It’s National Poetry Month, and we here at Foreword Reviews are asking the age-old question: “What about the children?” After all, when is the last time you heard kids beg their parents for more poetry at the checkout aisle? Publisher Moondance Press (an imprint of The Quarto Group) is doing its part to make poetry a treat for youngsters with its Poetry for Kids series. I thought I’d ask about about the series’s whys and wherefores with Charles Nurnberg, publisher for MoonDance Press.
What was the idea behind the Poetry for Kids series? How do you make poetry accessible to younger audiences?
Around sixty-five years ago, my grandmother started reading poetry to me, as she did for all the grandchildren. She felt, as I can now appreciate, that the emotion and mood of poetry are wonderful ways to learn about the world around us. Each poet has a unique way of reaching our feelings and discovering in some lovely way how to express them. For children, that is a very important pillar of the maturation process.
But as publishers, we knew that, for most young children, the world is a visual place, and that the illustrations in these books had to bring the poetry to life. And that illustrators, like authors, impart different emotions, so choosing the right one was an essential component of our process. And picking a format that feels comfortable to children in size, length, and look (as well a great price point for the adult buyer), is crucial.
Plus we have gotten some of the top experts/academics for each poet to select the best collection for kids. We’ve also included definitions of difficult phrases or words, as well as a “what the poet was thinking” section in the back of the book. That’s all very helpful for the book report they might have to do!
Why focus on classic poets like Sandburg, Whitman, and Dickinson?
I doubt that many kids go to a bookstore looking for poetry. But the parents do. And the key to attracting them is the immediate name recognition. So poets such as Dickinson, Sandburg, Whitman, Frost, and Shakespeare have that instant recognition. As we build the series, and cover all of the classic poets, we intend to slip in some modern poets, or those not instantly recognizable or seemingly for an older audience.
What is the biggest impediment to children accessing and enjoying poetry?
Getting the adults to point it out to them, and to buy it for them. And picking the right poems and the right illustrators that will appeal to the kids as well as their adults.
Which poets do you plan on featuring in future releases?
Shakespeare (Spring 2018), Lear, Poe, Carroll, Longfellow, Stevenson, Kipling, Millay, to name a few. And we will also extend it to themes with multiple poets as we build the list.
What is the mission of MoonDance Press?
MoonDance Press is dedicated to entertaining, educating, and inspiring children with beautifully produced, content-rich books. MoonDance publishes books for dreamers, thinkers, doodlers, puzzlers … the moon watchers, the question askers, and of course, the book lovers.
Howard Lovy is executive editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow him on Twitter @Howard_Lovy