A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
"There is a bird in the poplars! / It is the sun! / The leaves are little yellow fish / swimming in the river." William Carlos Williams grew up in Rutherford, New Jersey, and later became a family doctor in his hometown. "Willie" discovered his love of poetry in high school. At first, he imitated the formality of traditional verse, but he gradually developed a distinctive style that let "each poem find its own special shape on the page." Includes poems and excerpts. Time line. Author's and illustrator's notes. Further reading. Black-and-white photograph of poet. Full-color watercolor, collage, and mixed-media illustrations. A 2009 Caldecott Honor Book and a 2009 Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book. A 2009 NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book.
JLG Release: Dec 2008
Awards & Honors
2009 Caldecott, Honor Book; 2009 Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book; 2009 NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book; NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2009, World History and Culture; 2008New York Time10 Best Illustrated Books | 2008 School Library JournalBest Books, Nonfiction
Praise & Reviews
Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:
Booklist, The Horn Book Guide, Kirkus Reviews*, School Library Journal*
Junior Library Guild
Jen Bryant describes Williams as a boy who loved to play baseball and wander in the woods, as a busy high school student who discovered that he “did not feel hurried” when his teacher read poetry aloud, and as a poet who found that focusing on everyday experiences and developing his own writing style let him feel “. . . as free as the Passaic River as it rushed to the falls.”
In keeping with the title, words flow through nearly every one of Melissa Sweet’s illustrations in a mix of hand-lettered, typewritten, and printed forms. A page describing how Dr. Williams “delivered babies, healed hurts and bruises, set broken bones, and wrote prescriptions,” is illustrated with paintings of the doctor and his patients on a background of old medical textbook pages and a ledger. The phrase “so much depends upon” from Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow” emerges from the typewriter on his desk, and a variation is tucked into the corner of the collage. The opposite page displays multiple typed versions of the entire poem, each with different line breaks and cross-outs, simulating the writer experimenting with an idea and revising his poem. The ingenious presentation of this and other poems creates connections between the man and his work and allows readers to feel as though they’re witnesses to the creative process.
This is an exquisite look at an important American poet.
9" x 10"
Level 4.6; Points: 0.5;
Scholastic Reading Counts
Level 5.4; Points: 3;