Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)
I’m sharing my forthcoming rhyming picture book today and inviting you to my launch party!
A picture book always has an editor’s careful fingerprints all over it. But We Belong, my new book coming out March 1, wouldn’t even exist without Carolrhoda Associate Publisher Carol Hinz. Back in 2017, Carol asked if I might be interested in writing a preschool picture book on intersectionality. In 2018, Carol rejected my (non-rhyming) manuscript sparked by the discussion we’d had, but she wrote, “I love, love, love those two stanzas of rhyming verse you wrote…! What would you think of potentially writing an affirming book for young children all in verse?” And that was the seed of We Belong.
Writing any book always changes me, because I think deeply about a topic and ponder it from so many angles. This particular book forced me to confront a lot of my own unconscious prejudices and biases. For instance, I freely admit to a bias toward quiet people. I’m an introvert myself, and loud people drain me. This bias is likely also a holdover from my teaching days. Quieter kids were easier for me to teach. I’m not talking about passive, unengaged kids. Just kids whose volume doesn’t go to 11. And yet…
Maybe you’re quiet.
Thoughts trickle softly, clear as a stream.
Maybe you’re loud.
Nobody says, “Can you repeat that?”
Quiet and loud both deserve our applause.
What makes music sing is the sound
and . . .
Fireworks grab us with
and the soft, smoky sizzle
when the big noises stop.
I really believe these words. And all the verses in this book. Every quality has value, and people all along the continuum of any quality have value too.
It can be hard to know what’s okay to say, and I’ve definitely made mistakes! In an effort to celebrate and acknowledge our differences, I’ve told someone they had a beautiful accent and asked where they were from. I was interested and trying to engage someone who got stuck in the U.S. when Covid hit, but they might’ve felt it was just a reminder that they’re not “from here.”
Embracing our differences is important. But feeling safe and valued is even more essential. As I work on my language and actions, I’m thrilled to say to kids, “I value you, just as you are. No matter what you look like, where you’re from, or how you express your gender. You belong.”
We Belong publishes March 1st, and I’m so grateful to Carol Hinz and editor Shaina Olmanson, who also worked on the book with me. It’s available for pre-order in all the usual places, and you can order signed copies from Red Balloon Bookshop. Better yet, register for my free launch party, where we’ll write a collaborative poem! I’d love for you to be there!
And for lots of wonderful poetry, don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup with Elisabeth Norton at Unexpected Intersections, which is interesting, considering how We Belong came about ;>)