My Own Invention

Mary Nix, column editor

Ten Years of Excellence in Poetry for Children

Daniel Hade

Until a few years ago, outstanding poetry had to take its chances with the John Newbery Committee for it to be recognized with a national award. Not surprisingly, since the Newbery Committee must consider outstanding writing of all genres, very few books of poetry have received the Newbery Medal. The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award was established in 1992 specifically to recognize annually the most outstanding new book of poetry for young people and generally to promote the reading enjoyment of poetry for children. The award is made possible by a gift from Lee Bennett Hopkins, internationally renowned poet, anthologist, and educator. For the first six years the Hopkins Poetry Award was administered by the Children's Literature Council of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania State University College of Education and the Pennsylvania State University Libraries serve as administrators. The Hopkins Award is presented annually in April at the Children's Literature Matters Conference held on the campus of the Penn State University.

What follows is a list of the Hopkins Poetry Award winners and honor books, a brief description of each book, one poem from the book, and a copy of the book's cover.

Sing to the Rain

1993 Sing to the Sun

Poems and Pictures by Ashley Bryan

HarperCollins, 1992

Sing to the Sun, the winner of the inaugural Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, is distinguished by short, tender verse accompanied by Bryan's distinctive illustrations.


Sing to the sun
It will warm your words
Your joy will rise
Like the sun
And glow
Within you.

Sing to the moon
It will hear
And soothe your cares
Your fears will set
Like the moon
And fade
Within you.

Spirit Walker

1994 Spirit Walker

Poems by Nancy Wood
Paintings by Frank Howell

Doubleday, 1993

Nancy Wood writes deeply spiritual poetry, using images from the wilderness and native people of the Southwestern United States.


Before we came out of the lake,
  we did not know illness.
Before we came out of the lake,
  we did not know death.
Before we came out of the lake,
  we did not know evil.
We needed our emergence
  to accept them.

Beast feast

1995 Beast Feast

Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian

Harcourt, 1994

This book is marked by short, droll verse with beautifully evocative watercolour illustrations.

The Walrus

The pounding spatter
Of salty sea
Makes the walrus

Dance with me
1996 Dance with Me

Poems by Barbara Esbensen
illustrated by Megan Lloyd

HarperCollins, 1995

Esbensen beautifully captures the dance of everyday things. You'll need to go to your library to find this one; unfortunately, it is out of print.


with me
in the Springlight
with me under the sky.
your tiptoes and turn me and
whirl me and lift me
and teach me to fly!

Carry me
on your wild shoulders
catch all the petals
that spill!
Dance with me,
you dance
with the kites
Like you dance with those kites
on the hill!

1997 Voices of the Wild: An Animal Sensagoria

by David Bouchard
Paintings by Ron Parker

Chronicle Books, 1996

Bouchard's poems are told from the point of view of animals in the wild, and explore the different senses.

Look up here, northern painter.
I'm the one who soars above you,
I'm the ruler of the sky,
Royal hunter, proudly watching.

Are there others that you know of
Who from over two miles high
See the salmon in the river
As it glistens in the sun?

Can you speak of any other
Who can dive at breakneck speed
Always focused on his victim?

I can see you there below me.
I can see you crystal clear,
See the speck upon your cheek.

I have watched you down there painting
In the cold till night was on you.
I have often looked and wondered
If your motives were to harm us.
But with my keen eye I've seen
That you mean no harm against us.

Look up here, gentle painter!
I'm the one who soars above you.
Look way up and don't be frightened.
I'm the ruler of the sky,
Royal hunter, proudly watching.

The great frog race

1998 The Great Frog Race and Other Poems

by Kristine O'Connell George
Pictures by Kate Kiesler

Clarion, 1997

George's poetry reveals the magic of the ordinary and the joys of discovering that magic.


The plow carves furrows
Raked long deep lines
Straight as for times that
Stretch to the horizon
Rippling like fan spines
Of shadow and light

The other side

1999 The Other Side: Shorter Poems

by Angela Johnson

Orchard, 1998

With a strong and distinctive voice Angela Johnson tells of growing up in the small Alabama town of Shorter, which was pulled down to make a dog racetrack.


When I was young and had just begun to write
I considered myself a poet.

In my self-centered fourteen-year-old world,
poetry was immediacy
and spoke to longing, loss, hope, and absurdity.

You could not tell lies when you wrote poetry.
Poetry was sudden impact and the truth.
Poetry was odd character in sometimes
odder circumstances.

I didn't understand meter, but
I knew what I felt and
what I saw and,
because I was very young,
when I thought myself a poet
there were no barriers...

My poetry doesn't sing the song of the sonnets, but then
I sing a different kind of music--
which is what it's all about anyway.

Crack in the clouds

1999 Honor Book A Crack in the Clouds and Other Poems

by Constance Levy
illustrated by Robin Bell Corfield

McElderry, 1998

For the first time in the history of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award the selection committee chose an honor book.
Levy's poetry is marked by evocative images of the small details of everyday things.


Bare feet,
be smart
there's solar fire
baked into
each grain of sand.
too burning hot
for standing flat!

dig down:
you'll find
a hidden cache
of ocean cool
to beat the heat

cherrystone clams

What have you lost

2000 Winner What Have You Lost?

Poems selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
Photographs by Michael Nye

Greenwillow, 1999

What Have You Lost? is an anthology of 140 poems exploring the idea of loss, from small losses such as a wallet to the larger losses of parents, friends and youth.

By Naomi Shihab Nye

notices   flutter
                 from    telephone   poles
                               until    they    fade.


                       all night I imagine their feet
                          tapping up the sidewalk
                        under the blooming crepe myrtle
                          and the swoon of jasmine
                                       into the secret hedges
                                                     into the dark cool caves
                                           of the banana-palm grove
                                    and we cannot catch them
                                    or know what they are thinking
                          when they go so far from home


    please     please
            if you see them
call me    call me    call me

Rainbow hand

2000 Honor Book The Rainbow Hand: Poems about Mothers and Children

by Janet S. Wong
illustrations by Jennifer Hewitson

McElderry, 1999

Janet Wong gives us her memories of her mother and her experiences as a mother of a young son.


I walk behind Mother
through the woods
not to touch the poison oak
she points to with her stick

She sees snakes before
they move.

She finds her way
by the smell of the trees.

She stops to rest
the very moment
my shoes grow
and gives me water,
gives me shade

in her steady

An old shell

2000 Honor Book An Old Shell: Poems of the Galapagos

by Tony Johnston
pictures by Tom Pohrt

Tony Johnston visited the Galapagos Islands; these 34 poems were inspired by that visit.


The sea is our mother
See how she fills
       her blue arms
 with gifts--
       slippery bits of

as bright as
            of moon.
Hear how her voice
while she sings our

Light-gathering poems

2001 Light-Gathering Poems

Edited by Liz Rosenberg

Henry Holt, 2000

A brilliant (pun intended!) anthology that captures the many shifting patterns of light so that we can see something of ourselves.

By Liz Rosenberg

I want to live among the big, bell-like, and moving things
with purple beach pea flowers opening
and closing, day into night the beam
casting across the foam.

Summer stars and Roman candles have drowned
themselves hissing down against the black
and gold-lit sea, washing with sailors' caps
at the last thin curve of the Cape, the Light
a pulse of safety when a child
awakens, feels car headlights rake
ceiling and bed, the emptiness of space,

and crosses to the window and looks out.
then daybreak of the lighthouse swings,
goes steadily across the wall--
a blinking owl at the windowpane,
dragging the mirrored blackness out,
bringing a shining seaweed twig or flowering wave to shore

I want to live like that,
to be a great and watchful eye
that sends all its light out and takes nothing back.

Stone bench

2001 Honor Book Stone Bench in an Empty Park

Selected by Paul Janeczko
photographs by Henri Silberman

Orchard, 2000

Janeczko has exquisitely put together a collection of haiku about city life.

By Paul Janeczko

Stickball players shout
as moonlight floods their field
from curb to curb


The 2001 publishing year was another strong one for poetry for children. In February, 2002, the Pennsylvania Center for the Book announced the winners. The 2002 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award went to Anna Grossnickle Hines for Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts (Greenwillow Books). Honor Books were: Paul Janeczko (ed), A Poke in the I, with illustrations by Chris Raschka (Candlewick Press); Charles B. Smith, Short Takes: Fast Break Basketball Poetry (Dutton Books), and Linda Oatman High, A Humble Life: Plain Poems (Eerdmans Publishing). On April 5, 2002, the tenth annual Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award will be presented at the Children's Literature Matters Conference at Penn State University.


Daniel Hade is an associate professor of children's literature at the Pennsylvania State University, and an organizer of the Children's Literature Matters Conference.

Volume 6, Issue 1, The Looking Glass, 2002

Site design and content, except where noted, © The Looking Glass 2002.
"Ten Years of Excellence in Poetry for Children" © Daniel Hade, 2002.
Send general correspondence regarding The Looking Glass c/o The Editor