A Poetic Paean to a Great Champion of Poetry for Children – Lee Bennett Hopkins
Lee Bennett Hopkins recently passed away; but his legacy in the world of children’s literature is both lengthy and laudable.
If you have never heard or read of his children’s offerings, this is my way of asking you to….try it, you’ll like it. And, more importantly, your young reader will as well. I promise.
Poetry has been given a bad rap, even as I was growing up. Unfortunately, at times, it was relegated to the fusty and dusty realm of books that one was forced to read for school.
And, as time went on, younger readers starting out, that were formerly introduced to the rhymes of Mother Goose at mom’s knee, seemed to be, dare I say it, deprived of the wonders of “Little Bow Peep,” “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “Little Boy Blue,” and “Wee Willie Winkie” (he of the nightgown, running through the town informing residents of the time and that children should be in bed) as well as a host of other characters known to previous generations.
As a teacher, Lee knew from his own classrooms that poetry deserved a very special place in children’s learning. Poetry infused learning with something that could only be gleaned from the rhythm that poetry had to offer and the word pictures it painted. And, if offered early on, it was a door to poetry that opened for children to enjoy, relish and remember.
He never wavered from that belief. Lee championed that in books of his own and collections of poetry from other authors from whom he solicited poetry on particular subjects.
It could run the gamut from poetry based on particular works of art from the Metropolitan of Art in New York. The poems appeared side by side with poetry from poets he solicited to enhance the art for children. It was entitled World Make Way: Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to a compilation of poetry called Nasty Bugs from poets asked to write on….BUGS. And not just cute bugs; there were the homages to the boll weevil, chigger, bed bugs and fire ants.
Lee hit a home run here with this entomological poetic free-for-all for bugs!
Yup, the poetry picture book was called “Nasty Bugs” and it was a HIT! Kids love the yucky and icky, in case you’d forgotten. These were not the cuties of bugdom. No sir; they were the riff raff of entomology, such as POTATO BUGS and BEETLES!
He knew and understood that poetry in picture books, was a way into a child’s heart, every bit as much as prose. Its rhyme and resonance fed something that could last and linger, as the cadence, words and images of the poetry dealt with imaginative, playful, and even serious subjects.
Here are but a few of his books for your young readers to sample and savor:
World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum – Lee Bennett Hopkins
I Am Someone Else : Poems About Pretending by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Chris Hsu
Amazing Faces – Lee Bennett Hopkins and Chris Soenpiet
School People – Lee Bennett Hopkins and Ellen Shi
Marvelous Math : A Book of Poems – Lee Bennett Hopkins and Karen Barbour
Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love With Your Baby – Lee Bennett Hopkins and Alyssa Nassner
Amazing Places – Lee Bennett Hopkins and Chris Soenpiet et al.
Got Geography! – Lee Bennett Hopkins and Philip Stanton
Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea – Lee Bennett Hopkins and Bob and Jovan Harsman
Nasty Bugs – Lee Bennett Hopkins and Will Terry
I had the rare privilege of corresponding with Lee and reading “Nasty Bugs” on a Youtube video. He loved it.
And Lee, your legacy will live long and prosper….every bit as much as those nasty bugs do.
Lee, this is for YOU!