I love “nonfiction” poetry—poems that tell true stories, so to speak, so I was eager to see Lee Bennett Hopkins’s new anthology, Incredible Inventions illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach (HarperCollins, 2009). And I was not disappointed. As the title suggests, the 16 poems feature a variety of inventions including jigsaw puzzles, blue jeans, roller coasters, drinking straws, basketball game, fig newtons, ferris wheels, the escalator, hair brushes, crayons, popsicles, band-aids, traffic signals, kitty litter, Velcro, and running shoes. Kid-friendly topics, for sure!
The featured poets include Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Joan Bransfield Graham, Drew Lamm, John Sullivan, Sandra Gilbert Brueg, Elizabeth Upton, Kristine O’Connell George, Constance Andrea Keremes, Ann Whitford Paul, J. Patrick Lewis, Alice Schertle, Marilyn Singer, Maria Fleming, Fran Haraway, and Lee himself. For me, there were several new names in this group. Very promising voices! Which one to share as a sample? I think kids will enjoy this tribute to their favorite garment: Blue jeans!
Ode to Blue Jeans
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
See them strolling
in their jeans
from subway ads
Rock ‘n’ rollers.
loves their blues.
with cowboy boot
or tennis shoe,
the world’s in love
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. (Comp.) 2009. Incredible Inventions. Illus. by Julia Sarcone-Roach. New York: HarperCollins, p.6.
This is a first book for the illustrator Julia Sarcone-Roach and her paintings for each poem are energetic and expansive, covering the page from edge to edge. The gorgeous blue painting for “The Ferris Wheel” is my favorite—it’s positively Van Gogh-ish!
You definitely need to check out the notes in the “Behind the Inventions” section along with the poems because here you get the factual background information that expands or confirms the details shared in each poem. Plus, I discovered that the poem inventions are presented in chronological order, with a fun cartoon timeline showing each item's origin dated from 1766 (jigsaw puzzles) to 1964 (running shoes).
For a related collection, look for Joyce Sidman’s book, Eureka! Poems About Inventors (Millbrook 2002), with sixteen poems describing a range of people who have created something new through imagination, investigation, and pure persistence, with subjects such as scientist Marie Curie and the inventor of the Frisbee. Link these poems with the fascinating profiles of incidental inventions in Charlotte Foltz Jones’ nonfiction books Mistakes That Worked (Doubleday 1994) and Accidents May Happen (Delacorte 1998) or Judith St. George’s humorous nonfiction picture book, So You Want to Be An Inventor? (Puffin 2005). Seek out J. Patrick Lewis’s poems about famous accomplishments in A Burst Of Firsts (Dial 2001) or the fun facts and factoids in the clever poems of The World’s Greatest: Poems (Chronicle, 2008) for another invention connection.
And for the record, on this day in history…
Lee Bennett Hopkins was born!
Happy birthday, Lee!
Image credit: www.harpercollinschildrens.com