The school where I teach is known for its diverse population of students. I feel so fortunate to hear their stories, learn about their cultures, and to see their amazing faces. As my students work together, they quickly learn that they are much more alike than different.
I'm always on the lookout for literature that inspires a sense of community among my students. I found a collection of poetry I can't wait to share with them next August.
Amazing Faces is the latest anthology by master poet Lee Bennett Hopkins. The collection of sixteen vivid poems celebrate our diversity. Together the poems and illustrations bring to life "faces that reveal the universal feelings we all share. " Chris Soentpiet's detailed illustrations not only complement the poems, but they also honor the faces depicted on the page.
An impressive group of poets including: Joseph Bruchac, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Nikki Grimes, Pat Mora, Carole Boston Weatherford, Janet S. Wong, Jane Yolen, Mary Cronin, and others contributed works for Amazing Faces.
One of my poet heroes, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, introduces the theme with a poem near and dear to my heart. The accompanying illustration shows a mother holding up her baby. Her poem says exactly what every mother thinks when she looks into the face of her child, "Amazing!" Here is an excerpt from this beautifully crafted poem.
Amazing, your face,
It shows there will be trails to follow,
porches to wave from, wonder from,
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, all rights reserved
I recently asked friend and KitLit blogger, Mary Cronin, to share the inspiration for her lovely poem "Firefighter Face."
"I enjoy shining a light on the work of firefighters in my writing; my father was a New York City firefighter for over thirty years. While he never talked about “the job” at home, we knew he loved his work and took great pride in it. “Firefighter Face” was inspired by a picture in a photography book about New York firefighting. In the photo, a firefighter pauses, grimy and exhausted; yet there’s no mistaking the expression on his face, the look of satisfaction in a job well done. I wanted to capture that amazing expression in poetic form, and I dedicate the poem to firefighters and their loved ones."
Trickles of sweat etch silvery trails
down wind-bitten cheeks coated with ash.
Curtains of vapor, with each breath he exhales,
wreathe his tired smile, his drooping mustache.
Framed by smoke-smudged wrinkles,
soot-black eyebrows cannot hide
a flash of blue eyes that twinkle
with strength and triumphant pride.
Mary E. Cronin, all rights reserved
Amazing Faces has been awarded a starred review by Publishers Weekly. You can read an interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins and Chris Soentpiet here. As a teacher and writer, I love reading the inspiration behind a poem. You can read stories behind the poems in Amazing Faces here.
Amazing Faces makes my Best Books list for teachers and poetry lovers of all ages.
Sneak Peek: I had also planned to blog about another of Lee's anthologies due to be published next spring, but it's getting late and I can hardly stay awake so I'll hold off until next week and just give a sneak peek. Dizzy Dinosaurs is a collection of silly dinosaur poems. A fun fact is several KidLit bloggers including: Laura Salas, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Douglas Florian, and I have poems in this volume. Dizzy Dinosaurs is available for pre-order on Amazon. I'll share some excerpts soon, so stay tuned!
Two Writing Teachers is hosting today's Poetry Friday.