Friday, February 15, 2019

Another Kind of Valentine

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jone at Check it Out for Roundup.

Yesterday I featured poems about a different kind of Valentine... and today I have yet another kind! Read on!!

In the past few months Charles Waters and I have been honored to find our book CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? on the following lists:
NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction Honor Book
NCTE Notable Poetry Book
ALA Notable Children's Book
CYBILS Finalist for Poetry (Congratulations to the winner: A LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds -- it's a phenomenal book!)
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award title for grades 3-6
... and another state award list we can't announce yet. :)

We hope this recognition means more readers will be having conversations about race, mistakes and friendship. We are always thrilled to be a part of these conversations, too. This past December Charles Waters and I zoomed with Mary Lee Hahn's class at Daniel Wright Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio.

This amazingly diverse group had read our book, and wow did they have some great questions for me and Charles! It was a joy to spend time with these engaged learners.

And then... the Valentines arrived: I got in the mail a bundle of thank you notes!  Mary Lee even enclosed an envelope for me to forward the notes to Charles -- which I did! He loved them, too, of course.


All the notes touched my heart with their words and art.  Two of the notes included poems that I am delighted to share with you today, thanks to permission granted by these students and their parents.

Here's the first one, from Zitlali:

the front of Zitali's card
Irene and Charles

Irene and Charles
They are best of friends
They stood out
And made a book
It's the best opritunity [sic] they took
And even though,
It might be scary
In the end,
look at all the messages,
That you have sent to ...
   The World.

- Zitlali

To Zitlali: Thank YOU for recognizing the courage it takes to write a book... and most of all, thank you for being a brave poet yourself! Your words -- and your message -- is beautifully written and so very important.

And now, 2 acrostic poems from Jasmine:

the front of Zitlali's card

Erisistable [sic]

Radient [sic]
Sent a message

- Jasmine

To Jasmine: I want to live up to all those adjectives! Thank you! And I want you to know that those adjectives actually say far more about YOU, the poet, than they do about the subject. Thank you for showing us -- and the world -- the beauty in your heart!

And: so many thanks to Mary Lee for being a brave teacher. These conversations aren't easy, but they are essential in helping us to shape a more loving world.

I'll leave you with another valentine: a gratitude poem I wrote during ARTSPEAK! Portraits (2017):


And I would give you
from the morning's 
first coconut

a symphony 
of palm fronds,
the scent of salt

I would give you
the eye of every hurricane
waves to bathe
your every shore

this red dress
with its lace collar,
this brown skin

all the sunshine
that lives inside
an island flower

all the sunshine

the sun

- Irene Latham


  1. Terrific thank yous! I am charmed by the drawings as well as the poems. xo

  2. Those are the thank yous that touch your heart. They're wonderful gifts shared after your and Charles' gifts of the book to them.

  3. So wonderful! And especially joyful to think about the smiles in the student homes, when these two young poet-artists see their work here, in print! Appreciations for sharing to Ms. Mary Lee, IMs. rene, Mr. Charles & especially to Zitlali & Jasmine!

  4. Thank you for sharing these wonderful student thank you poems. So cool you got to interact with ML's class. I'm so excited that you and Charles are working on another book together too. :)

  5. This was all sorts of awesome. Both the blog post and the poems from such talented young people!

  6. This whole post is about gratitude your poem and the students–I can feel the love and connection coming through Mary Lee's students poems. All is beaming here the poems, art, and thoughts, thanks Irene! xo

  7. Love seeing the waves and nets of connection in our community, lifting and holding our young ones. Irene and Charles, you are indeed both radieant (and you too, Mary Lee), and your shine falls on kids like Zitlali & Jasmine and spills everywhere!

  8. Irene, I loved Can I Touch Your Hair. How cool it was for Charles and you to be able to be with Mary Lee’s class. The tank yours are the best.

  9. Irene, congratulations on all the accolades. I shared "Can I Touch Your Hair" with a group of educators I presented to last week. It is a breakthrough book for young students to understand the power of relationships when we look beyond the first glance. Your work with Mary Lee's students is wonderful. They not only read but wrote with insight.

  10. Oh how I love Zitlali's poem. What a rockstar- just like you and Charles. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I think this was one of the most important books published from this last year.

  11. My girls were so thrilled that you shared their poems! (Like you, I was thrilled that they chose poetry as their medium for their thank you notes!)


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