Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentoworth, 56 pp, RL 4 illustrated by Ekua Holmes,
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth
illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Purchased for my school library with grant funds
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets is a globally diverse, vividly illustrated, superb collection of poetic tributes. Pablo Neruda, Bashō, Rumi, Chief Dan George, Judith Wright and Okot p'Bitek represent ancient and foreign language poets as well as poets from different eras, places and cultures, it is the collection of American poets, especially BIPOC poets, that makes this book a stand out. Back matter gives readers the opportunity to learn more about the poets being celebrated.
As a young reader (and even, I'm embarrassed to admit, as a college student) I never read the preface of a book. As an adult, especially if I am reading a children's book, I always read the preface and the back matter. I recognize now how the preface guides and informs - and often inspires, the back matter deepening understanding and often also inspiring me to further explore. The preface and back matter in Out of Wonder do all of this, with Alexander sharing that he grew up in a home where both his parents "loved words the way fire loves air." He goes on to write,
A poem is a small but powerful thing. It has the power to reach inside you, and to change you in ways you never imagined. There is a feeling of connection and communion - with the author and the subject - when we read a poem that articulates our deepest feelings. That connection can be a vehicle on the road to creativity and imagination. Poems can inspire us - in our classrooms and in our homes - to write our own journeys, to find our own voices.
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets is divided into three parts, each of which begins with a brief introduction. Got Style?, In Your Shoes, and Thank You, all have the goal of helping readers discover their own wonder through these poems that are muses, paying tribute to the poets by "adopting their style, extending their ideas, and offering gratitude to their wisdom through inspiration." Starting with "How to Write a Poem, celebrating Naomi Shihab Nye," Part I explores rhythm and rules, featuring poets who played with both, like Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni and e.e. cummings. Part II inspires new masterpieces by "incorporating the feelings and themes" of poets like Walter Dean Myers, Terrance Hayes and Judith Wright into new works. The poems of Part III respond to the way a "poet's words can affect us in a highly personal way" that is so powerful, it "might even feel as though the poet is speaking directly to us, as if we are in the middle of a private conversation," by sharing "how awesome we feel about the poet and the poem." Here, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sandra Cisneros, and Maya Angelou are celebrated along with William Carlos Williams, Chief Dan George, Okot p'Bitek and Rumi.
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets is a stellar way to introduce young readers - or anyone - to the joys of poetry while also providing a foundation of magnificent poets to explore further.