Disney-Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Publishing Worldwide (DPW), releases today Poems to Learn by Heart by Caroline Kennedy, with paintings by Caldecott Honor-winning artist Jon J Muth, with a first printing of 250,000 copies. Poems to Learn by Heart is a companion to Kennedy’s New York Times #1 best seller A Family of Poems. For this new collection, she has selected more than a hundred diverse poems that speak across the ages: to the young and young at heart, to readers new to poetry, and to devoted fans. Coinciding with the resurging interest in spoken word, open mics, poetry slams, and recitation contests across the country, Poems to Learn by Heart provides a trove of works to return to again and again.
In this rich anthology, Kennedy presents poems that she loved as a child, discovered more recently, or were shared with her by family and friends. Divided into ten sections focusing on subjects such as nature, sports, monsters and fairies, war and school, friendship and family, her choices reflect both classic poets and new voices, little-known gems and standards that still stir today’s new readers, like the young students at DreamYard, a school and arts program she works with and admires. In a tribute to those young artists who have in turn inspired her, their poem “Voices Rising” is included in the section called “I’m Expecting You!” in a four-page spread.
Kennedy’s chapter introductions offer a rich mix of insight and wit. She shares memories of her own growing up, with smart observations about the poetry she’s chosen and the history that infuses some of the pieces (including President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address). She weaves in stories on Seneca’s technique for remembering his students’ names, the lovely image of a memory-palace and where that idea came from, as well as reflections on how one poem addresses the elements of a meaningful life, and how another, when memorized, helped her son keep nature close at hand while confined to a classroom. In an intimate and conversational tone, Kennedy illuminates why poetry about elves and other magical creatures has much to teach us about imagining other worlds, and how nonsensical poems not only make us laugh but also take on more serious work of language and artistry. At the end she includes an extra-credit section of poems that, in their complexity and length, present the challenge of memorization seriously.
In support of the release of Poems to Learn by Heart, Kennedy will embark on an eight-city U.S. tour with events at bookstores and libraries. She will also serve as the honorary chair of National Library Week, which takes place April 14–20, 2013. A Common Core teachers guide for Poems to Learn by Heart is available at Disney.com/PoemsbyHeart.
Caroline Kennedy is an attorney and the author/editor of ten New York Times best-selling books on constitutional law, American history, politics, and poetry. She is President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Chair of the Senior Advisory Committee of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. A graduate of Harvard and Columbia Law School, she also serves on the board of directors of New Visions for Public Schools and is Honorary Chair of the American Ballet Theater. From 2002–2011, she was Vice Chair of the Fund for Public Schools, which has raised over $300 million to support public school reform and engaged a record number of New Yorkers to volunteer in New York City schools.
Jon J Muth is the author and illustrator of numerous inspiring and award-winning books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book Zen Shorts. He also collaborated with Caroline Kennedy on the New York Times best seller A Family of Poems, the companion to Poems to Learn by Heart. Born in Ohio, he now lives with his family in New York State.