Award-Winning Poet Hopkins Gifts Libraries His Private Collection

October 18, 2017 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

Photo via Ellysa Cahoy

Award-winning children’s poet and author Lee Bennett Hopkins recently informed the Penn State University Libraries that he would be giving them his entire personal collection of children’s poetry books, manuscripts, and correspondence.

A small portion of the valuable collection—boxes and boxes stored in Hopkins’ Cape Coral, Fla., home—has already been sent to the Special Collections Library at  University Park, and soon, Karla Schmit, interim head, Education Library and Director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, and Ellysa Cahoy, education and behavioral sciences librarian and assistant director for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, will determine where to house the rest.

Hopkins’ private collection is valued at more than $2 million and comprises, among others, 18,000 children’s poetry books, as well as letters from Dr. Seuss. It’s a significant gift to the Penn State libraries, Schmit says, and will be a huge draw for scholars of children’s literature.

But the gift also cements Hopkins’ longstanding connection to the Penn State Libraries, and that it’s arriving in the 25th year of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book’s Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for children’s poetry makes it even more special.

The award is the first and oldest award of its kind in the country, and Hopkins himself suggested it to former head education and behavioral sciences librarian Steven Herb. It has been instrumental, says Schmit, to children’s poetry—a genre for which, she says, interest has sadly waned over the years.

“Children’s poetry just isn’t being published as often or as much as in the past, which we find to be very unfortunate,” she says. “The market drives quite a bit of what’s happening in the publishing world, where smaller publishers are steadily purchased by the Big Six, and they go by what sells commercially—picture books, graphic novels, and so on.”

Photo via Ellysa Cahoy

Last Thursday, the Pennsylvania Center for the Book awarded the 25th Lee Bennett Hopkins Award to Salvadorean poet Jorge Argueta, whose bilingual collection Somos Como las Nubes/We are Like the Clouds evocatively recounts the struggles, uncertainties, and pain refugees face.

Argueta joins a group of winners whose words have introduced children to people and places, traditions and crafts, stories and experiences that they might not otherwise encounter, Cahoy says.

The Penn State Libraries bound the winning entries of the past 25 years into a special illustrated book and gave a copy to every winner.

Earlier this month, the library awarded the 2017 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year to cartoonist Sarah Glidden for her memoir/travelogue Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The book takes readers to the front lines of war in the Middle East and leads them through the process of journalistic storytelling.

The Lynd Ward Prize was the first trade-based award for graphic novels, Cahoy says, and Rolling Blackouts joins a large collection of graphic novels housed in the University Park Libraries.

Savita Iyer, senior editor

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