Dear Readers • Here’s the deal. Little kids like poetry. No, really. They do! Especially if it has a good beat and you can dance to it. It’s only after we send them off to middle school and make them write haikus about pear blossoms — as Mike Tunnell and Jim Jacobs contend in their excellent book “Children’s Literature, Briefly” — that they start to dislike it. So, because April is National Poetry Month (go hug some poets, everyone! But only if they give permission!), I’m spotlighting a few new (and several old) favorites to share with the kids in your lives.
“Clackety Track: Poems About Trains” by Skila Brown, illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Electric trains. Dinner trains. Zoo trains. Bullet trains. Freight trains. Each of these (and more) is the subject of this entertaining collection. Here’s an example of a poem written about a steam engine: “Biggest beast you’ve ever seen./ Gobbling up a coal cuisine./ One hundred tons of steel machine./ Belching out a steam smoke screen.”
“Ph(r)ases of the Moon” by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Jori van der Linde
“You cannot watch the sun./ It burns your eyes at noon./ But once twilight’s begun,/ You turn to watch the moon.” If you and your littles are intrigued by the moon — and, seriously, who isn’t? — then this new collection by former children’s poet laureate J. Patrick Lewis is for you. Lewis draws on both fact and myths from around the world to create a satisfying “journey” to the moon and back.
“Pony Poems for Little Pony Lover” by Cari Meister, illustrated by Sarah Rhys
Actually, a more accurate title for this collection would be “Little Pony Poems for Little Pony Lovers.” All of the verses are short, sweet and occasionally sassy, making this an entertaining choice for the youngest pony lovers in your life.
“No More Poems: A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse” by Rhett Miller, illustrated by Dan Santant
These poems for older kids are reminiscent of the divinely silly work of Shel Silverstein. Take the poem “Hairs,” for example. “Nose hairs are gross hairs/ We all know it’s true/ Ear hairs are weird hairs/ They’re pretty gross too/ But... / When one long hair grows/ From a mole on your nose/ Man, I feel sorry for you.” You can tell that Caldecott medalist Dan Santant, who’s on a professional roll these days, had a good time creating the collection’s big, bright illustrations.
“Trees” by Verlie Hutchens, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong
Given the immense popularity of recent books like “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben and “The Overstory” by Richard Powers, it’s not a surprise that there’s a new collection of poetry for children about — you guessed it! — trees. As Hutchens says, “Each tree offers/ a story/ a clue/ a dance/ that makes it/ its very own/ self.”
“Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year,” selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon
My personal favorite is this oversized, extravagantly illustrated volume published last year. A wide range of poets are represented — some of them familiar (hello there, Robert Frost!), others not so much. But the poems themselves have been chosen with young readers and listeners in mind.
“Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems” by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Anna Emilia Laitinen
If the practice of mindfulness is your jam (and even if it isn’t), check out this lovely collection of poems by local poet Kate Coombs. Coombs encourages us to be still, to observe, to accept. Text and illustration combine to make this an altogether attractive book.
“Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems” by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse
Using familiar fairy tales as a springboard, this collection gives the reader two points of view by taking one poem and flipping it on its head to create a second poem. Thus we hear from both Jack and the Giant, Goldilocks and the three bears, the princess and the frog. The results are nothing short of brilliant!
“Take Me Out of the Bathtub (and Other Silly Dilly Songs)” by Alan Katz, illustrated by David Catrow
This selection, which features original lyrics to well-known tunes such as “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and “London Bridge,” has been around for nearly two decades. But it still manages to delight kids and their grownups.