What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings

by Joyce Sidman, Pamela Zagarenski

A one-of-a-kind poetry gift book of hope, wisdom, and power from Newbery Honor-winning poet extraordinaire Joyce Sidman and Caldecott Honor-winning artist Pamela Zagarenski.


  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544106161
  • ISBN-10: 0544106164
  • Pages: 80
  • Publication Date: 10/08/2013
  • Carton Quantity: 48

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About the Book
About the Authors
  • About the Book

    What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings is a collection of poems to provide comfort, courage, and humor at difficult or daunting moments in life. It conjures forth laments, spells, invocations, chants, blessings, promises, songs, and charms. Here are pleas on how to repair a friendship, wishes to transform one’s life or to slow down time, charms to face the shame of a disapproving crowd, invocations to ask for forgiveness, to understand the mysteries of happiness, and to bravely face a dark and different world. These words help us remember or grieve; they bolster courage and guard against evil; they help us celebrate and give thanks. This elegant gift book also includes a red ribbon for readers to mark their favorite poems.

    Poet extraordinaire Joyce Sidman won the Newbery Honor Medal for Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night and continues to write poetry for children that has been called "fresh," "inspiring," and "accessible" to her young audience. She is intrigued by the idea of "words of power"—chants and charms that were once believed to have real influence in everyday life. Caldecott Honor-winning Pamela Zagarenski's beautiful art captures a world of emotion and the essence of Sidman's words.

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    Chant to Repair a Friendship

    (a triolet)

    Come, friend, forgive the past;

       I was wronga dn I am grieving.

    Tell me that this break won’t last—

    take my hand; forgive the past.

       Anger’s brief, but love is vast.

       Take my hand; don’t think of leaving.

    Come, friend, forgive the past;

       I was wrong and I am grieving.

    Come, Happiness


    you’re not what everyone says:

    some flashy friend

    who shows up with fireworks,

    trailing fame and glory.

    You are more like a raindrop,

    governed by mysterious principles.

    You fall from the sky and hit—plop!—with

    a cool kiss of surprise.

    Or maybe you’re a heartbeat,

    always there,

    speaking in your low, soft voice,

    pumping, warming, strengthening

    under the surface of things,

    just doing your work.

    Happiness, you’re like a breeze

    sucked in by eager lungs.

    You fill and feed us,

    and yet somehow, in the exhale,

    you are shared.

    So come,

    come to us, Happiness.

    Bathe us with your cool spray.

    Fill us with your splendid breath.

    Help us do your work.

    Chant Against the Dark

    Don’t come close, dark.

    Don’t brush my face with your sticky hands.

    Stay as cool and distant as a train whistle.

    Don’t single me out,

    don’t make me answer your questions.

    Let me curl here, safe in my circle of light.

    Don’t come close, dark.

    Don’t speak to me in your crooked tongue.

    I don’t want to hear your stories.

    I have stories of my own to tell myself all night.

    Don’t come close, dark.

    Don’t breathe on me.

    When the lamp clicks off,

    don’t creak and shift

    like some wild-eyed horse

    waiting for its rider.

    Oh, dark,

    don’t call my name.

    Song of Bravery

    This one’s not a sure thing.

    I’m not bound to win.

    I don’t think I’ll ace it this time.

    I won’t break a leg,

    make my own luck,

    or reach the stars.

    The sun is not shining on me today.

    The force is not strong.

    Before the day is out,

    I’ll taste the grit of dust.

    Maybe I didn’t do all I could.

    Or maybe I did

    but there were others who did more.

    Maybe I’ll never know.

    But here I go—

    bones clicking quietly together,

    blood flowing dutifully

    from heart to hands and back again—

    here I go, stepping out

    through the door

    of my own shadow:

    into the glare of the arena

    to face the lions.

  • Reviews

    "Poems of bravery, love, heartbreak, justice, and peace unite to offer readers of all ages solace, inspiration, and strength."

    Publishers Weekly, starred review

    "Profound, lushly illustrated poems explore some of life's more trying moments. . . . A winning combination of word and image sure to challenge readers both to contemplate big subjects and to act."

    Kirkus, starred review

    "An evocative book that pulls readers to a special place--their hearts."

    Booklist, starred review

    "Readers just edging toward adult poetry and those filling their notebooks with their own lyrics will find this elegant little title perfect for poetic dreams."

    The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

    "Poetry fans will savor the wordplay and whimsy, as teachers appreciate both its craft and wide appeal. Poetry fans will savor the wordplay and whimsy, as teachers appreciate both its craft and wide appeal."

    School Library Journal

    "Each poem speaks directly from Sidman's heart to the reader's, addressing subjects of deep importance . . . Zagarenski's illustrations beautifully extend the poems with her dreamy style and deft use of white space, symbolism, and images from Sidman's text."

    The Horn Book Magazine, starred review