skip to Main Content

Kids Book Review: Best Poetry Picture Books for National Poetry Month

APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
Share a Poem Today!

It may be the last day of April, but I hope that won’t stop anyone from bringing poetry into the lives of children. Here’s a roundup of some recommended reads not just for National Poetry Month, but for every day of the year. Let the joy of a wonderful poem inspire kids. I know many people, myself included, who still can recall poems from their childhood. What a testament to the power of a great poem!

 

Home Run, Touchdown, Basket, Goal! book cover artHOME RUN, TOUCHDOWN, BASKET, GOAL!
Sports Poems for Little Athletes
Written and illustrated by Leo Landry
(Godwin Books/Henry Holt BYR,; $17.99, Ages 3-6)

I chose Home Run, Touchdown, Basket, Goal! because the title was just so good, plus the idea of poetry for young athletes also seemed like a clever concept. The twelve poems, all rhyming, range from baseball to tennis and include others about biking, gymnastics, karate, ice skating, soccer and swimming and feel appropriate for the recommended age group. There are some super, energetic lines that kids will relate to, in this example, about football: Go long! I shout. You get the hint. You’re headed for the end zone—sprint! The sports selected are as diverse as the children participating. Every illustration shows both girls and boys, children of color and I even spotted one bald child although no child with a visible disability was depicted. Landry uses a pale palate of watercolors in simple spreads that each bleed off the page and convey movement and emotion. My favorite illustration is of three girls, mouths wide open, as you’d imagine, arms linked in friendship and for fun, cannonballing into a pool. Score!

book cover art from Clackety Track: Poems About TrainsCLACKETY TRACK:
Poems About Trains

Written by Skila Brown
Illustrated by Jamey Christoph
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 5-8)

I remember when my children were into all things ‘train.’ That meant playing with toy trains, reading train stories and traveling on trains too. Clackety Track is an ideal pick
for youngsters already loco for locomotives or eager to learn more about them. A variety of Brown’s poems, rhyming and not, cleverly cover interesting types of this transportation mode. “Steam Engine” for example, pays homage to the powerful granddaddy: Biggest beast you’ve ever seen. Gobbling up a coal cuisine. One hundred tons of steel machine. Belching out a steam smoke screen. Other poems tell of snow plows, zoo trains, underground trains, sleeper trains and more. Handy train facts at the end add to the book’s appeal and I like how they’re presented in the body of train. Christoph’s engaging, retro-style illustrations bring a cool look to the book. I especially liked the Swiss electric train spread because it reminded me of the ones I used to travel on when I lived in Europe. Kids are going to want to study every detail included in the artwork just like my children used to and then compare them to the real deal when they next travel by rail.

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog book cover illustrationTHE PROPER WAY TO MEET A HEDGEHOG:
And Other How-To Poems
Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrated by Richard Jones
(Candlewick Press; $17.99, Ages 6-9)

New and old poems by powerhouse poets from Kwame Alexander to Allan Wolf, all selected by the late Paul B. Janeczko, fill this fabulous collection that will inspire young readers. Have your child or student write their own How To poem and see where it takes them. You may laugh, cry and be surprised just like the emotions the poems in this anthology evoke. Kids’ imaginations will be fed by this feast of words and subjects. This 48-page picture book opens with “How to Build a Poem” by Charles Ghinga, Let’s build a poem made of rhyme with words like ladders we can climb, … Then 32 more follow including the humorous “Rules” by Karla Kuskin, “How to Bird-Watch,” a Tanka by Margarita Engle, “On the Fourth of July” by Marilyn Singer and proof how so few words can say so much, the book ends with April Halprin Wayland’s “How to Pay Attention.” Close this book. Look.

I absolutely adored the artwork by Richard Jones, too, and find it hard to pick a favorite because like the myriad poems, there are just too many great illustrations to note. But I’ll try: the expansive shades of orange image with a solo astronaut suited up in white that accompanies Irene Latham’s “Walking on Mars” is one I keep revisiting; the tail end of a dog in the scene of two friends making snow angels complements “How to Make a Snow Angel” by Ralph Fletcher; and Pat Mora’s “How to Say a Little Prayer” features a girl and her cat asleep on her bed that could be in a forest or her bedroom and reflect’s the poet’s lines, Think about a sight you like—yellow flowers, your mom’s face, a favorite tree, a hawk in flight—breathing slowly in and out. Pick your faves to read-aloud before bedtime or devour The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog in its entirety. A Junior Library Guild Selection

Superlative Birds book cover artSUPERLATIVE BIRDS
Written Leslie Bulion
Illustrated by Robert Meganck
(Peachtree Publishing; $15.95, Ages 8-12)

Leslie Bulion’s Superlative Birds succeeds by having that re-readability factor because of its poems, its subject matter, its facts and its artwork. While it’s not a grammar book, the superlative refers to the trait or characteristic that a certain bird has demonstrating “the highest or a very high degree of a quality (e.g. bravest, most fiercely ). Headings give a clue. For example the “Most Numerous” would have to be the queleas bird whose adult population is an estimated 1.5 billion! The bird with the widest wingspan is the albatross and the jacana, with its long, long toes can actually walk on a lily pad and not sink! And which bird has the keenest sense of smell? Why it’s the turkey vulture. A charming chickadee leads readers on the journey with informative speech bubbles and science notes for each bird helps us get the inside scoop on what makes the bird tick, or sing or scavenge. The gorgeous illustrations introduce us to the bird and there’s always something extra like an action or a funny expression to note in each image whether that be a mouse in a rowboat, a fleeing lizard or frightened rodent. Kids will LOL at the skunk covering his nose from the repulsive stink of the hoatzin, the smelliest bird. I noticed as I read that Bulion incorporated many different forms of poetry into the book and in the poetry notes in the back matter she describes what form of poem she used. There’s also a glossary, resource info and acknowledgements. And if you’re like me, you’ll check out the end papers because the ones in the beginning of the book are slightly different in one particular way than the ones at the end. If you’re keen on finding a new way to foster a love of birds and poetry coupled with crisp art and tons of detail, this may be the best book out there. Starred Reviews – Booklist, Kirkus, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

book cvr art from The Day The Universe Exploded My HeadTHE DAY THE UNIVERSE EXPLODED MY HEAD
Poems to Take You Into Space and Back Again
Written by Allan Wolf
Illustrated by Anna Raff
(Candlewick Press; $17.99, Ages 8-12)

As I read the first poem in The Day The Universe Exploded My Head, a humorous and enlightening picture book, ideal for middle graders, I thought of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Sympathy for the Devil” and the line Please allow me to introduce myself because that’s exactly what the character of Sun does in the first poem called “The Sun: A Solar Sunnet, er, Sonnet.” In this 14 line poem Sun introduces itself to readers in a more serious tone than its title and illustration, yet manages to convey the “gravity” of its existence. Wolf’s 29 poems always educate but entertain too so they are sure to grab and hold the attention of even the most reluctant of tween readers. Raff’s whimsical artwork that accompanies each poem gets it right by often anthropomorphizing planets, moons and stars who rock accoutrements and accessories from sunglasses and skirts to bow ties and baseball caps. It also includes cartoon-like images of astronauts, children and even Galileo.

Kids will learn while getting a kick out of poems that range from concrete “Black Hole”; sonnet, “Mars”; and rap, “Going The Distance” and many more that guarantee enthusiastic read-aloud participation. Wolf’s poems cover the universe and space exploration and share facts in such a fun and rewarding way. I think if I had to memorize facts about space, using poetry would be an excellent way. “Jupiter”: I’m Jupiter the giant. The solar system’s mayor: I’m gas and wind and clouds wedged into thick lasagna layers. Other poems pay tribute to “The Children of Astronomy,” those who died throughout the history of spaceflight, the moon, and eclipses. Four pages of back matter round out this explosively enjoyable book that’s truly out of this world.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Share this:

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian is reviewed today by the newest member of the GRWR team, Dornel Cerro.

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian and iIlustrated by Jeremy Holmes (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014. $17.99, Ages 4-8) is a collaboration by two accomplished and prolific children’s poets whose imagination, word crafting skills, and humor know no bounds. Lewis, author of over eighty children’s books and winner of the National Council of Teachers of English 2011 Poetry award, was the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2011-2013. Florian, who has written and illustrated over fifty children’s books, won Parent Magazine Best Book of the Year award in 2003 for Bow Wow Meow Meow: It’s Rhyming Cats and Dogs.

cover

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes, Schwartz & Wade, 2014.

The two poets have combined their prodigious writing talents to create a collection of poems about cars. Oh, I’m not talking about the boring kind we adults drive, but really wild, weird, and wacky cars. You know, the ones children would like to drive. Like “Balloon Car” (p. 20):  “My daddy drives a car that floats/an inch above the street a hundred colorful balloons/tied to a bucket seat.” Along with some luscious vocabulary (fiery, sudsy, plop, fragrant), the poets use a variety of signature techniques such as rhyme, alliteration, and word plays that tickle a child’s fancy and delight the ear:   …”I’m a battery-powered/ automobeeeeeeeeeel!” (“Electric Eel”, p. 11).  “…The cars behind our school/ Are big Tyrannosaurus wrecks …” (“Jurassic Park(ing”), p. 12).

Holmes’s digitally colored, pencil and watercolor illustrations are set against a pale background dotted with inventive, mechanical looking elements that enliven the words and increase the zaniness of the poems. Children will want to pour over the illustrations to discover all the neat objects Holmes has inserted into his illustrations.  The collection received great reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal. I read this collection to my K-1 classes who laughed out loud with delight (their favorite poem was “The Banana Split Car,” of course) and found both the poems and the illustrations humorous and imaginative. Adults will enjoy sharing this with their young children (ages 4-8) and, with the intriguing selection of vocabulary and word plays, creativity, teachers will find that any poem in this collection would make a wonderful creative writing or arts and craft project.

dcParisMeet our newest reviewer, Dornel: Dornel Cerro has been a children’s librarian for 17 years and has spent the last 10 years as librarian at Sequoyah School in Pasadena.

Share this:

Something Fishy Going on Around Here

9780938663539_p0_v1_s260x420The cover of Something Fishy ($14.95, Rainbow Morning Music Picture Books, Ages 7-9) is awesome! Open it up and you will find many more terrific illustrations too, all done by cartoonist David Clark, whose work has been featured in The Washington Post.

You’ll find the illustrations to be so fitting for the clever rhyming verse, written by author Barry Louis Polisar. Each 2-page spread features a different sea or freshwater animal. From crabs and jellyfish to killer whales and crocs, there’s a lot to learn about creatures that live in water.

Sweetlips Fish

An odd name for a fish
And perhaps a bit explicit

It might be a sweetlips fish
But I would never kiss it.

What I love about this book is that, while it ranks high on the cuteness factor, it is also very educational. The youngest readers will be enamored with the illustrations while learning a whole lot about animals that swim. The author and illustrator of this book seem to work quite brilliantly together because they have teamed up on several previous titles. Definitely a two fins up for this one.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Share this:
Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: