Saturday, May 7, 2016

Children's Book Week 2016 Recommendation: FAMOUS by Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye, Lisa Desimini (Illustrator)
Wings Press
Hardcover, 978-1609404499, 32 pgs., $15.95
September 1, 2015

My Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives two definitions for "famous." The first is "widely known." The second is "honored for achievement." Naomi Shihab Nye, novelist, poet, beloved of Texas and famous in both senses, was often asked if she was famous by schoolchildren. She found the question "confounding" and wanted to know why whether she was famous mattered and what it meant. Shihab Nye's answer was "everything is famous if you notice it" and eventually became the poem, "Famous."

In this poem, Shihab Nye makes the point that every home is famous to its inhabitants, tears are "famous, briefly, to the cheek" and assures that each of us is famous to our families and friends. But my favorite part of this poem is when she tells us who she wants to be famous to:
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back. 
Now that gives us something to aspire to. The lesson is sweetly inspirational with nary a cliche in sight, dedicated to "Your secret shining self. And to anyone who thinks nobody notices them." Lisa Desimini's illustrations are whimsical and suffused with rich color, including a playful portrait of the the poet and her famous braid.

This lovely little volume from Wings Press is appropriate not only for young children but also as a gift in this season of graduations. "Widely known" and "honored for achievement." In this Kardashian-Trump world, it's important that the children we are raising understand the differences between the two.


  1. Excellent review! This is a great little book with a powerful message.