What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings

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Overview

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings is a collection of poems to provide comfort, courage, and humor at difficult or daunting moments in life. It conjures forth laments, spells, invocations, chants, blessings, promises, songs, and charms. Here are pleas on how to repair a friendship, wishes to transform one’s life or to slow down time, charms to face the shame of a disapproving crowd, invocations to ask for forgiveness, to understand the mysteries of happiness, and to ...

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Overview

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings is a collection of poems to provide comfort, courage, and humor at difficult or daunting moments in life. It conjures forth laments, spells, invocations, chants, blessings, promises, songs, and charms. Here are pleas on how to repair a friendship, wishes to transform one’s life or to slow down time, charms to face the shame of a disapproving crowd, invocations to ask for forgiveness, to understand the mysteries of happiness, and to bravely face a dark and different world. These words help us remember or grieve; they bolster courage and guard against evil; they help us celebrate and give thanks. This elegant gift book also includes a red ribbon for readers to mark their favorite poems.

Poet extraordinaire Joyce Sidman won the Newbery Honor Medal for Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night and continues to write poetry for children that has been called "fresh," "inspiring," and "accessible" to her young audience. She is intrigued by the idea of "words of power"—chants and charms that were once believed to have real influence in everyday life. Caldecott Honor-winning Pamela Zagarenski's beautiful art captures a world of emotion and the essence of Sidman's words.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“I wrote these poems for comfort, for understanding, for hope,” writes Sidman in introduction to a grouping of nearly 50 poems. “They are words to speak in the face of loneliness, fear, delight, or confusion.” Sidman gathers her verse into four sections—Chants & Charms, Spells & Incantations, Laments & Remembrances, and Praise Songs & Blessings—while Zagarenski contributes brightly painted and emotionally evocative mixed-media artwork filled with the crowned figures, teapots, wheels, and lions that frequent her work. The subject matter ranges from the quotidian to the unfathomable: “We bow to your littleness,/ pencils, glasses, keys./ Without you we are lost,” reads “Invitation to Lost Things,” while “When Death Comes” is a devastating meditation on its irrevocability (“Even when you know/ it’s coming,/ it arrives/ out of nowhere:/ so quick/, so uncalled for”). Poems of bravery, love, heartbreak, justice, and peace unite to offer readers of all ages solace, inspiration, and strength. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Poems of bravery, love, heartbreak, justice, and peace unite to offer readers of all ages solace, inspiration, and strength."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Profound, lushly illustrated poems explore some of life's more trying moments. . . . A winning combination of word and image sure to challenge readers both to contemplate big subjects and to act."
Kirkus, starred review

"An evocative book that pulls readers to a special place—their hearts."
Booklist, starred review

"Readers just edging toward adult poetry and those filling their notebooks with their own lyrics will find this elegant little title perfect for poetic dreams."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Poetry fans will savor the wordplay and whimsy, as teachers appreciate both its craft and wide appeal. Poetry fans will savor the wordplay and whimsy, as teachers appreciate both its craft and wide appeal."
School Library Journal

"Each poem speaks directly from Sidman's heart to the reader's, addressing subjects of deep importance . . . Zagarenski's illustrations beautifully extend the poems with her dreamy style and deft use of white space, symbolism, and images from Sidman's text."
The Horn Book Magazine, starred review

Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
The subtitle of this book of poems with a young adult flavor will lead teens to expect magic and sorcery. Instead, this is a book of meditations and reflections of very everyday desires. Instead of asking for enchanted apples or magical solutions, this book expresses age-appropriate wishes for lost items to reappear ("Come show yourselves, mittens, earrings, socks. Come play your part."); for lost friends to forgive ("Come, friend, forgive the past; I was wrong and I am grieving."); and for obvious presents to turn into desirable objects ("Let it have metal teeth and a whiff of speed. Let it slip with a sweet jingle into my battered jeans as I run for the garage."). The section entitled Laments and Remembrances grieves for the loss of childhood objects, bodily changes that herald the onset of puberty, and a move to a new home. Most sadly, there is a hymn to the loss brought by death ("Even when you know it's coming, it arrives out of nowhere: so quick, so uncalled for, such a terrible gulf between before and after"). It strikes me as implausibly sad that young people know enough about death now that they need a poem to cope with it. I do have concerns that, in the current climate of "judging a book by its cover," some teens and parents may be turned off by the magical implications of the titles. That would be a loss for readers because not only will teens relate to Sidman's musings on everyday event but may inspire them to compose their own prayers for ordinary days. Complemented by Caldecott Honor winner Pamela Zagarenski's Peter Max-like illustrations, this is the type of poetry book that young adults caught in the netherworld between childhood and adulthood latch onto with keen insight and empathy. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
11/01/2013
Gr 5–8—In their latest collaboration, Sidman and Zagarenski invite readers to ponder the power of words. Arranged in four sections, 29 brief poems include chants and charms; spells and invocations; laments and remembrances; and praise songs and blessings. By turns hopeful and comedic, melancholic and wistful, they touch on universal themes: lost love, the uneasiness of change, and the comfort of pets. Many kids will relate to the nostalgia and regret for the packed-away toy in "Lament for Teddy": "Where is that softest of bedfellows,/whose battered nose hung askew?" Other highlights include "Chant to Repair a Friendship," "Invitation to Lost Things," and "Heartless." Zagarenski's mixed-media paintings underscore Sidman's words, sometimes with subtle use of white space and muted color. Others burst from the page in spectacular fashion, especially the painting of stony-faced lions that accompanies "Song of Bravery" and its stirring conclusion: "…here I go, stepping out/through the door/of my own shadow:/into the glare of the arena/to face the lions." Poetry fans will savor the wordplay and whimsy, as teachers appreciate both its craft and wide appeal. This spectacular volume rewards careful reading and capably attests to the power of words to praise and comfort, heal and inspire, as in the rousing "Starting Now": "It is time to…speak until the air/holds all of our voices./Time to weave for each other/a garment of brightness."—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-15
Profound, lushly illustrated poems explore some of life's more trying moments. In their third collaboration, Sidman and Zagarenski (Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Colors, 2009, etc.) combine their Newbery Honor– and Caldecott Honor–worthy talents to tackle life's more ineffable conditions. Lyrically arranging the collection's 29 poems into groupings such as "Chants & Charms" and "Laments & Remembrances," Sidman takes a serious look at a number of moments likely to concern young teens. The volume's title bespeaks the tricky blend of rationality and emotion inherent in often baffling situations like aging, loss, and loneliness, and Sidman employs deftly sophisticated verse to engage them head on. Especially provocative is her direct address of a subject like happiness-- "Happiness, you're like a breeze / sucked in by eager lungs. / You fill and feed us, / and yet somehow, in the exhale, / you are shared"--coupled with Zagarenski's richly layered, slightly surreal depiction of a figure trying to catch this transitory state. In many spreads, the abstract suggestiveness of Zagarenski's fanciful mixed-media paintings and digital renderings contrasts wonderfully with Sidman's bold metaphors, as in "Blessing from the Stars": "We are the stars. / We sing with our light /… / alone, / together." A winning combination of word and image sure to challenge young readers both to contemplate big subjects and to act. (Poetry. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544106161
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/8/2013
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 185,615
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Sidman lives in Wayzata, Minnesota. www.joycesidman.com

Caldecott Honor Medalist Pamela Zagarenski is a brilliant painter of many worlds. As well as illustrating picture books, she creates sculptures and large paintings, which can be viewed at an art gallery in Mystic, Connecticut. She divides her time between Stonington, Connecticut, and her house on Prince Edward Island.

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Read an Excerpt

Chant to Repair a Friendship
(a triolet)
Come, friend, forgive the past;
   I was wronga dn I am grieving.
Tell me that this break won’t last—
take my hand; forgive the past.
   Anger’s brief, but love is vast.
   Take my hand; don’t think of leaving.
Come, friend, forgive the past;
   I was wrong and I am grieving.

Come, Happiness
Happiness,
you’re not what everyone says:
some flashy friend who shows up with fireworks,
trailing fame and glory.

You are more like a raindrop,
governed by mysterious principles.
You fall from the sky and hit—plop!—with a cool kiss of surprise.

Or maybe you’re a heartbeat,
always there,
speaking in your low, soft voice,
pumping, warming, strengthening under the surface of things,
just doing your work.

Happiness, you’re like a breeze sucked in by eager lungs.
You fill and feed us,
and yet somehow, in the exhale,
you are shared.

So come,
come to us, Happiness.
Bathe us with your cool spray.
Fill us with your splendid breath.
Help us do your work.

Chant Against the Dark
Don’t come close, dark.
Don’t brush my face with your sticky hands.
Stay as cool and distant as a train whistle.
Don’t single me out,
don’t make me answer your questions.
Let me curl here, safe in my circle of light.

Don’t come close, dark.
Don’t speak to me in your crooked tongue.
I don’t want to hear your stories.
I have stories of my own to tell myself all night.

Don’t come close, dark.
Don’t breathe on me.
When the lamp clicks off,
don’t creak and shift like some wild-eyed horse waiting for its rider.

Oh, dark,
don’t call my name.

Song of Bravery
This one’s not a sure thing.
I’m not bound to win.
I don’t think I’ll ace it this time.
I won’t break a leg,
make my own luck,
or reach the stars.

The sun is not shining on me today.
The force is not strong.
Before the day is out,
I’ll taste the grit of dust.

Maybe I didn’t do all I could.
Or maybe I did but there were others who did more.
Maybe I’ll never know.

But here I go—
bones clicking quietly together,
blood flowing dutifully from heart to hands and back again—
here I go, stepping out through the door of my own shadow:
into the glare of the arena to face the lions.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 27, 2013

    Wonderful, charming book!

    Terrific little book to pick up and read anytime for inspiration.

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