NIGHT WISHES came out after Lee’s passing in 2019. Upon publication, Maria Marshall kindly asked to interview me about it on her blog, The Picture Book Buzz. One of her questions was about how I got involved in a Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to reflect not only on the unique process of working with Lee, but also on our friendship, the precious time we spent together from afar, and his profound impact on me personally and professionally. On the right is my answer to Maria’s question.
Contributing to Lee’s anthologies was by invitation
and this was my experience in the three LBH books I wrote poems for (School People, Night Wishes, and another that may or may not be published). In all cases, I was assigned a topic to write about and given free reign as to form. That said, Lee was a wonderful and exacting editor, and he knew what he was looking for—which means I went through quite a few revisions before he accepted a poem as “done”!
My poetry tends toward older kids, so writing for the younger set is a real challenge for me—I struggled mightily with all the poems I wrote for Lee! I even not-so-subtly hinted that he might want to ask someone else to write them, but he was always patient and encouraging. He pushed me in all the best ways.
Example: my first draft of “Night Light” was a tortured roundel, to which he responded along the lines of “You’re waxing poetic—what night light do you know talks like that?”
Hahaha. Loved that man!
How would a clock, nightlight, or teddy bear say good night? In this enchanting poetry collection, Lee Bennett Hopkins and thirteen other poets imagine the wishes whispering through a young girl’s bedroom as she falls asleep. The bookshelf’s stories curl through her head; the pillow transforms into a hot air balloon; the rocking horse waits expectantly for tomorrow’s adventures. Stunning gouache illustrations by Jen Corace offer new details to discover with every reading.
Perfect for bedtime reading and re-reading, Night Wishes will transport young readers into a wonderful, whimsical world of dreams.
A gentle, comforting ticket to beddy-bye—and good dreams.
The late Lee Bennett Hopkins gathered these fourteen poems, written by such prominent children’s poets as Joyce Sidman, Nikki Grimes, and Eileen Spinelli, for this picture book of dreamy, comforting images of nighttime and sleep. The volume begins and ends with a poem by Rebecca Kai Dotlich: first “Bed,” which invites children to “Climb in”; and then “Bed Again,” inviting them to “Climb out” and “Grab your breakfast, / your curiosity, / your wonder— / and go.” Illustrator Corace takes the opening spread to show a brown-skinned child surrounded by the motifs that will resurface in subsequent poems, including the teddy bear found in Hopkins’s own: “I’m here for you / to snuggle into / as you / squeeze me tight.” The poems flow smoothly from one to the next; the illustrations also have a linear progression in that they skillfully incorporate related elements: stars in one image, stars and an angel in the following illustration, and then a starry window with the child in bed and a picture of an angel above. Children will enjoy finding the repeating motifs and appreciate the soothing, snuggly poetry. –Susan Dove Lempke
From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Vital … for a back-to-school collection and good for reading aloud
Featuring 14 persona poems, this anthology features 10 poets anthropomorphizing items that can be found in the bedroom—“Cat” by Eileen Spinelli, “Teddy Bear” by volume editor Hopkins, and “Night-light” by Renée M. LaTulippe—and delivering goodnight wishes from its perspective. Three more poets—Nikki Grimes, Deborah Ruddell, and Darren Sardelli—offer lines from “Angel,” “Stars,” and “Moon,” respectively. While the poems vary in rhyme scheme, they share a gentle, whimsical tone (“I’ll dream of sunlit fisheries/ with daring things to do./ You’ll dream of starry wisheries/ where sweetest dreams come true,” reads Spinelli’s “Cat”). Corace’s soft illustrations feature a brown-skinned child with a mass of dark hair amid cheerily colored dreamscapes: in one scene, a cat is a galaxy swimming along giant green fish, while the child is garbed in astronaut attire. An imaginative anthology sure to send readers straight to sweet dreams. Ages 4–8.