Poetry Studio

Poetry and Verse Novels for 2016 Archive

Poetry and Verse Novels for 2017 Archive

Poetry and Verse Novels for 2018

I will continue to add new poetry books throughout the year.

Clark-Robinson, Monica.  Let the Children March.  Illus. by Frank Morrison.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Gr. 1-4
In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, members of an African American community want to answer Dr. Martin Luther King's call for a peaceful march. Fear of repercussions (losing their jobs) make the adults reluctant to participate, but the children step up and offer to march in the place of their parents, marking the beginning of the Birmingham Children's Crusade. The straightforward text narrated in the voice of a young girl tells how they walked and sang in spite of the danger and their fear. Vibrant oil paintings depict the determination of the marchers and the anger of the onlookers and do not minimize some of the violent acts directed toward the children. The front and back endpapers show young people providing key moments in an annotated timeline of events in the Civil Rights Movement, beginning with Alabama Governor George Wallace's infamous "segregation forever" declaration in 1963 and ending with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Back matter includes additional information, sources, photographs, and statements by both the author and illustrator. This powerful, highly readable book will evoke much discussion and possibly inspire young readers to consider how they can make a difference.

Davies, Nicola.  A First Book of the Sea.  Illus. by Emily Sutton.  Candlewick.  Gr. K-5
This companion title to Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature (2012) and Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals (2017), explores the ocean in about 50 poems. Divided into four sections: "Down by the Shore," "Journeys," "Under the Sea," and "Wonders," the topics are as varied and vast as the ocean itself. In addition to animal and plant poems, each section includes subjects such as lighthouses, harbors, Beaufort's Scale, shipwrecks, pearl divers, and more. The poems are fairly short, and various types are included. Alliterative language and descriptive word choices create vivid imagery. The full-bleed watercolor illustrations are rich in color and detail. The cast of characters that interact with the text are diverse in race, gender, and age. A jaw-dropping gatefold near the end invites readers to "Sing Like a Humpback" and proceeds to tell them how. (This will be impossible to pass up - be prepared for a chorus of humpbacks!) Good for reading aloud, this is also a book that students will return to again and again on their own.

Elliott, David.  In the Past.  Illus. by Matthew Trueman.  Candlewick.  Gr. 1-5
This collection of 20 short poems about prehistoric animals begins with the Cambrian Period of the Paleozoic Era and continues through the Quaternary Period of the Cenozoic Era, which we are experiencing in the present day. The familiar trilobites are first, their mystery highlighted, "Now you lie hidden/deep in a clock/uncountable ticks/silenced by rock." The collection includes the dinosaur superstars, such as stegosaurus, apatosaurus, and tyrannosaurus rex, but the rest are lesser known animals. The most recent is the mammuthus, which Elliott compares to its "modern cousin." The poems, both rhyming and free verse, are somewhat playful in style, and each offers a tidbit of information as a teaser to send readers to learn more. The book's trim size is large, so the full-bleed mixed media illustrations rendered in green and gray tones are massive and highly detailed. Readers will thrill at all the teeth! (The illustration of the megalodon will have them shrieking!) In the backmatter, Elliott reminds us in an author's note that what we know about these animals is evolving constantly. A substantial collection of facts follows, organized by period with information (primarily physical details) about each featured animal from the period and, thankfully, a pronunciation key. This eye-popping blend of science and poetry inspires awe.

Harrison, David.  Crawly School for Bugs: Poems to Drive You Buggy.
Illus. by Julie Bayless.  WordSong.  Gr. 1-4
Twenty rhymed poems relate a typical day at school for a variety of common insects. Dressed in clothes, eyeglasses, scarves, and occasionally shoes, the bugs are far from "typical." The school staff (also insects) is well represented: the nurse (a mosquito) whose solution for every malady is drawing blood, the custodian Mr. D. (a dung beetle) who is competent but spends a lot of time making dung balls, and subject specialists, such as a tick, a spider, a grasshopper, and many more. Some of the lessons in this school are cautionary—camouflage, how to behave around birds, and "Know Your Mats." Others are more instructive—"How to be Annoying in 4 Easy Steps" (crickets). There is time for lunch and playground, and students even get report cards (the horsefly gets a D- in "social skills"). Combined with very clever and highly detailed illustrations, the overall effect is hilarious. Lively language, alliteration, and fluid rhymes make this collection perfect for reading aloud. An ideal selection for science class that readers will want to visit again and again.

Harrison, David.  A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build.
Illus. by Giles Laroche.  WordSong.  Gr. K-4
Harrison has chosen 12 animals representing birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and fish (some of them lesser known to younger readers) and describes their home construction in fascinating detail. Information about how they build and their materials of choice is woven into verse using a variety of rhyming formats. The collection is divided into sections according to where they build: underground, on land, underwater, and in air, with a single poem on the last page about sun coral, "A Different Kind of Builder." Additional facts, including the Latin name and suggestions for further reading, make up the backmatter. The cut-paper collage illustrations crafted from hand-painted papers contain extraordinary texture, color, and detail. This book is another good choice for incorporating poetry into science class and is certain to inspire curiosity in its readers.

Hesterman, Katie.  A Round of Robins.  Illus. by Sergio Ruzzier.  Nancy Paulsen Books.
Gr. K-3
Beginning with selecting the location, building the nest, and laying the eggs, this collection of 16 rhymed poems follows the life cycle of a pair of robins. The eggs hatch, the parent robins care for the babies, and fledglings learn to fly and eventually leave the nest to fend for themselves. And then, the process starts all over again. The rhymes are playful and sprinkled with alliteration and onomatopoeia. The bird vocabulary is solid. Vivid language creates delightful imagery, as in when the baby birds hatch: "Pip, pip, an eggshell chip./Peck, peck, a bright blue fleck./Tweak,tweak, a peeking beak,/C-R-R-R-A-C-K-E-D…/All unpacked!" Watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations in yummy pastel colors reflect considerable humor and a variety of emotions on the faces of the birds. Meant to be read aloud, learning about robins has never been more fun! Pair this book with Eileen Christelow's Robins!: How They Grow Up.

Hood, Susan.  Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World.
Illus. by 13 different artists.  Harper.  Gr. 3-6
Hood introduces this collection of poems by saying that the featured girls and women shook things up by "resisting those who would box them in" and encourages readers to dare to be who they want to be. The subjects of the poems reach back to Molly Williams from the 1700s, the first known female firefighter in the U.S., and cross the centuries to include Angela Zhang, cancer researcher, and Malala Yousafzai, advocate for girls' education. The women are notable for many reasons - Frida Kahlo (artist), Nellie Bly (journalist), Pura Belpré (librarian), Mae Jemison (astronaut), Maya Lin (architect), and others. The poems reflect a variety of poetic forms, and each is accompanied by a fact and a quote. A full-page illustration rendered in the unique style of the artist - most of whom are very well-known in the field of children's literature - depicts the woman in her milieu. A timeline of the individual subjects' accomplishments within the context of world events precedes the poems. Source notes and further resources for each subject are appended. The courage and persistence of the girls and women profiled here are inspirations to all. The poems invite further research and provide a model for using poetry as an alternative to the "biography report."

Hopkins, Lee Bennett.(Sel.).  School People.  Illus. Ellen Shi.  WordSong.  Gr. K-3
This collection of 15 school-related poems begins and ends with the school's own voice celebrating its many "parts" with an invitation to "come on in!" While the school bus driver and crossing guard are a welcoming presence outside the venerable brick structure, inside, the principal, a variety of teachers, the lunch lady, custodian, librarian, coach, and nurse instruct and nurture students in their own special ways. The poems are a mixture of rhyming and free verse, with abundant use of poetic devices such as alliteration and onomatopoeia. All of the poems are uplifting reminders of the remarkable people who care for and educate our children. The digitally rendered illustrations are large, colorful and upbeat, and provide a further invitation to come inside the school's doors. Great for reading aloud to open the school year and for remembering a great school year on the last day.

Lewis, J. Patrick.  Phrases of the Moon: Lunar Poems.  Illus. Jori van der Linde.
Creative Editions.  Gr. 2-5
This collection of 18 poems celebrates our perpetual fascination with the moon. Though most of the poems rhyme, a variety of poetic forms explores the whimsy of the moon - comparing it to a hanging lamp, its effect on the sandcastle "built by a dreamy barefoot boy," and imagining driving to the moon. One poem (a "found poem") charts names of the moon across cultures. Another plays with language in "Moon-agrams." Five of the poems are retellings of cultural myths (Aboriginal, African, Tibetan, Japanese, and German). The book concludes with a selection of "Moon Facts." Illustrations feature luminescent figures against backdrops of dark blue, purple, forest green, and black. The moon itself fairly glows off the pages. Appropriate for a study of the moon in science class and a natural to include in commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019. These poems might inspire students to write their own moon poems.

Lewis, J. Patrick (Ed.).  The Poetry of Us: More Than 200 Poems about the People, Places and Passions of the United States.  National Geographic.  Gr. All ages
This collection is a companion to Animal Poetry and Nature Poetry, also edited by Lewis and published by National Geographic, featuring their magnificent photographs. The volume is divided into regions of the United States - New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, Pacific Coast, and the Territories. Classic poets, such as Whitman, Frost, and Langston Hughes, are included along with a who's who of contemporary children's poets. The poems deal with specific places, events, nature of the area, and more. This book is a gem. It is ideal for social studies curriculum that deals with the states. The photos will leave readers in awe - they will return to this book again and again.

Mora, Pat.  Bookjoy Wordjoy.  Illus. Raúl Colón.  Lee & Low.  Gr. K-5
In this collection of 14 poems, Mora explores bookjoy, the "fun of reading," and wordjoy, "the fun of listening to words." Spanish words are sprinkled liberally throughout poems about reading with grandparents, going to the library, "Hip-Hop Book Day," collecting favorite words, writing stories, and the connection between the rhythms of music and dance to the rhythm of language. Not all of the poems follow the literacy theme. Some are exuberant expressions of vivid words as a diverse cast of characters cavort with fireflies ("darting sparks"), enjoy an outing in a cabin in the woods, and marvel at water-sculpted canyons. Different styles of poetry make up the text. Colón's signature scratchboard illustrations rendered in watercolor and colored pencil in brilliant color are as celebratory as the subject matter. Great for reading aloud any time to remind students about the enjoyment of words.

Paschkis, Julie.  Vivid: Poems & Notes about Color.  Henry Holt.  Gr. K-4
In a captivating blend of science, art, and poetry, 14 poems explode with color. The poems utilize different styles - some, rhyming; others, free verse - and are filled with humor and word play. They introduce color vocabulary beyond the basic red, blue, etc. (for example, cadmium, alizarin, indigo, vermilion). Each of the poems is accompanied by a fact: the history or science of the color, etymology of the word, or social/emotional connotations of the color. The final poem is, appropriately, about a rainbow, illustrated with an expressionistic eye that features all the colors in its iris (an invitation to readers to think of different ways to create rainbows with art materials). The gouache illustrations leap off the pages in bright splashes. An appended Author's Note offers additional information about color. Readers of this collection are certainly familiar with color, but they will find some of the facts amazing and will likely want to explore the science of color further as well as break out the paints and experiment. Recommend this book to the art teacher.

Rosen, Michael J.  The Horse's Haiku.  Illus. by Stan Fellows.  Candlewick.  Gr. 3 & above
This collection of horse-themed haiku illustrated with sumptuous watercolor paintings follows previous animal haiku collaborations by Rosen and Fellows: The Cuckoo's Haiku (2009), The Hound Dog's Haiku (2011), and The Maine Coon's Haiku (2015). Divided into three sections ("In the Field," "At the Barn," "Under Saddle"), the evocative poems capture emotions, a sense of place, and the connection between people and horses. Readers who are familiar with horses will identify with the sensory impressions conjured in the words, but those whose relationship with horses is merely wishful thinking will find their imaginations heightened as well. (The illustrations rendered in colors of the earth man gazing into the eyes of a horse is show - stopping). The combination of words and pictures encourages reflection and repeated readings. In a concluding author's note, Rosen likens writing haiku to grazing and vigilance. Budding haiku poets will find his thoughts inspiring.

Singer, Marilyn.  Every Month Is a New Year.  Illus. by Susan L. Roth.  Lee & Low.
Gr. 3-8
In her introduction, Singer acknowledges that people all over the world celebrate the beginning of a new year at midnight on December 31. Sandwiched between opening and closing reverso poems (one of her signature styles) that deal with choosing the date for the turning of the year, are 16 rhymed and free verse poems set in varied world cultures. Organized like a wall calendar, the celebrations in the book begin with the ball drop in New York's Times Square and embark on a journey that includes Scotland, Russia, Iran, Thailand, Jordan, New Zealand, Chile, India, Ethiopia, Ecuador, and Spain. Each poem contains details related to the traditional foods and customs of the celebration. Preceding the introduction is a map of the world with each location marked. Extensive backmatter includes the history of calendars, a pronunciation key for "Happy New Year" in several languages, substantive additional detail about each of the celebrations featured in the poems, a glossary and pronunciation guide for the non-English words that appear in the text, and the author's sources. Roth's stunning textured collage illustrations, created with papers collected from all over the world, reflect the color, clothing, and settings of the different cultures. Informative and fascinating.

Slade, Suzanne.  Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon.  Illus. by Thomas Gonzalez.
Peachtree.  Gr. 5 & above
This free verse narrative about the Apollo program begins with Apollo 1, the ill-fated mission that killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Roger Chafee, and Ed White in a flash fire in the space capsule during testing. The triumphs, pitfalls, and people of the next 10 missions are included, culminating in the flight of Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969. Vivid use of language ("a thunderous roar wakes the sleepy Florida swamps") evokes images. Readable text includes technical details, as well as suspense that gives readers a "you-are-there" feeling. Statistics of each mission and its astronauts are spread throughout the volume. Superb, highly detailed pastel and color pencil illustrations of photographic quality offer a variety of perspectives and are supplemented by archival photos from NASA. Notes by the author and illustrator and extensive sources make up the backmatter. Well researched and an obvious choice for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019.

Walker, Sally M.  Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up.  Illus. by William Grill.
Candlewick.  Gr. 5-8
In 29 haiku, the author describes aspects of the earth's physical geography, including rocks and minerals, fossils, volcanoes, icebergs, glaciers, earthquakes, and much more. The poems don't shy away from technical vocabulary, yet the vivid word choices make the science relatable to middle grade readers who have some familiarity with these geologic concepts. For example, a volcano - "hotheaded mountain/loses its cool, spews ash cloud - /igneous tantrum." And comparing Earth's composition to a "hard-boiled egg" inspires reflection. While lovely to look at, the impressionistic colored pencil illustrations do little to extend the concepts. Extensive additional information is appended, along with suggestions for further reading. Consistent with STEM objectives, the content and poetic form might lead readers to try some writing of their own.

Weatherford, Carole Boston.  Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream and You.
Illus. by James E. Ransome.  Bloomsbury.  Gr. All ages
A brief, but powerful, text and richly colored illustrations work together to help today's readers connect with the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by telling all of us that "You can be a King" and make difference. Luscious paintings that offer historical aspects of King's life (e.g., respect for ancestors, bigotry hurts, the importance of learning, taking a stand, having a dream, and others) alternate with more cartoon-like illustrations of a group of children painting a mural of Dr. King and preparing for a rally while learning life lessons about admitting wrong, banding against bullies, doing your best, and working toward goals. A biographical note that outlines key moments in King's life is appended. The first line of a quote by Dr. King prefaces the text, "Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve." This line is the underlying message of a book that has the potential to inspire young change-makers.

Winters, Kay.  Did You Hear What I Heard? Poems about School.
Illus. by Patrice Barton.  Dial.  Gr. K-3
In this companion to Did You See What I Saw? Poems about School (Viking/Puffin,1996), 35 poems follows a culturally diverse group of young children from the first day to the excitement of the summer ahead on the last day. In between, the children work with math (facts, measurement, and the 100th day of school), reading books, learning opposites and capital letters, science, celebrating Earth Day, and composing on the computer. Art, music, and recess are included, as well as a fire drill and the anticipation of a field trip. Catching a cold, head lice, the dreaded testing, and the always pleasant surprise of a snow day add to the realism of school. Digitally rendered illustrations that have the look of watercolors depict the cheerful (most of the time) children engaged in the variety of activities. Fun for reading aloud at both the beginning and end of the school year.

Page last updated 11/05/18

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