A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams
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A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  962 ratings  ·  202 reviews
A Junior Library Guild Selection Willie loved to write - words gave him freedom and peace. But he also knew that he needed to earn a living, so when he grew up he went off to medical school and became a doctor - one of the busiest men in town! Yet he never stopped writing.

In this picture book biography of poet William Carlos Williams, Jen Bryant's engaging prose and Meliss...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published August 1st 2008 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2008)
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Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Oh, how I absolutely
love this book
adore it
for its simple
informative text
admire it
for the collage and
water color illustrations
showing the time
the world and
the spirit of the poet
who was a doctor
who healed wounds
delivered babies
and soothed
our souls
Erin Ramai
This book is intended for grades 3-6. A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams provides the conflicted occupational history of William Carlos Williams and his eventual decision to become a poet. It was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2009. Selected poems by Williams are on the endpapers of this book, set against a green background with linked squares. Thus, his poems serve as an entrance to his life. What is most wonderful about this book is the integration of text and illustration. I fe...more
The story of poet William Carlos Williams is beautifully and creatively illustrated as one might imagine from the Caldecott Honor it received. Be sure to read the illustrator's note; I hadn't realized that so many of illustrations are made on the covers of old books! Very neat! I'm not sure the story itself touched me emotionally as some other biographies have, but I appreciated how many of Williams' own poems were incorporated into both the text and illustrations and it's an inspiring story for...more
Oh how I LOVE this book!!!!

One time, when my next younger sister was also my roomate along with eight other girls while we were undergrads, she left me a WCW poem in the freezer in place of the icecream sandwich I had been hoarding.

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

The illustrator (who was awarded a Caldecott Honor for this work) incorporated several of his poems throughout h...more
 (NS) Amie
A River of Words follows the life of poet William Carlos Williams. From a very young age Williams wanted to write poetry, but knew he also needed to earn a living. He became a doctor, but spent much of his free time writing poetry. His poems are included throughout the story.

Even though this is a picture book biography of William Carlos Williams, I felt there were enough of his poems included to read it this week. Ever since I read The Red Wheelbarrow and This is Just to Say, I have been a big f...more
Jim Erekson
Melissa Sweet resisted the temptation to provide a representational interpretation of Williams' poems, instead purposefully taking a modern-art abstract approach. I appreciated this. While we do get to see a picture of a red wheelbarrow, for example, we do not have the illustrator telling us why so much depended on it. The images in Williams' poem are supposed to be evocative without being symbolic, and the verbs and adjectives are often where the poetry happens around these evocative everyday n...more
Loved this beautiful children's book about William Carlos Williams! The story is lyrical and yet clearly told. The illustrations, however, are what I found enchanting about this book. The busy pictures incorporate a variety of materials and many of Williams' poems. I love that the book devotes so much time to Williams' childhood and his creative process.

In addition to incorporating poetry in the text and illustrations, the book pairs a Williams timeline with a world events timeline. Both the il...more
This is an inspirational biography and well worth sharing with children. It is the story of a man who never gives up on what he loves even when he can't make a living at it. It is the story of a man who allows his own voice and style to speak out even when it isn't just like others who are masters at the art. It is the story of a man who sees the beauty in the simplest things in life. I very much enjoyed reading about William Carlos Williams and plan to incorporate this book into a library lesso...more
Lisa Vegan
Dec 30, 2008 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: children who enjoy poetry and those who think they don’t, writers and reluctant writers
This is a picture book but is also a biography of William Carlos Williams. There’s plenty of his poetry in here, along with his life story. The illustrations are gorgeous and complement the subject perfectly. It’s a beautiful and informative book.

I highly recommend this for eight to twelve year olds who are studying poetry, reading biographies, who are writers/poets or as a way to introduce them to the idea that they might try a hand at writing, or at art or medicine, or whatever profession for...more
Willie Williams was a very energetic boy. After playing with his friends, he would roam though the New Jersey countryside and then inspired by the poetry that his teacher read aloud in class, he would stay up late to write his own poems. It’s a good thing he had a lot of energy. He grew up to be a doctor and a poet. By the end of his life he had written 48 books and helped deliver over 3,000 babies.
Judy Desetti
Feb 02, 2014 Judy Desetti rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: good for biography units
Caldecott Honor (2009)

This is one to pair with the picture biography A Splash of Red by the same author and illustrator. They have the same style and rhythm. I think it is one to add to our collection and use with Gr 2-4 for biographies. I liked the information at the end of the book filling in more information on Wiliam Carlos Williams. Loved what Melissa Sweet shares about the importance of research on her work and how she made connections. I'll be sure to share that with students.


A Splash of Red  The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant
This was on my coworkers "recommendation" stack and it looked good. Then I saw it was all poetry and I thought "aahhhh" I can appreciate poetry but I don't love love it. But this instead was about a regular JOE, who liked to write poems, went to Medical School, but always wrote poems. Sometimes they rhymed some time they didn't. I enjoyed this and learned a lot about William Carol Williams (an unfortunate name...like Phil Phillps or Adam Adamsom) What I read of his poetry they aren't sappy, flow...more
A great children's book on the life and poetry of William Carlos Williams. Focusing on the childhood and early career of Williams, children can relate to the poet, playing baseball, exploring the woods, and going to school. The author and illustrator seamlessly layer examples of Williams' poetry throughout the story. The illustrations are especially successful at this, using collage and paintings on scraps of old books, index cards, and prescription pads.

Kids in grades 3,4, and 5 will find this...more
I was not aware of William Carlos Williams until I was well into my 20s. We never studied him in school, nor did I run across him in college. So, I wondered, when I first heard about this book, if I managed to remain ignorant about him for so long, what appeal could he possibly have for grade school kids? His style, however, is accessible and he looks at everyday objects and happenings with new eyes and wonder (just like kids!) – maybe his words *could* speak to kids.

The book begins and ends wi...more
This book has very creative illustrations that all fit so well with the topic and theme of this book. The cover page looks like a book about a man with lots of words is on it, the end pages have poems, the title page has a type writer that says that it is the story of William Carlos Williams, and after the title page is a portrait of a man. There are good cues used in the peritext to indicate that this book is going to be about a writer named William Carlos Williams. The pictures are creatively...more
Beverly Kennett
This story is a biography of the award winning poet/doctor, William Carlos Williams, that was awarded both the Caldecott and Charlotte Zolotow honor status in 2009 . The book describes the influences of his life including how he fell in love with poetry, yet chose to to pursue a more lucrative career, in addition to his writing. Williams poetry evolved from trying to copy other poet's styles to his own style in which he was influenced by everyday objects and focused his poems around them. The co...more
Cindy Benabderrahman
Apr 19, 2009 Cindy Benabderrahman rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mixed media artists, poetry lovers
Willie loved the outdoors. In fact, he loved the outdoors so much, that when the other boys his age tired of playing sports, Willie stayed outside, wandering around alone, enjoying nature, watching everything. He spent time taking naps by the river, wandering through the woods, listening to the sounds of the wild world. As he grew older, he had to hurry in order to accomplish all of the things he wanted to do in a day, and still make time for himself. Just like he loved to listen to the sounds o...more
Lundin Rach
A River of Words; The Story of William Carlos Williams Review-Rachel Lundin
Everyone of us has a passion or a dream as a child although, sometimes that can be un-realistic we still wished that we had pursued them, maybe not as careers but, just for the sake of still holding on to our dreams and not losing sight of them. In A River of Words by, Bryant, Jennifer Fisher, William Carlos Williams is a young boy who has a knock for putting words together and making them into beautiful descriptive poem...more
Ying Lee
Genre: Biography
Copyright: 2008

Born and growing up in Rutherford, New Jersey, William Carlos Williams likes to play outside, just like other boys. Willie also enjoys his adventurous exploration in wild places, and one of his favorites is to lie by the Passaic River, listening to the music of water. While the sound of water soothes him, a river of words runs within Willie, which inspires him to write poems, mostly poems about daily lives. Though loving to write poems, Willie understands that bei...more
I was drawn to this book not only because it would be a resource for my Language Arts class, but also because of the unique illustrations. The book will be a wonderful introduction to the poet William Carlos Williams. Jen Bryant has written a concise and clever biography of one of my favorite poets. Willie, as she called him in her book, was always interested in poetry; however, he chose to become a doctor because he knew poetry wouldn't pay the bills.

I love that he continued to write despite t...more
Scott Volz
This picture-book biography of 20th century poet William Carlos Williams captures many of the essentials elements of Williams' life and work: his early, enduring love of nature, keen eye for observation, and dedication to his two crafts--Williams' day job was that of a busy family practice doctor!

Melissa Sweet's mixed-media illustrations (including the interesting technique of using book covers as a canvas) add value to author's account of Williams' life, which focuses most heavily on his youth....more
Genre: Children’s, Biographical, Poetry


In telling the story of poet William Carlos Williams, this book takes full advantage of a variety of media to communicate the subjects and topics in Williams’ poetry. His words are interspersed throughout the story of his life, recentering the text on his poetry, mimicking the way Williams himself continually returned to his love of words.

In using mixed media, a depth and texture is added to each page, giving the reader a delightful way to explore...more
This inspirational story was about a man who didn't let things get in the way of his dreams. This man, William Carlos Williams, always loved writing poetry and found it fascinating since a young boy in grade school. Despite the pressure from his family to provide money, he still found time to devote to his passion of writing poetry. After long busy days of house calls and delivering babies, he would stay up late and form beautiful stanzas that were inspired from his day to day life. He loved to...more
A nice autobiography of William Carlos Williams, who always had a musical ear and a penchant for writing poetry, and figured out early on that he wanted to write about ordinary things, unlike the subjects chosen by "the famous English writers he had learned about in school" (Bryant). What a cool thing about Williams. So often when you encourage kids to write, they say, "I've got nothing to write about," somehow dismissing the idea that you can write about what you know, what you see, what your o...more
Appetizer: This picturebook biography focuses on the younger years of Willie Williams's (1883-1963) life as a poet--His childhood nature walks, his enjoyment of listening to his teacher read poetry, experimenting with writing his own poetry to deciding to become a doctor.

A poet herself, Jen Bryant uses lyrical language to share Williams's story. I especially liked that she called Williams "Willie" throughout the narrative, which helps him to seem more childlike and relatable than DR. WILLIAM CAR...more
This is a biography. Everyone knows biographies are supposed to be dry enough to choke a camel and that biographies are all about the timeline and footnotes. A River of Words is an exception. It has all the accoutrements of a proper children's work of nonfiction but with a style done in a lyrical homage worthy of a poet. Unfortunately, I barely noticed any of that since I couldn't avert my eyes from the illustrations to read the actual text.

Illustrator Melissa Sweet created playful mixed media c...more
This is such a visually striking book about a poet who was also a doctor, William Carlos Williams, known for his spare verse about everyday objects and occurrences. And there is more than you can visually or textually process in one reading, but it certainly captures the imagination as it flows. Williams and his development as a poet are the subjects of the book, but it is conveyed in such a visual way that it underscores William's use of everyday things in his poems. Covers (or inside covers) o...more
A River of Words is a book to be read slowly - you need time to take in all the details of Melissa Sweet's illustrations. Sweet used watercolor, collage and mixed media to create pictures where every bit seems intentional and meaningful. The illustrations vary from visual expressions of Williams' poems to vignettes of his life. The text and illustrations interpret Williams' life at a level that lower grade school students can understand and relate to, although readers from upper grade school (an...more
I was so excited when A River of Words came out because I love William Carlos Williams' poetry, and I've always thought that his use of the everyday, ordinary happenings and objects in our lives makes his work accessible to kids.

A River of Words tells the story of William Carlos Williams' upbringing, his choice to become a doctor, his friendships with other modernist poets like Ezra Pound, and H.D. The intricate illustrations merge the inspiration he found all around him (water, pastoral landsca...more
I always feel a little bit inadequate when I review a book of poetry or a book about a poet, even if it's for kids. I feel like I'm encroaching on someone else's territory or something. Like I'm some kind of verse-based interloper trespassing where I am ignorant. And the feeling only gets worse when I'm dealing with a person with whom I am not truly familiar. Fortunately, if I ever needed a book to give me the skinny on a poet in terms even an eight-year-old could appreciate, A River of Words: T...more
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Jen Bryant writes picture books, novels and poems for readers of all ages. Her biographical picture book: A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, illustrated by Melissa Sweet,received a Caldecott Honor award and her historical novel in verse RINGSIDE 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial is an Oprah Recommended Book for ages 12 & up. Other titles include Pieces of Georgia (IRA Youn...more
More about Jennifer Fisher Bryant...
Pieces of Georgia Kaleidoscope Eyes The Trial Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial The Fortune of Carmen Navarro

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