Books Headline Picture Book Challenge 2012 Picture Books Poetry-Filled Yuletide Cheer Reading Themes

Amazing Faces by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Chris Soentpiet

Happy New Year from the GatheringBooks Ladies!

I borrowed quite a number of books in connection to our Poetry-filled Yuletide Cheer theme. It was pretty challenging sifting through the lovely titles and making a decision as to which ones to include for a review and special feature here in GatheringBooks and which to discard. I knew when I found this book in our library that I should definitely include Amazing Faces which is a gathering of poems by acclaimed poet Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by the extremely talented (a veritable genius really) Chris Soentpiet.

People, Faces, Places. I love taking photographs of people’s faces. I love capturing the shades and subtleties in their expressions. While my husband seems to ‘specialize’ in capturing nature, buildings, architectural styles and such – he has a talent with angles and perspectives – my preference is people and faces. Perhaps this is the reason why this book has appealed to me greatly. The first poem entitled Amazing Face by poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich has captured that beautifully:

Amazing, your face.
It shows there will be trails to follow,
porches to wave from, wonder from,
play on.
It shows you will sail ships,
paint stars,
carve pumpkins,
You will climb stalks,
greet giants,
crawl before you walk.
And you will fly
And you will fall.
And you will fly again.

– excerpt taken from the book

The lovely thing about this book is its concerted effort to feature faces coming from various places, countries, cultural realities – portraying a multi-colored palette of sorts, highlighting our diversity and uniqueness as individuals, and as a people. Such magnificence!

There is Me x 2 as written by Jane Medina that even includes a Spanish version of the poem. Nikki Grimes’ Miss Stone reminds us of the face of our favorite teacher who may have reached out to us in times of quiet sadness during our school days. There is the face of the football star and his seeming invulnerability in Tom Robert Shields Hero and a description of grandmother’s face as a “lacework of courage” in J. Patrick Lewis’ Abuela. One of my favorites though is A Young Soldier by Prince Red Cloud:

A young soldier
returns home –
miles of memories

So simple yet it shares a wealth of profound sadness that can not be touched – or healed even.

This book has moved me tremendously – I felt connected to the poems selected by Hopkins. Soentpiet is likewise a master at what he does: the paintings made me gasp each time I turn the page. My absolute favorite though from their collection is Kam Mak’s My Chinatown:

Twelve hours every day
the needle on her sewing machine
gobbles up fabric,
turning miles of cloth
into pants and jackets, skirts and dresses.
After supper I sit beside my mother,
listening to the hum of the motor,
the soft chatter
of the hungry needle.
Sometimes I fall asleep beside her,
the sound of her work
a lullaby.

There is much to enjoy and celebrate in this book. Make sure that you find yourself a copy and recapture your childlike awe as you stare in wonder at people’s ‘amazing faces.’

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Lee Bennett Hopkins is an acclaimed poet and writer, has created numerous poetry anthologies for young readers. He is the recipient of the 2009 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, which honors his body of work, and founder of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the Lee Bennett Hopkins/IRA Promising Poet Award. Hopkins’s books have won many honors, including ALA Notable Children’s Books, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, Children’s Choices, American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, Christopher Award, and New York Public Library Best Children’s Books. He lives in Cape Coral, Florida (source: jacket flap of the book)

Chris Soentpiet is the illustrator of several highly praised

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

picture books. Awards he has won include Original Art Show Gold Medal, NAACP Image Award, ALA Notable Children’s Books, Texas Bluebonnet Award Masterlist, Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and Notable Books for a Global Society. Soentpiet also promotes children’s literature and the arts at schools, libraries, and conferences across the United States. In Amazing Faces, he has indulged his interest in painting faces of people of different backgrounds. Soentpiet lives with his wife and their two children in the New York City area. His Web site is (source: jacket flap of the book)

Amazing Faces. Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Illustrated by Chris Soentpiet. Lee & Low Books, Inc. New York, 2010. Book borrowed from the community library. Book photos taken by me.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 2 of 120

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

8 comments on “Amazing Faces by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Chris Soentpiet

  1. Myra, this is a recent favorite of mine to use with writers. I have used it with my students to show the delightful and poignant, as well as unique human faces and feelings in our lives. It is wonderful to read what Hopkins does with his spare words, and how the artist Soentpiet expresses those words. With this book’s inspiration, my poetry group wrote their own ideas of amazing faces. Thanks for sharing.


    • Hi Linda, I’m glad to know that you’ve also enjoyed this book and that you’ve used it extensively in your classroom! would definitely recommend to my own teacher-students. 🙂


  2. What a happy baby!


  3. Thank you SO much for your enthusiastic review of my book. Lee Bennett Hopkins


  4. Thank you SO much for your enthusiastic review of my book. Lee Bennett Hopkins


    • I am deeply honored that you have found your way to our little corner here. And truly happy that you loved the review. We hope to read more of your books and feature them here. 🙂


  5. Pingback: List of Novels in Verse and Poetry Books for Children and Round-up for January 2012 «

  6. Pingback: [BHE 100] Library Love, Random Book Buys, and an Invitation to Fellow Book Hunters |

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