The 2011 Poetry Nerdies Go to…

Oh, frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Join us in celebrating the 2011 Nerdy Book Club Award Poetry winners!

Poetry invites us to wonder in small things and dance in words. Poets observe and draw out the quiet, hidden, and overlooked magic in our world—a lonely cat’s dignity, our special bond with books, or the experience of growing down. Every 2011 Nerdy winner is a jewel worthy of repeated reading and sharing with children. I have included one poem from each book to tempt you!

Congratulations to the Nerdy winners and thanks for the wonderful books.










I Am the Book

poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illustrations by Yayo

Holiday House

ISBN-13: 978-0823421190

Author’s website


by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Buried in blankets
Book in my bed
Snuggled in story
By heart
In my head
I wallow in words
Chapter One
Till The End

Closing the cover
I sigh—

Good-bye, friend.

Lee Bennett Hopkins, a lion in the children’s poetry world, assembles thirteen poems by revered poets like Naomi Shihab Nye and Kristine O’Connell George in this playful anthology that captures what we love about books and reading.

“I want to buy a copy for all my book-loving friends.”—John Schumacher










Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word

Bob Raczka; illustrations by Nancy Doniger

Roaring Brook Press

ISBN-13: 978-1596435414

Author’s website

Bob Raczka accomplishes the impossible with this work. He creates unique, engaging poetry that poetry-phobic kids enjoy and want to imitate. Using a single word as the boundary and inspiration for each poem, Raczka mixes and combines the letters into new words. Letters cascade from their original placement on one side of the page–inviting readers to discover the poem. The complete poem appears in standard form on the reverse page.

“Doniger’s spare illustrations add quirky appeal without distracting from the inventive formations of type. More than just clever gimmicks, the poems leave room for moving lines with a depth that invites imaginative wandering: ‘A / silent / lion / tells / an ancient / tale,’ reads ‘Constellation.’ Sure to have wide classroom appeal.” —Starred review, Booklist









 BookSpeak!: Poems About Books

Laura Purdie Salas; illustrations by Josée Bisaillon

Clarion Books

ISBN: 978-0547223001

Author’s website

Calling All Readers

I’ll tell you a story,
I’ll spin you a rhyme.
I’ll spill some ideas –
and we’ll travel through time.

Put down the controller.
Switch off the TV.
Abandon the mouse and
just hang out with me.

I promise adventure.
Come on, take a look!
On a day like today,
there’s no friend like a book.

Can we declare an official book for the Nerdy Book Club, please? If we did, it would be BookSpeak! a delightful and smart poetry collection reveling in all things bookish from readers and writers to literary elements. BookSpeak! was the perfect book to share with my students during National Novel Writing Month as a source of inspiration and celebration.

Read Mary Lee Hahn’s savvy review of BookSpeak! at A Year of Reading.










Every Thing On It

Shel Silverstein

HarperCollins; First Edition

ISBN-13: 978-0061998164

Author’s website


Years From Now

Although I cannot see your face
As you flip these poems awhile,
Somewhere from some far-off place
I hear you laughing-and I smile.

I hope in “some far-off place”, Shel Silverstein hears a new generation of readers and his lifelong fans laugh while enjoying his whimsy, word play, and warped sense of humor in Every Thing On It, this posthumous collection of Silverstein’s poetry and drawings. Silverstein’s family read and sorted through his unpublished poems for a year in order to select the work for this collection.

“My parents purchased Where the Sidewalk Ends for me in second grade. I still have my copy, with my name lettered inside the front. The book is falling apart; it has been read and reread so many times. It is in my classroom library now, so my students can see what it looks like when a book is loved. I will be forever grateful for a new volume in my Silverstein collection, made all the more special because it seemed impossible.”—Katherine Sokolowski











Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku

Lee Wardlaw; illustrations by Eugene Yelchin

Henry Holt and Co.

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8995-0

Author’s website


Won Ton looks through the shelter cage bars.


Nice place they got here.

Bed. Bowl. Blankie. Just like home!

Or so I’ve been told.

Visiting hours!

Yawn. I pretend not to care.

Yet — I sneak a peek.


Won Ton, a shelter cat, shares his adoption story in this clever and touching story told in haiku (or actually senryu as the author instructs us). Won Ton is a charming protagonist and kids who love cats will recognize their own pets in Won Ton’s fussy habits and prickly personality. The haiku never seem forced and serve as a good introduction to this poetry form.

Enjoy this charming Spider Magazine review of Won Ton written with a French accent (?).

“Perfect pussycat poetry for anyone who has ever loved a shelter cat.” —Starred review, Kirkus Reviews

“[A]n unforgettable character in a shelter cat whose veneer of cynical toughness masks his vulnerability. Won Ton’s sweetly humorous story will steal the hearts of readers young and old.” —Starred review, School Library Journal

Both the tightly constructed lines and elegant, playful illustrations unerringly imagine a cat’s world, including the characteristic feline seesaw between aloof independence and purring, kneading adoration…[A] wry, heartwarming title that’s sure to find wide acceptance in the classroom and beyond.” —Starred review, Booklist

Looking for more poetry recommendations and resources for the children in your life? Visit Sylvia Vardell’s incredible Poetry for Children blog.


Donalyn Miller is a 6th grade language arts teacher at Trinity Meadows Intermediate School in Keller, TX. Donalyn is the author of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, and she currently writes a blog, The Book Whisperer, for Education Week Teacher. Donalyn lives atop a dragon’s hoard of unread books and spends her spare time traveling, visiting old friends, and daydreaming in the pages.