William Carlos Williams was born in 1883. We learn that as a child, William loved to be outdoors and write. A high school teacher, Mr. Abbott, read poetry to his English class. He loved it so that he started his own poems at night. At first he tried to imitate the great poets of his time. But after a while he became frustrated that he couldn't put into words the pictures he had in his mind. The style of the famous poets was too stiff for William. He tried a new way of writing, and his free form way became his style. To make something of himself, he became a doctor. He worked hard as a doctor, specializing in pediatrics and obstetrics, but always made time to write. We learn that, "on his prescription pads, he scribbled a few lines whenever and wherever he could." His poetry was published, but he had critics who said he was too simple, his style "Modernism" was not "literary" enough. His poems are about everyday things, simple joys...rivers, grass, the taste of blueberries, the common people. Luckily, he also had colleagues that praised his work, but Williams didn't win acclaim until he was in his 60's. Williams died in March of 1963, and in May, was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems.

Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up again with THE RIGHT WORD: Roget and His Thesaurus. If you click the link, it will lead you to Donalyn Miller's review of it over at Nerdy Book Club.

Enjoy, and remember...KEEP READING!

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