{What I Love} no 17: my old photographs
{What I Love} no19: not feeling The Love

{What I Love} no18: the 811s

I have a confession: I hope to never be a children's librarian.

A few weeks ago at work, we had a meeting with the children's librarians and they told us about all the things they do in their division. As I listened, I felt all my energy being sucked out of my body. Just from listening. I am starting to learn a (perhaps ugly?) truth about myself: while I loved my children when they were little and I loved having my own little people around me and doing all of the little-person stuff that comes along with them, and while I love my little nephews and nieces (including those of the "grand" variety) and I love my friends' kids and I can't wait to have grandchildren—I'm not sure I love kids. Does that sound awful? I don't know. I just so much prefer doing library stuff with teenagers and adults. I desperately don't want to spend my twenty working hours at the library planning story time. Or hosting story time.

Except, there is something magical about working on the children's side of the library. The way that children's faces light up with excitement when they find what they were looking for, or the sound of their childish voices which they try to keep at a whisper but it's so very hard when you've just spied the exact flower fairy book you've always wanted to read! And the way that they are not afraid to hide their happiness and enthusiasm. So I'm glad I get to work on the children's side every once in awhile.

Today was one of those once in awhiles, and I had only been at the children's desk for about two minutes when a patron asked me one of my favorite types of questions: "Are there any books of poetry for children?" Are there! why, yes, right over here in the 811s. My personal favorite section of the dewey decimal system, because it's the home of American poetry. Sometimes when I am feeling restless at my reference desk, I wander over to and browse for a few minutes in the 811s. I pick up a book and read a poem and then put it back or, if the poem was extraordinary, I take the book home with me. But it's not only the poetry I love in the poetry section. It's just the sheer proof of many people working on writing poetry. Of presses putting their faith in poems by publishing them. Of the existence, the physical existence, of poems in the world.

But I confess: the 811s on the children's side have a special place in my heart. I love children's poetry. Love the well-written stuff that's inventive and doesn't use forced rhyme or a sing-songy rhythm and assumes kids are smart enough to be delighted by a clever metaphor or an unusual image. I loved reading children's poetry to my kids and hope that memory sticks with them. I love that we have Shel Silverstein and I love that there are dozens and dozens of other children's poets who are also good.

And I love it when someone asks me that question: Where can I find the poems? Because I can always, always show them!

Do you have a favorite dewey decimal number?

{Edited to add: a list of my favorite children's poets}

Karla Kuskin
Eve Merriam
Douglas Florian
Tony Milton (she did the covers for the US versions of the Harry Potter books, too)
Theodore Roethke's Dirty Dinky and Other Poems (although this one is a little dark)
Jack Prelutsky
Paul Janeczko
Rick Walton
Constance Levy
Karen Jo Shapiro




Would you email me a list of some of your favorite children's poets? William likes Silverstein, but I'd love to expose him to more.


Love this series on loves!

Janet White

Ditto on loving thi love series.

And you reminded me of how I got my second graders to fall in love with Shel Silverstein - they would raise their hands and when called on, would give me a page number. Then I'd read the poem on that page. We all memorized many of them using this great time filler.

Loved that "kid" time in my life, but completely understand you on not being there on a regular basis.

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