a sprinkling of poetry in April

April is National Poetry Month and I do want to get at least one wee poetry post off, even though it’s skittering in at the tail end of the month.
I hope that the beauty and playfulness of words will bring light into your households and hearts.

A Child’s Introduction to Poetry, written by Michael Driscoll, illustrated by Meredith Hamilton
published in 2020 by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
95 pages

For those wanting to explore the art of poetry and acquaint yourselves with some of poetry’s greats, this colorful, jam-packed volume is a super option.

The first half of the book takes a look at many poetic forms, from nursery rhymes to the villanelle, limericks to ballads. Read explanations of the rhyming patterns as well as famous examples of each form and learn specialized vocabulary associated with each. The second half of the book introduces 21 famous poets in chronological order, from Homer to Maya Angelou with a short biographical sketch and a poem or two. There’s also a link so you can download audio tracks of all 65 poems read aloud for you.

Fresh, interesting, lively in both text and illustration, this is a dynamite resource for homeschool families, teachers, or simply readers with a deeper interest in poetry. Ages 9 and up.

H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, written by Sydell Rosenberg, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi
published in 2018 by Penny Candy Books

Haiku, as you know, are some of the shortest poems alive.  Additionally they often capture tiny moments, overlooked realities, glints of the natural world. As such they are the perfect poetic form for very young children who relish their brevity and who are often more attuned to the inconspicuous delights of our world.

These pages are dominated by bold graphic design while confetti-lettering captures fleeting moments in only a few syllables. Cats and blue jays, moonlight and bicycle rides, the widely diverse subjects are perfectly accessible to the very young, yet the language and ideas are sophisticated. Enjoy them with ages 5 and up.

Days Like This: A Collection of Small Poems, selected and illustrated by Simon James
published in 2000 by Candlewick

Just a teensy step up in length from the haiku, the poems in this collection offer delight and good humor in niblet-sized pieces.

There are nineteen poems here with subjects ranging from a little guitar with just one string, to the playful breezes at the seaside, to bouncing on the bed. The pages are dominated by Simon James’ lovely swishy watercolors and waggly, friendly lines. It’s like sunshine in a book. This is one you’ll dip into again and again, then discover you’ve inadvertently memorized the lines. Peachy for ages 2 and up.

More Pocket Poems, selected by Bobbi Katz, illustrated by Deborah Zemke
published in 2009 by Dutton Children’s Books

Pocket poems, as their name implies, are another species of small poem just right for loving by young children. The poems in this book have eight lines or fewer making them just the ticket for tickling the fancy of little listeners or learning by heart.

More than 40 poems take us through the calendar year. They come to us from well known poets like Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, and Langston Hughes as well as contemporary children’s poets. The illustrations are bursting with color, happiness, and liveliness. It’s an exuberant collection for ages 2 and up.

My Chinatown: One Year in Poems, written and illustrated by Kam Mak
published in 2002 by Harper

Artist Kam Mak was born in Hong Kong, then moved with his family to the United States and grew up in New York City’s Chinatown. This gorgeous book illustrates in word and image the experience of leaving, remembering, and missing, discovering, embracing, and interweaving that are all pieces of the immigrant experience.

Vibrant, free verse poems bring us right into his grandmother’s kitchen back home in Hong Kong where she pickles kumquats; out on the subway to Queens for the annual dragon boat races; up to the street vendor where this little boy loves to buy fish balls, “bobbing in brown soup, in a white carton, salty as the ocean, steaming hot, ten for a dollar, delicious.” The poems are accompanied by Kam’s stunning paintings, redolent with love, humanity, and the culture of Chinatown.

This year we have been made more painfully aware of the egregious anti-Asian racism so many have faced and are currently facing in America. One of the ways to combat racism is to open our eyes to the beauty of others’ cultures, to appreciate all the ways of being wonderfully human and how that diversity enriches us all. This fascinating walk through Chinatown and through the process of settling into a new home is an excellent, timely choice for ages 5 and up.

Old Toffer’s Book of Consequential Dogs, written by Christopher Reid, illustrated by Elliot Elam
published in 2018 by Faber & Faber
115 pages

Finally, this humorous, wordalicious companion to T.S. Elliot’s classic book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Written at the invitation of TSE’s estate, this is a rambunctious collection of verse thrumming with verve and wit and sophisticated wordplay.

Meet Flo the Philosophical Fox Hound, Frazzlespat who longed to be a cat, Lola who became a circus star, and Bess the Champion Peopledog who herds folks into a pen rather than sheep. Consider proper names for dogs and overcome the utter disgrace of a house without dogs by bringing in a whole crowd of them.

Smart illustrations in a retro, mid-century vibe pop up on the pages. For dog-lovers and word-lovers especially, ages 12 and up. Another edition with full-color illustrations by Sara Ogilvie is due out this fall.

You can find dozens more favorite books of poetry on my list here.

I’ve got several posts coming up featuring novels I’ve loved recently,
plus award-winning nonfiction gems,
summertime picture books and novels,
and lots more.
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