Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Honesdale, Wayne County
Children?s author Joyce Sidman credits her childhood trips to Wayne County for inspiring books like Butterfly Eyes.
Awards: Lee Bennett Hopkins Award
After beginning to write at an early age, Joyce Sidman attended Wesleyan University, and later earned her teacher’s certificate. She writes poetry, fiction, journalism, and essays, although she currently is best known for her children’s books of poetry, which exhibit her love of the natural world. She currently lives with her family in Minnesota.
Joyce Sidman was born on June 4th, 1956, in Hartford, Connecticut. While born and bred in the Nutmeg State, Sidman also has a strong affinity for northeastern Pennsylvania. She says that she
spent a lot of time there as a child. My paternal grandparents, German immigrants who ran a restaurant in NYC, retired to a farm in the Honesdale area (where many other German immigrants lived). My two sisters and I loved visiting, and spent many summers there. We’d drive from our home in CT, across a bit of New York state, and when we reached the PA border, we’d cheer. Lake Wallenpaupack was another landmark (we swam there sometimes). This area of the Poconos was beautiful, and I have wonderful memories of it—blueberry picking, red eft hunting, tractor riding, deer watching. I think especially my book Butterfly Eyes had its origins in those visits, since a lot of the property was meadow, and we tramped every inch of it!
Sidman started writing at an early age, saying she was “blessed with a top-notch education that exposed me to all kinds of literature, and teachers who expected first-rate writing out of me,” and that from early on she felt compelled to write. This strong foundation in writing led her to start writing poetry at Wesleyan University, where she earned her B.A. in German. In 1983 she earned her teacher’s certificate, and still teaches week long poetry seminars in middle schools.
However, Ms. Sidman’s primary vocation is as a children’s book author, for which she has won several awards, including The Best Book of the Year from Bank Street College for Eureka!: Poems about Inventors, and Best Book for Young Adults from the American Library Association for The World According to Dog. As in the latter, Sidman often writes mask poems, or poems in a different voice, because she loves “seeing and imagining things in new ways.” By her count she has written over 100 books, which she credits to her “overactive imagination”, although only seven have been published.
In 2006, she was given the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book in recognition of her outstanding book, Song of the Water Boatman. This book combines wonderful poetry, with education about nature, as well as apt illustrations. Much of Sidman’s work relates to nature, and as Sidman says “It is the natural world that sustains and inspires me.” She further writes that she wants her readers to “look around with fresh eyes, to truly see beauty and complexity, to experience joy from these things.”
In addition to spending time in nature close to her inspiration, Sidman volunteers at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, MN. She also works as a columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, in St. Paul, MN. She currently lives in Wayzata, Minnesota with her husband and two sons.
Like the Air. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 1999.
Just Us Two: Poems about Animal Dads. Illus. by Susan Swan. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 2000.
Eureka!: Poems about Inventors. Illus. by K. Bennett Chavez. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 2002.
The World According to Dog: Poems and Teen Voices. Illus. by Doug Mindel. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
Song of the Water Boatman: Pond Poems. Illus. by Beckie Prange. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
MEOW RUFF: A Story in Concrete Poetry. Illus. by Michelle Berg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. Illus. by Beth Krommes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. Illus. by Pamela Zagarensky. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
Red Sings From Treetops: A Year in Colors. Illus. by Pamela Zagarensky. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2009.