Mary Ann Hoberman Day!

As first ever National Children's Poet Laureate, Jack Prelutsky may seem like a hard act to follow. But, Mary Ann Hoberman has a wealth of poems and poetic picture books on her literary resume, as well as her first young adult novel, which I read and and adored, Strawberry Hill. And, in 2010 Hoberman, along with Linda Winston, selected (and contributed to) poems to The Tree of Life: A Celebration of Nature, Science and Imagination, a book that marks the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin with a range of poems that honor both nature and animals. But, more than writing and editing books of poetry, being the National Poet Laureate, for children or adults, is about getting out in the world and sparking a love of poetry and words in everyone., and Hoberman is definitely doing that. When I was planning to celebrate National Poetry Month, I emailed Ms Hoberman and asked if she had any thoughts on poetry she could share with me and my readers. This is the pearl of wisdom she passed on to me:

"Above all poetry is pleasure. I dislike it when a four-line poem of mine is in a teachers' manual and there are three pages on how to use it across the curriculum and it's analyzed to death. That's not what poetry is for. It's for joy!"

I couldn't agree more. I think, that for most children, analyzing a four line poem in school is the extent of their exposure to poetry, and not a very exuberant one. Mary Ann Hoberman's poetry exemplifies this exuberance and joy and reading it can be like eating a ripe raspberry or a delicious piece of candy. If you would like to hear Ms Hoberman reading her own poetry, in a very exuberant way, click here: Mary Ann Hoberman Reads Her Poems.

Mary Ann Hoberman's newest picture book of poetry, All Kinds of Families, sounds like a feels good homage to the blended families that make up our social structure these days, and, to a certain degree, it is, but it is so much more -

A knife and a fork and a spoon are a family
The stars and the sun and the moon are a family
The socks in the drawer
And the rocks on the shore
And the blocks on the floor
They can all be families

Bottle caps, gingersnaps, buttons or rings,
You can make families from all sorts of things!

If you can only buy one book of Mary Ann Hoberman's poems, The Llama Who Had No Pajama, a collection of 100 of her favorite poems she has written with artwork by her longtime illustrator, Betty Fraser, is the one to buy. And, at $8.00 for the paperback, it's a steal. As the blurb on the back says, "There is a poem for every mood, every interest, every day in this filled-to-the-brim collection." Here is a sample:


I'd like to be
A kangaroo
And have a pocket
Made of me.

And, if you can only buy two of Mary Ann Hoberman's poem picture books, these are the two to get - both available in paperback.

A House is a House for Me, illustrated by Betty Fraser and winner of a National Book Award when it was published in 1978, is a classic. Hoberman is brilliant at stringing together rhyming lists, and in this book she examines and imagines all the different houses one could inhabit, be you human or animal.

One of my all time, top ten favorite picture books, The Seven Silly Eaters, illustrated by the amazing double Caldecott honor winning Marla Frazee is an absolute joy to read out loud, no matter how many times. In rhyme, Hoberman tells the story of the Peters family as it grows to include seven children, each one with a unique favorite food that Mrs. Peters prides herself on making from scratch. Whether it's applesauce, pink lemonade, oatmeal, eggs or fresh bread, she makes it, all the while growing more weary and frazzled. For her birthday, the children decide to each make her their favorite food but give up half way through, throwing the ingredients in a pan and shoving it in the (warm) oven to hide it. What results from this near disaster is a life saver for Mrs Peters! Frazee's depictions of family life in the little bungalow are cozy, sweet, messy and realistic down to the pacifiers in the baby's mouths... I LOVE THIS BOOK TO BITS!!!

Ok - I just have to add on this really amazing email I received from Mary Ann herself the day this review went up - it made my day, week and year! What an amazing person!

Dear Tanya,
What a beautiful tribute - I couldn't have done better if I'd written it myself -
and you are free to print this comment! Keep writing about children's books
and bringing new readers into the fold!
Best Wishes,
Mary Ann Hoberman

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