I love poetry and I love kids. Try one or more of these incredible books to share the love of poetry with your kids.
I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins
This book is a combination of poems, art and commentary on a variety of subjects by various authors and artists. The authors are remembering and re-experiencing the events, conversations and perceptions of kids from different cultures who are growing up and finding their places in the world.
The first in this collection is Mother’s Day by Janet S. Wong. It really touched me. Here a little girl tries to find the perfect Mother’s Day gift. It’s short but dense with imagery and emotional moments. Feelings flow from curiosity, to uncertainty, back to curiosity, and finally to deep satisfaction with the surprise ending. The perfect image by Simone Shin is paired with the poem and was obviously created just for this verse.
Pick One by Nick Bruel follows the author as he remembers confronting the question of race when filing out a form. Which box do you check if you are of mixed race or heritage? The speaker asks Mom and Dad what to choose. “Just pick one.” Asian? (But I’m Chinese!) Mom says, “Close enough.” “Just pick one.” Caucasian? (But I’m Belgian!) Dad says, “Close enough.” The incorporated family stories told during the episode lead the child to “Just pick one.” He chooses Other! Janine Macbeth’s accompanying painting is of a young girl looking into a mirror, perhaps wondering what she is and what she should call herself.
These are just a couple of the insightful and entertaining poems, and beautiful and vibrant images you can enjoy in this fascinating book.
When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad
This book was a surprise for me. The pastel, childlike cover art and the apparent gardening theme would not normally draw me in.
I’m so glad I took the advice of a “Best Poetry for Kids” list online and included this book. The pictures are a great complement to the poems as they express a great deal of mood and feeling. Each piece is titled with dates in chapters for each season. They run from the Spring chapter’s first poem March 20 to the end of the Winter chapter’s last poem March 20. They are short and sweet and full of the joy, disappointment and unique child’s perspective on the seasons.
Many of the poems are brief and evocative like:
if you ever stopped
to taste a blueberry
you would know
it’s not really about the blue, at all
I suggest you check this book out if you want to bite into a whole year of delicious experiences.
Night Wishes compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins illustrated by Jen Corace
The first poem, Bed by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, gives us a look at the child climbing into bed after a busy day of play. The poems follow the sleeping child from Pillow to Cat (as in snuggling with) to a dream of a giant Teddy Bear, an Angel and more. The final poem, Bed Again by Dotlich, has the child awaking to a new day in a bright cheerful bedroom.
The illustrations are very clever. The styles, although by one artist, vary slightly to fit the subject. Elements from the child’s room are incorporated seamlessly in illustrations for the rest of the night’s poems.
Grab this book and make it bedtime reading. You’ll gently glide off to sleep and dream.
I had the hardest time deciding which book to include for my final detailed review. So I will include all three of my finalists with as little fuss as I can.
The Cricket in the Thicket by Carol Murray, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
This book is everything you want in poems to learn by. The pieces are fun and really give you a feeling for each bug mentioned. The pictures are engaging and multi-layered. Each subject has a small tile with a fun fact.
If you love bugs, you’ll love this. If you don’t, it might just change your mind.
The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems selected by Paul B. Janecsko, illustrated by Richard Jones
This is a collection of witty, whimsical and even beautiful poems about how to go about things, from Toasting Marshmallows to Walking on Mars. The watercolor illustrations show a variety of techniques used to enhance each piece.
I hope you know how to get your hands on this book!
No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson and Jeanette Bradley (also the illustrator)
This collection is something very different from my other favorites. The chalk pastel drawings that accompany the biographical poems pull this book together and add strength to its mission of educating and inspiring children (and their adults). The authors of the poems about these brave, resourceful young people use many forms of verse to fit the subject and emotion of each story.
In a few words the poets help us feel the impact of young voices and lives on the present and the future. Each is accompanied by a paragraph bio with bit of background for the poem.
You will be uplifted and intrigued by these glimpses of heroism from just kids. I know I will be looking to find out more about these kids and the causes they are championing. I hope you’ll join me!
For even more ideas for great kids’ poetry titles check out this list!