Big Book of PoetryThe Bill Martin Jr Bill Book of Poetry
Coming November 2008 (NOW OUT!
All time favorite poems of Bill Martin Jr & Michael Sampson, including original works by the writers.
Poetry is the language of most of the books Bill and I wrote during our 26-year partnership. But there is more to the story.
Bill credits poetry to saving his life. For you see, Bill was a non-reader in elementary and high school. He survived in the academic world only because of his excellent ear--what he could hear he could remember. And teachers were willing to allow him to do tests orally.
But that would not be the case in college. But there was a saving grace--Bill really liked poetry and signed up for a poetry class at Emporia State Teachers College (Kansas). Bill loved the dramatic readings the professor gave, with such poets as Walt Whitman, Marion Monroe, and Robert Frost. And when he looked at a printed copy of the poems the teacher read, he discovered he could read them! That's how Bill Martin Jr became a reader.
Later, while an elementary school principal, he wrote poetry for the first graders to hear and read. And they became readers in the same way Bill had.
As for me, some of the greatest moments in my life came when I read Mother Goose and other poetry to my sons. They became readers through these poems.
Bill and I started working on our poetry collection 15 years ago. Brenda Bowen, our editor at Holt, signed the book. It was to be about 200 poems, and was to include some of the great poetry of the 20th century. The two of us made numerous trips to the university library, and soon had about 3000 poems and three boxes of books. We worked on the project for about six months.
But Brenda left Holt, and our attention shifted to other books. The poetry collection gathered dusk in the corner of the room.
We had done a couple of books for Simon & Shuster, including Trick or Treat and Chicka, Chicka, 1, 2, 3, when to our joy Brenda Bowen accepted the position of VP & Publisher at Simon in 2002. I gave Brenda a call and asked "do you remember that poetry collection we were doing for you at Holt?" She did, and urged us to resurrect the project.
For the next six months, Bill and I worked together every morning, mostly at my house, reading poems and rating them. For a poem to make our list, we both had to love it. That narrowed the list down to 500 poems, and then we placed the poems into categories or sub-divisions for the book, which further narrowed the list.
Brenda left Simon, but the project was picked up by her replacement, Elizabeth Law. And when Elizabeth left, Alexander Cooper carried the project to completion in a competent, caring, loving manner.
We had given Elizabeth and Alexander a list if illustrators whom had illustrated some of our prior books, and they were able to sign many of them to do art for this poetry collection.
Thus, our poetry project is illustrated by many of our dear friends and artists, including Steven Kellogg (A Beasty Story), Lois Ehlert (Chicka, Chicka, 1, 2, 3), Alika (Sounds of Laughter), Ashley Bryan (Pathways to Literacy Workshops), Paul Meisel (Trick or Treat), and Chris Raschka (I Pledge Allegiance). Several other great artists joined in to complete the book.
Initial plans called for about 25 poems to be read on CD by the authors, but the book was published without the CD. Instead, the poems will be available on iTunes in the spring of 2009. Email us if you want to be notified of the link when it goes online.
Bill was so proud of this project. And I'm so pleased with the way the book turned out. But even more, I'm so happy that Bill's love for poetry will now be passed on to a new generation as parents and teachers share the poems we love with the ones they love.
St. Petersburg, Florida
Michael Sampson & Bill Martin, Jr at work on their poetry collection.