Lee Bennett Hopkins
Children’s Lit lost one of our greats today, Lee Bennett Hopkins. I was never published by him, and I only heard him speak once many years ago. Still, I can’t begin to tell you how sad I am today. His poetry is delightful, insightful, whimsical, powerful. I say “is” not “was” because his poems and his books live on. I was first introduced to him in the 80’s as a young educator and I have loved his work since. As a poet, mentor and educator, his influence on children’s books and publishing has been profound and joyful. His poetry collections explored every theme imaginable from lullabies to libraries, punctuation to prayers and cities to seasons. His was a life of poetry…writing, editing, mentoring others and advocating for poetry in schools. But like many of my fellow writers, I have been deeply influenced by his writing and philosophy. If you look, you will likely find some of your favourite children’s authors poems in one or more of his anthologies…Alice Schertle (author of The Little Blue Truck etc.), Lois Lowery (author of The Giver, etc.), Jane Yolen (author of How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read, etc. ) and so many others. And then there are the writers that have gotten their start from having him publish one of their poems… One of the things I’ve especially loved about him is that he featured the giants of kid’s lit alongside newbies. The writing, the power packed in each poem, was what was most important! He was such a passionate advocate for children having access to the joy of language and poetry. His advice was to “Give children poetry. It is one of the best gifts you can give them. A gift to last a lifetime.” He spent a lifetime doing just that.