What the Heart Knows-9780544106161

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings

by Joyce Sidman and 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

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
Joyce Sidman

The Newbery Honor winner Joyce Sidman is today's foremost nature poet for children.  Accolades for her books include two Caldecott Honors, a Lee Bennet Hopkins Award, winner of the Claudia Lews Award, and many stars and best of lists.  For her award-winning body of work, she won the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. She lives in Wayzata, Minnesota. Visit www.joycesidman.com  

Pamela Zagarenski

Pamela Zagarenski is the winner of two Caldecott Honors. The books she has illustrated have also been Booklist Editor's Choices, Horn Book Fanfare and Bulletin Blue Ribbon books, winners of Bank Street's Claudia Lewis Award, and translated into many languages. As well as illustrating picture books, she creates paintings and has a gift card line. She lives in Connecticut. Visit her online at pzagarenski.com, on Instagram @sacredbee, and Twitter @sacredbeez.


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.


"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