Thursday, May 7, 2020

Book Love: SOUTHWEST SUNRISE + the Poetry Friday Roundup

"Visitors Welcome"               Photo: Nikki Grimes

Welcome to the Poetry Friday roundup and to New Mexico, the land of enchantment. Today we're celebrating the exquisite beauty of Nikki Grimes's latest release, hot off the press, Southwest Sunrise.

SOUTHWEST SUNRISE (Bloomsbury, May 5, 2020)
Order online via the publisher, at
or at (supporting independent bookstores)

From Children's Literature Legacy Award winner Nikki Grimes and highly-acclaimed illustrator Wendell Minor comes a stunning picture book about the beauty of the natural world and finding a new place to call home.

The beauty of the natural world is just waiting to be discovered . . .

When Jayden touches down in New Mexico, he's uncertain how this place could ever be home. But if he takes a walk outside, he just might find something glorious.

Flowers in bright shades . . .
Birds and lizards and turtles, all with a story to tell . . .
Red rock pillars towering in the distance . . .
Turquoise sky as far as the eye can see . . .

Perhaps this place could be home after all.

Gorgeously poetic and visually stunning, this story from acclaimed creators Nikki Grimes and Wendell Minor celebrates the beauty of the Southwest as a young boy sees it for the very first time.

I lived in Socorro, New Mexico from 1998-2002, and like the young protagonist in Southwest Sunrise, I fell unexpectedly in love with the landscape. Surrounded by desert on three sides and big sky overhead—

View from the front porch. This is the rainbow that greeted us when
we arrived home from the hospital with my first born in May of 2000.

An abundance of blooms—and the desert off to our right.

"M" mountain (which I've written about here) was our view from the back patio.
I loved watching roadrunners and families of quail scoot along the back fence.

New Mexico will always be one of my favorite places to feel grounded, inspired and awed. More than any other home, New Mexico soothed my spirit.

Photo credit: Aaron Lemen
Apparently Nikki Grimes was affected similarly by the beauty and intrigue of the Southwest. I'm delighted to welcome her to Today's Little Ditty to talk more about her inspiration for writing Southwest Sunrise.

Knowing me as she does, she even went so far as to include a poetry challenge at the end of her post! Please leave your poem in the comments if you wish. We'd both love to read them.

Story. For me, poetry is always about story. From the earliest years of writing, I challenged myself to paint a picture or tell a story using as few words as possible. I still do.

The inspiration for my narrative poetry comes from everywhere. Sometimes I'm sculpting a memory from the past, at other times, I'm molding a moment from the present. In either case, I keep my eye out for something that will spark my imagination, some thing that will lead to a nugget of story.

In writing Southwest Sunrise, my newest title, I drew from the landscape, flora, and fauna of the Southwest, itself, as did illustrator Wendell Minor. Many an artist and poet have been inspired by the sensual treasures of that environment. (There's a reason the region is known as O'Keeffe Country!)

Adobe houses,

Photo: Nikki Grimes

red-rock mountain ranges,

Photo: Nikki Grimes

and flowers with names like Fire Wheel, Calypso, Wine Cup, and Yellow Bell certainly got me going.

From SOUTHWEST SUNRISE. Text copyright © 2020 by Nikki Grimes. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Wendell Minor.
Reproduced by permission of Bloomsbury Children’s Books. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Wait!  There's the one
called Wine Cup
spilling its burgundy beauty
for me to drink up.

And aren't those Yellow bells?
They wake up the desert
with their silent ring.

There's a patch of Calypso Orchids...
dancing purple in the wind...

Photo: Nikki Grimes

If the landscape with its sun-bleached bones, and the flora doesn't spark your imagination, the animal life will. There are prehistoric looking lizards, elegant ravens, and those morning noise-makers, the magpies.  All of these sparked ideas for poems.  Here are two.

From SOUTHWEST SUNRISE. Text copyright © 2020 by Nikki Grimes. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Wendell Minor.
Reproduced by permission of Bloomsbury Children’s Books. (Click on image to enlarge.)

I shiver from the silence
unbroken by
the familiar sound of sirens—
but not for long.
A few yards down the road,
I pick up the mad chatter
of winged gossips
passing secrets
from one unfamiliar tree to another.
The guidebook calls them
Pinion trees.

From SOUTHWEST SUNRISE. Illustration © 2020 by Wendell Minor.

Someone should tell these
flying chatterboxes
Magpies are beautiful
when their beaks are still,
when they sail on air
and write across the sky
with the long black tips
of their tails.

Try to find a story in one of the images I brought back from the Southwest, or one of Wendell's paintings, then write a poem about it. Any form of poem will do, but you get bonus points if you can paint a picture or tell a story in a haiku or tanka poem. Whatever form you choose, have fun!

For more about Southwest Sunrise, visit to read starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. I also recommend visiting Poetry for Children and A Fuse 8 Production for two other guest blog posts.

For more about Nikki Grimes at Today's Little Ditty, you can read our Spotlight ON interview (featuring Poems in the Attic), our Classroom Connections Q&A (featuring Bronx Masquerade and Between the Lines), and my Book Love review (featuring Words with Wings).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Not surprisingly, Margaret Simon's May challenge to "write a mindful poem about the present moment" has really taken off, both on the padlet and on Twitter using the hashtag #PoemsofPresence. Click HERE for more details about the challenge and to read Margaret's Reader Spotlight interview. Featured daily ditties this week included poems by Heidi Mordhorst, Linda Baie, and Rebekah Hoeft, plus an applicable Two Line Tuesday with a quote by Elizabeth Appell.

Feel free to grab and use this logo I designed for blog posts, etc.


  1. This looks - and sounds - so beautiful! Congratulations to Nikki on another stellar book! (And thanks for hosting, Michelle!)

  2. I especially like "They wake up the desert
    with their silent ring." Thanks for the interview and for hosting! xo

  3. Hello Michelle and Nikki Grimes! You could not know this...but there is a pull on me to New Mexico. My husband has known for about ten years that I intend to retire there...he can come along if he wants to ;). But here's the thing...I've never been there! Something in New Mexico needs me to at least visit. So, I absolutely must get my hands on 'Southwest Sunrise.' But, I'm already quite a Nikki Grimes fan...that that was a done deal anyway.
    I love the Wine Cup spilling burgundy to drink up...what a luscious image.
    Challenge accepted. Thank you for a great peek at at the new book!

  4. Tabatha shares my favourite line. It's beautiful. Thank you Michelle for sharing Nikki's work. Another for my must-have list. And thanks for hosting Poetry Friday, too.

  5. Inspiring post and book from a grand mysterious place, seeped in culture waiting to be tapped… I haven't lived there but have visited a number of times. Thanks for your book Nikki and the challenge! And thanks Michelle for this rich post and hosting the roundup!

  6. The poetry of flowers was just exquisite! And I have all manner of warm and wonderful imaginings about Adobe houses. Thank-you for hosting and sharing this glimpse into Nikki & Wendell's wonderful work - and the challenge. (I held off commenting until I could rise to it.) Here is my response;

    we share the same name
    and monochrome feathered coat
    but not Corvidae

    warbling Aussie songbirds
    gargle a new dawn chorus

    © Kathryn Apel 2020

    And once again I am struck by the same-but-different of our Aussie/American ways. :)

    1. (In retrospect I probably should have said, 'warbling Aussie magpies / gargle a new dawn chorus' ...)

    2. Of course *I* knew you were talking about magpies even in the first version, Kat. :) Once you've heard that "new dawn chorus" of warblers, it's impossible to forget.

  7. The power of landscape and setting to inspire words is inestimable. Always enjoy the work of Nikki Grimes, so thank you for this treat. Your own connection with New Mexico no doubt enhances the reading of Nikki's words for you Michelle, enabling you to reimagine your time in this special place. Thank you also for hosting and launching poetry Friday with such stunning imagery.

  8. I live in Colorado so have visited New Mexico many, many times, with family and with students. Spending time at Ghost Ranch is a special memory. I love reading some of Nikki's poetry & seeing Wendell's art. When visiting there, it seems nothing can be done but to immerse oneself in art and the beauty found. Thanks for sharing this beautiful book. From that first picture of Nikki's. I also had my own blue door.

    With a Bucket and a Brush

    It is time to bring peace
    to our homes.
    Taking a chance,
    she painted her front door blue
    hopeful that neighbors would follow,
    then perhaps all the world.

    1. Without a doubt, there is something enchanting (and peaceful) about a blue door. Perhaps a "blue door" movement IS what we need!

  9. Michelle, thank you for your interview with Nikki Grimes. the sharing of her gorgeous new book, and for being the consummate hostess. I totally agree that "The beauty of the natural world is just waiting to be discovered . . ." I will definitely participate in this challenge.

  10. How wonderful to see pics from your own New Mexico experience, Michelle! This book is a great way to armchair travel to New Mexico, too. After reading this post, I am THERE. Thanks to both! xo

  11. I spent three lovely years in New Mexico, and it will always hold a part of my heart. I look forward to seeing Nikki's book.

  12. What a gift to visit a new place in this way at this time. Thank you, Michelle, and congratulations to Nikki! xx

  13. Looks like a gorgeous book; love the sample spreads! Thanks for the virtual trip to New Mexico, both of you, and thanks for hosting this week, Michelle!

  14. Such a lush post filled with beautiful words and images! Thank you so much for sharing this interview with Nikki Grimes and some pages from her book. I'm a huge fan of Byrd Baylor and this book captures that same love of the southwestern landscape--somewhere I long to visit! Nikki's imagery is exquisite. I love those Wine Cups spilling their "burgundy beauty" and the silent ringing of the yellow bells waking the desert. Thanks to her for the bonus challenge and to you for hosting this week.

  15. Thanks for this post, reminding me of New Mexico. I visited Ghost Ranch several times, here is one memory:
    Evening campfire
    A circle of dancers
    Dark eyes flashing
    Drums beating
    Bells jingling
    Feet stomping
    The rhythm beckoning
    Repeated invitations
    Until I, too,
    Fumbled my way
    Into the circle.

  16. Nikki's new book is so lovely! Thanks for sharing it with us, Michelle. Here's my haiku, inspired by the book. Thanks for the challenge this morning!

    Jayden: so unsure.
    Until the southwest sunrise
    captures heart and soul.

  17. Thanks for hosting, Michelle. And what a lovely visit with Nikki and sneak preview of such a gorgeous book. I took the haiku challenge bait, using her photo of a flower covered fence -- "abundance of blooms/fragrant climbing friends clamber/to greet this fine day."

    1. The flower (and rainbow) photos in this post are mine, Christie, but I accept your lovely haiku with gratitude. :)

  18. Nikki's photos, the wonderful new book about her beloved southwest invite us all to come in and drink up all that is there. It is on my list to visit Santa Fe. I have been before but only briefly and once long ago. I was inspired by Nikki's words and so offer this double duty poem (Haiku and Golden Shovel). Thanks for the encouragement and prompt, Nikki and Michelle. The color and nature and glory of that region came singing right to my heart. And so I dream. This book will find its way to my shelf.

    hiking paths across
    burnt red rims far above the
    jagged bones of canyon

    Janet Clare F.

    1. Wonderful, Janet! I love the "burnt red rims" and "jagged bones."

  19. My copy arrived yesterday. Everything about this book is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing it here.

  20. I can't wait to see this book. The landscape of the West is imprinted on my soul.

    when I dream of home
    dusty scent of sagebrush
    and forever sky

  21. Scent, sagebrush, forever I love your poem.
    Janet Clare F.

  22. There's something so enchanting about New Mexico. We've visited several times and time spent in pueblos and at Ghost Ranch are treasured memories. I look forward to reading Nikki's new book.

  23. Back for a tanka response.

    red-rock ranges

    voices call between
    cliff crevices… waiting
    for you to hear their
    stories, waiting for you
    to begin your journey…

  24. Fabulosa, Nikki, and thanks, Michelle! What a beautiful book, and a great story of discovery. I do hope that one of the positive upshots of This Unprecedented Time is more kids being allowed time and freedom to get out and notice and wonder at the wild richness of nature wherever they live.

  25. I can't wait to read Nikki's newest. I'm not a fan of desert landscapes, but maybe she will make a believer out of even me. Her words and Wendell Minor's art--what a lovely pairing! Thanks for hosting, Michelle :>)

    1. I felt the same about desert landscapes until I actually lived there, Laura. For me, it was about the feel of the place more than the look of it.

  26. After living in Arizona for 7 years and having family in Albuquerque, I feel the love for the Southwest. Nothing is prettier than a desert sunset! Thanks for shining the spotlight on Nikki's new book and sharing your special connection to NM, Michelle. Happy Mother's Day! :)