Each month, the Chancellor selects a children’s book that she feels is inspirational and informative for the students, parents, and staff members who make up the City’s public schools. For past book selections, review the “Book of the Month” category right here on The Morning Bell.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poetsalexander-kwame-and-ekua-holmes_out-of-wonder
By Kwame Alexander w/ Chris Colderley & Marjory Wentworth
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2017

Poetry has inspired many moments of joy and reflection throughout my life. A well-written poem can introduce us to new ideas, rhythms, and sounds—and transport us to other worlds. Reading poetry promotes literacy and comprehension, fosters social-emotional learning, and teaches us how to think critically and creatively. These are just a few of the reasons we need poetry in our classrooms and in our lives.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am delighted to share my book choice for April, Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets. The 20 poems in this lushly illustrated collection are written in the style of famous poets, including Maya Angelou, E.E. Cummings, Langston Hughes, and one of my favorites, Emily Dickinson. Kwame Alexander and his co-authors also echo the poets’ ideas and themes while communicating their passion for the original works.

I smiled with recognition as I read many of the poems because, while they respect the originals, they add unexpected twists. In “Jazz Jive Jam,” for instance, Alexander invokes the rhythms and themes of Langston Hughes’ “Trumpet Player” and “Madam and The Rent Man.”

Alexander writes:

They all ate Mama’s waffles and
her chicken Cordon Bleu.
Then Daddy passed his hat around
because the rent is due.

This collection’s vibrant writing is sure to move students and spark animated conversations. While Alexander and his co-authors do not identify the original inspirations for their material, teachers and parents alike could have students do their own research. The short biographies at the back of this book illuminate the lives and work of the poets celebrated in this collection while providing just enough information to jumpstart discussions about the new takes on old favorites.

out-of-wonder-interior-by-kwame-alexander-and-ekua-holmesI thoroughly enjoyed this book and share Alexander’s sentiment that poetry “has the power to reach inside of you, to ignite something in you, and to change you in ways you never imagined.” The title of the collection comes from a quote by poet and children’s book author, Lucille Clifton, who wrote:

“Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.”

I hope this collection inspires each of you, especially our young people, to read poetry, to wonder, to find their voices, and to write poems of their own. All children deserve the opportunity to let their imaginations soar.

Posted by Carmen Fariña

Chancellor of NYC Schools, lifelong educator, native Brooklynite, and proud abuela.

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