What do a university professor from Dallas and a lawyer from Princeton have in common?
Both are passionate about poetry, specifically, poetry in the classroom for everyone, everyday, and about anything, even algebra. Sylvia Vardell, professor and author of educational books for teachers, and Janet Wong, lawyer and author of several dozen books for children, combined their knowledge and poetry passion and created Pomelo Books. Their goal was to publish books that make poetry available and accessible—and fun—in the classroom.
Each book (twelve books so far and more on the way) has a unique focus. The books in The Poetry Friday Anthology series offer a variety of verse and also short educational guides, resources, “Take 5 lessons,” and other applications that cross curriculum lines. Each verse entry in the Poetry Friday Power Book series provides white space for reluctant writers, prompts for writing, and suggestions of places where students can submit their own poems for publication.
In their own words, Pomelo Books are unique books “that will pucker your lips, reduce cholesterol, cure scurvy, curb global warming, and make young people happy while teaching them lots.”
What is most rewarding about being a publisher?
Sylvia Vardell: There have been so many rewards in this venture: collaborating with the energetic Janet Wong and 100+ poets across the globe, seeing a project come to fruit in print, and watching teachers thumb through the book and say, “Yes, I can DO this!”
But probably my favorite thing is how much I have learned along the way! I love trying new things and creating Pomelo Books has pushed me to try many, many new things such as the ins and outs of software programs, experimenting with book design, creating promotional graphics, and presenting to all kinds of audiences. And that doesn’t even include all the new things I’ve learned about poetry!
Who do you hope is reading and talking about your books?
Janet Wong: Recently Sylvia and I have been booked at several university conferences to speak to pre-service teachers, as well as recent grads. This, to me, is the ideal audience: new teachers who are eager to find their own best ways of reaching all kinds of kids. They understand that time is tight, and a five-minute poetry lesson can be used to teach multiple content areas. It’s so great to see them snapping tons of photos of Sylvia’s PowerPoint slides!
Tell us about a few of your recent publications and why they are unique.
Janet Wong: One of the most distinctive things about our books in The Poetry Friday Anthology series is the sheer size of them: in 4 books (our original K‑5 book, the Middle School book, the Science book, and the Celebrations book) we have 700+ poems by 150 poets. That’s a whole lot of diversity (of all kinds)—diverse voices, diverse topics, and diverse approaches.
And in our recent Poetry Friday Power Book series (You Just Wait, Here We Go, and Pet Crazy), we’re providing PowerPacks that are filled with pre-writing activities, mentor poems, and writing prompts—plus the poems, woven together, tell a story, Plus there are extensive back matter resources on where kids can get published and a whole lot more. Our motto is “Pomelo Books = Poetry Plus!” and we’re doing our best to live up to it!
As an educator, what do your books add to my students’ classroom experience?
Sylvia Vardell: This is where Pomelo Books is unique. As Janet pointed out, we are so proud to feature 700+ poems by 150 poets in our various anthologies, but added to that are “Take 5” activities or mini-lessons for every single one of those 700+ poems. We provide the shortcut that a busy teacher can use to pause, share a poem, and provide a tiny literacy lesson that is engaging and meaningful. For the busy educator, our books are very searchable and practical, offering poems on topics that are relevant to children’s lives and connected with curricular areas. We make it easy for the novice teacher to begin as well as for the experienced educator to add variety and creativity to poem sharing.
Pomelo Books twelve publications are:
The Poetry Friday Anthology (K‑5 Common Core)
The Poetry Friday Anthology (K‑5 TEKS)
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (Common Core)
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (TEKS)
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (K‑5 Teacher/Librarian Edition)
The Poetry of Science: The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science for Kids
The TEKS Guide to The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Teacher/Librarian Edition)
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Children’s Edition)
You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book
Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book
Pet Crazy: A Poetry Friday Power Book