A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

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A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams: When he wrote poems, he felt as free as the Passaic River as it rushed to the falls. Willie’s notebooks filled up, one after another.

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About the Book

When he wrote poems, he felt as free as the Passaic River as it rushed to the falls. Willie’s notebooks filled up, one after another.

Willie’s words gave him freedom and peace, but he also knew he needed to earn a living. So he went off to medical school and became a doctor and one of the busiest men in town!

Yet he never stopped writing poetry. In this picture book biography of William Carlos Williams, Jen Bryant’s engaging prose and Melissa Sweet’s stunning mixed-media illustrations celebrate the amazing man who found a way to earn a living and to honor his calling to be a poet.

About the Author & Illustrator:

Jen Bryant writes picture books, novels and poems for readers of all ages. Her biographical picture book: A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, received a Caldecott Honor award and her historical novel in verse Ringside 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial is an Oprah Recommended Book for ages 12 & up.  Jen has taught writing and Children’s Literature at West Chester University and Bryn Mawr College and gives lectures, workshops and school presentations throughout the year. She lives with her family in Chester County, PA. See more here.

Melissa Sweet is a New York Times bestselling author and has illustrated nearly 100 children’s books. Her work ranges from board books to picture books and nonfiction titles and her collages and paintings have appeared in the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, and for eeBoo Toys. She has received numerous awards including the Sibert Medal, NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award, as well as two Caldecott Honor awards.

A Few Reviews:

“This stunning picture-book biography combines a lyrical text with wonderfully creative mixed-media illustrations in an impressive and personable homage to an extraordinary and accomplished man. Bryant’s poetic writing—”Gurgle, gurgle—swish, swish, swoosh…. The water went slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks, then poured in a torrent over the falls, then quieted again below”—describes beautifully how, as a child, Williams would lie peacefully by the Passaic River, listening to the sounds of the water; he appreciated nature and the ordinary experiences of life. Book pages form a background for some of the illustrations and prescription pads become the paper for the doctor’s poetic scribbling. A lovely spread shows a display of constellations while in the foreground, the poet sits framed in the light of an attic window, with one of his poems about a night sky laid out on a book cover. Williams’s poems, which appear in the book in a variety of colors and fonts as part of the art, are highlighted in uniform type with standard line breaks on the inside cover pages. A time line of his life juxtaposed with a list of world events, a brief author’s note about his significance as a poet, and an illustrator’s note that explains how Sweet researched the project are appended.” – School Library Journal

“Bryant follows Call Me Marianne (2006), about Marianne Moore, with another picture-book introduction to a poet. Here, she focuses on William Carlos Williams, and she begins by suggesting that Williams’ childhood love of nature inspired the free forms and rhythms he chose for his first adolescent poems. During his adult medical career, Williams “scribbled a few lines . . . wherever he could,” composing his enduring, beloved body of work. The free-verse line breaks in Bryant’s text sometimes feel arbitrary, but her simple, spare language matches her subject well. Sweet’s mixed-media collages will draw varying age groups. Younger children will connect with the childlike drawings of figures, while older kids (and even young-adult art students) will appreciate the artfully layered paper compositions that include lines of Williams’ poetry. A comprehensive time line of Williams’ life targeted toward older kids (and teachers), suggestions for further reading, and a selection of Williams’ poems close this inspiring title that, like Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s Action Jackson (2002), shows that an artist’s work begins with deep, quiet observation.” – Booklist

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