Kiddosphere: Poems A Plenty: Books for National Poetry Month

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Poetry can be a tough sell. Too often, our image of poetry are long verses about clouds moving across the sky or whatnot, and that image often starts in childhood. Luckily, there are so many fantastic children’s books of poetry that make reading (and reciting) poetry a fun and rewarding pastime. Here are some of my favorite poetry books published in the last year or so. 

Margarita Engle is best known for her young adult (YA) novels in verse about Cuban historical figures, so Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics is a bit of a departure for her. From Juan de Miralles, a Cuban who fought with American soldiers in the Revolutionary War, to Tomas Rivera, the first Hispanic head of a University of California campus (and whose childhood story is told in the marvelous Tomas and the Library Lady), Engle’s poems introduce a variety of Latino civil rights leaders, artists, pilots and others who made history. This is a compelling introduction to intriguing and inspiring Hispanics beyond Cesar Chavez and Roberto Clemente (who are also profiled).

What makes a poem? Daniel’s animal friends certainly have their own opinions, whether it’s a warm pond, shining morning dew or the crunch of autumn leaves. Of course, poetry is all these things, and much more, as Daniel winningly discovers in Daniel Finds a Poem. If you’re looking for a read aloud during National Poetry Month that’s not just a collection of poems, this is a charming book that gets its point across (poetry is limitless in what it can be) without being too cloying.

Encourage a love of poetry at an early age with A Great Big Cuddle: Poems For the Very Young. Michael Rosen’s poetry will resonate with very young listeners, tackling important subjects such as playing hiding games, wanting to “do it myself,” and even going to the potty.

Marilyn Singer’s reverso poems are incredible; if you’re not familiar with her reverso poems, you are missing out on some awesome poetry! Reverso poems are poems told two different ways: the second version starts with the final line of the original version, which gives a completely different outlook on the subject. Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse tells (and retells) fairy tales, giving you unique perspectives on the stories (her other reverso poems focus on Greek myths and a variety of subjects).

The Harlem Renaissance was an amazing outpouring of African-American art and literature, including poetry. Nikki Grimes has collected poems from a range of well-known (Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar) and some that deserve reintroduction to a wider audience (Georgia Douglas Johnson) ; she has also included a number of her own original poetry, as well as illustrations from outstanding illustrators such as Brian Pinkney and Javaka Steptoe (winner of the 2017 Caldecott Medal). We have several poetry collections centered on the Harlem Renaissance, but One Last Word: Wisdom From the Harlem Renaissance is at the very top of this distinguished pile.
Not a winter goes by that I don’t read The Snowy Day to my toddler and Head Start story time attendees. Published 55 years ago, the story of a young African-American boy enjoying a snow day remains hugely popular with patrons, but those not familiar with the book’s history would likely be shocked that it was quite a sensation when it was first published, as picture books featuring African-American characters were quite scarce (or featured stereotypical attributes). A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day is the moving tale of how Ezra Jack Keats, the child of Jewish immigrants from Poland, created one of the greatest picture books of all time. Andrea Davis Pinkney’s story in verse is an extraordinary and touching tribute to a book that changed children’s book history.

Every now and then, Warrenton Youth Services staff melts over a book. Currently, it’s Wake Up!, which we are all coveting for our spring themed story times (we’re also verklempt over Big Cat, Little Cat right now, but that’s for another post). Told in Helen Frost’s usual style of combining gorgeous photography and verse, this is one of the most magnificent spring books we’ve received in a some time. You can’t get much more adorable than pictures of baby animals; this one is a star.

If this has inspired you to seek out more children’s poetry, check out our J 811 section (and ask for recommendations)!

March may be over, but if you’re in the mood for some outstanding children’s books on women’s history or that celebrate crafts, check out my recent ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) posts on Women’s History Month and National Craft Month.

Looking for more program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers? Make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

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