Constance Levy

b. 1931
Children’s poet and educator Constance Levy earned degrees at Washington University and currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri. Known for its careful attention to external and internal rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, and assonance, Levy’s work frequently takes encounters with the natural world as its subject. By drawing on her own childhood encounters, Levy re-experiences the world through verse in the fresh and exuberant ways that children perceive natural objects and phenomena, often for the first time. Reviewers have consistently praised Levy’s poems for their accessible yet creative language. Her books include I’m Going to Pet a Worm Today and Other Poems (1991), A Tree Place and Other Poems (1994), A Crack in the Clouds and Other Poems (1998), Splash!: Poems of Our Watery World (2002), and The Story of Red Rubber Ball (2004). School Library Journal ‘s Kathleen Whalin summed up the appeal of Levy’s verse best in her review of When Whales Exhale and Other Poems: “To read Levy is to see the wonder of the everyday world.”

Levy has received numerous awards for her work, including both a Lee Bennet Hopkins Award and Honor Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award. Her books have been included on the American Booksellers Pick of the Lists, the National Council of Teachers of English Notable Books in the Language Arts, the New York Public Library 100 Titles for Children’s Books, and have been a Junior Library Guild Selection.

About her career as a poet of children’s verse, Levy once told Contemporary Authors, “I would never have wondered about how I became a poet except that children I meet as a visiting poet frequently ask that question. And the only answer I can provide, for them and for myself, is that I don’t really know, but I think I always was. As a child I was drawn to poetry and loved hearing my mother recite poems for me that she learned when she was young. It always seemed that the poem I read or listened to was speaking to me. I could see it and feel it. The words made music and danced and played games with each other and stirred my senses. I have never stopped loving poetry, especially poetry for children. Poems are habit-forming, you know. Once you have a good taste of a flavor that suits you, you want more and more, and the pleasures stay with you always… When you read a poet’s work, you peek inside her or him, and I am no exception. As a writer I reveal myself in my poems, not intentionally, but because poetry is a natural expression of what the poet thinks, feels, and observes. It is me as silly, thoughtful, wondering, playing, discovering…I feel a special rapport with children and especially enjoy writing about the kinds of things they respond to, ordinary things that adults sometimes don’t really ‘see’ for all our modern distractions.”





Career

Webster Groves School District, Webster Groves, MO, teacher, 1952-53; Ritenour School District, St. Louis, MO, teacher, 1953-54; Washington University, St. Louis, MO, supervisor of student teachers, 1974-75; Missouri Arts Council, Writers in the Schools program, St. Louis, children's poet, 1975-81; Harris-Stowe State College, St. Louis, MO, adjunct instructor of children's literature, 1980-82. Freelance poet in schools, 1981-92; member of commission board, Brodsky St. Louis Jewish Library, 1989-93; guest speaker in schools and educational conferences, 1991—.

Bibliography

POETRY
  • I’m Going to Pet a Worm Today and Other Poems, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991.
  • A Tree Place and Other Poems, illustrated by Robert Sabuda, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1994.
  • When Whales Exhale, and Other Poems, illustrated by Judy LaBrasca, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1996.
  • A Crack in the Clouds and Other Poems, illustrated by Robin Bell Corfield, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1998.
  • Splash!: Poems of Our Watery World, illustrated by David Soman, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2002.
  • The Story of Red Rubber Ball, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2004.
Work represented in several periodicals, including Cricket andInstructor, and anthologies, including Puddle Wonderful, Twentieth-Century American Poetry, edited by Jack Prelutsky, Knock at a Star, revised edition, edited by X. J. Kennedy, and Opening Days: Sports Poems, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins.
 

 


Further Reading

BOOKS
  • Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 22, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.
PERIODICALS
  • Booklist, September 1, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of A Tree Place and Other Poems, p. 38; December 15, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of When Whales Exhale and Other Poems, p. 723; January 1, 1999, John Peters, review of A Crack in the Clouds and Other Poems, p. 860; April 1, 2002, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Splash! Poems of Our Watery World, p. 1322.
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1992, Betsy Hearne, review of I'm Going to Pet a Worm Today and Other Poems, p. 161; March, 1994, Betsy Hearne, review of The Tree Place and Other Poems, p. 225.
  • Horn Book, May, 1994, Nancy Vasilakis, review of A Tree Place and Other Poems, pp. 329-330; July, 2002, Roger Sutton, review of Splash!, p. 479.
  • Horn Book Guide, spring, 1997, review of When Whales Exhale and Other Poems, p. 153.
  • Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1991, review of I'm Going to Pet a Worm Today, p. 1162; April 1, 1994, review of A Tree Place and Other Poems, p. 481.
  • School Library Journal, April, 1994, Meg Stackpole, review of A Tree Place and Other Poems, p. 140; December, 1996, Kathleen Whalin, review of When Whales Exhale and Other Poems, p. 131; December, 1998, Margaret Bush, review of A Crack in the Clouds and Other Poems, p. 139; May, 2002, Jane Marino, review of Splash!, pp. 139-140.

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LIFE SPAN 1931–

Biography

Children’s poet and educator Constance Levy earned degrees at Washington University and currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri. Known for its careful attention to external and internal rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, and assonance, Levy’s work frequently takes encounters with the natural world as its subject. By drawing on her own childhood encounters, Levy re-experiences the world through verse in the fresh and exuberant ways that . . .

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