Poetry Studio

Poetry and Verse Novels for 2016 Archive

Poetry and Verse Novels for 2017 Archive

Poetry and Verse Novels for 2018 Archive

Poetry and Verse Novels for 2020

Poetry and Verse Novels for 2019 Archive

Alexander, Kwame.  How to Read a Book.  Illus. by Melissa Sweet.
Harper.  Gr. All ages
Alexander's love poem to the joys of reading a book is meant to be savored through its luscious words and Melissa Sweet's innovative collages. The beginning compares starting a new book to eating a clementine ("peel its gentle skin"). Then you "let your fingers wonder as they wander…" but the words caution readers not to rush because "your eyes need time to taste. Your soul needs room to bloom." It concludes with a sentiment familiar to book lovers—not wanting a good book to end. The illustrations, made with paint, vintage papers (pages from Bambi are used throughout), and found objects and peppered with neon pink and orange, complement the hand-lettered text perfectly. Endnotes from both the author and illustrator explain the evolution of the poem and the inspirations for the art. There is so much to linger over in this lovely book that readers will return to it again and again.

Alexander, Kwame.  The Undefeated.  Illus. by Kadir Nelson.
Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Gr. All ages
Self-described as an ode to "the dreamers and doers," Kwame Alexander's poem was originally performed for ESPN's program of the same name in 2016. In addition to honoring the achievements of individuals in the arts, sports, and social justice, the text pays tribute to those who collectively (slaves, black soldiers, civil rights marchers) added their voices for freedom and equality. The stirring text is meant to be read aloud. The repetition of "un" - unforgettable, undeniable, unafraid, unspeakable (repeated three times), unlimited, unbending, and more - echoes throughout as a haunting refrain. The conclusion reminds young people that they are "the undefeated" as they look to the future. Nelson's trademark oil paintings are stark against ample white backgrounds and realistically stunning. Backmatter includes a moving Afterword in which Alexander describes his motivation for writing the poem. A "Historical Figures and Events" section offers biographical sketches of individuals mentioned in the text and/or depicted in the illustrations and information about the Civil Rights Movement, the slave trade, and black soldiers in the Civil War. A must purchase for every school and public library and a treasure for one's personal collection. 2020 Caldecott Medal and Newbery Honor Book

Brown, Skila.  Clackety Track: Poems about Trains.  Illus. by Jamey Christoph.
Candlewick.  Gr. K-3
The 13 poems in this collection introduce different types of trains with rich vocabulary that explores the function of each. The selections are mostly rhyming and written in a variety of poetic forms. A page of train facts (written on train cars) that contains some fairly sophisticated vocabulary is appended. Colorful digitally rendered illustrations in double-paged spreads integrate the text into unified compositions with the different types of trains. Ideal for reading aloud and recommended for curriculum units on transportation. This book will have high appeal for fans of trains and will have other readers climbing aboard as well.

Buhrman-Deever, Susannah.  Predator and Prey.  Illus. by Bert Kitchen.
Candlewick.  Gr. 2-5
The introduction describes the various actions of both predators and prey in their "battle for survival." Ten poems, some paired and others for two voices, explore the fascinating relationships. Insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals are represented. Many of them will be new discoveries for younger readers, and they will be dazzled by the accompanying informational blurbs that reveal compelling facts about the animals' behaviors. Most of the poetic texts are persona poems (in first person), that utilize both rhyme and internal rhyme, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and other devices that give them read-aloud appeal. The watercolor and gouache paintings, two of which are gatefolds, are exquisite. The realistic details of fur, feathers, and scales will lure readers into touching the pages to see if they are real. An extensive bibliography is appended. This combination of poetry and science is sure to inspire curiosity and awe.

Bulion, Leslie.  Superlative Birds.  Illus. by by Robert Meganck.
Peachtree.  Gr. 4-7
The opening poem in this unusual collection introduces the topic of birds' superlative characteristics. The concluding selection cautions us about threats toward birds and makes a plea for action to prevent the worst from happening. In between are 18 rhyming poems about different types of birds, written in a variety of poetic formats. Most of the bird subjects will be unfamiliar to students, but the appealing format will inspire their curiosity. The poem titles identify each bird's superlative, e.g., smelliest, most accurate hearing, biggest nest, most feathers, fanciest courtship, etc. A chickadee hosts the tour of superlatives, offering little facts in speech bubbles that compare bird attributes with other animals. Extensive science notes accompany each poem. Digitized illustrations add humor and accentuate the birds' unique physical characteristics. Endpapers feature sketches of the superlatives for each bird. A glossary, "Poetry Notes," in which each type of poem used in the book is described, and additional resources for birders are appended. A superlative resource packed with information that effectively combines science and poetry.

Corman, Avery.  Bark in the Park!: Poems for Dog Lovers.  Illus. by Hyewon Yum.
Illus. by Aaron DeWitt.  Orchard Books.  Gr. 2-5
Poems for dog lovers, indeed! Quatrains and couplets offer appearance and personality details for 38 different dog breeds. The poems are lively and complemented with full-page mixed-media illustrations that capture the essence of each dog. A diverse cast of urban characters in the paintings correspond with breeds as well - e.g., a boxer waits outside a gym, a hotdog stand has the attention of a dachshund, a Siberian husky awaits its owner outside the ice cream shop, and there are considerable examples of dog hair matched with human facial hair and hair styles. The front and back endpapers feature paintings of the breeds mentioned in the poems, with some comparison in size and nearly all of them smiling. Meant to be read aloud, dog owners and those who wish for a dog will delight in examining the pages looking for their favorites.

Greenfield, Eloise.  Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me.  Illus. by Ehsan Abdollahi.
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  Gr. K-3
In the first of 16 poems, a family's new puppy indicates that he is a poet, and the boy Jace gives him the name "Thinker." Jace is a poet too, and in the remaining poems, Thinker discusses the world with Jace, reflects on going to the park, the weather, playing with Jace's sister Kimmy, and visiting with his "twin brother" who lives across the street. Jace insists that Thinker cannot accompany him to school, but when Pet Day rolls around, Thinker is welcome, but expected to behave (i.e., not recite his poetry). Thinker can't resist speaking out, however, which causes all the other pets to reveal their hidden talents. The poems are free verse with an occasional rhymed text, culminating in a lively rap. Colorful handmade collage illustrations depict an African American family. This collection will have high appeal for readers who truly believe their pets can think and talk and feel.

Heard, Georgia.  BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT!: Animal Poems for Two or More Voices.
Illus. by Aaron DeWitt.  WordSong.  Gr. K-2
An extraordinary array of sounds emanates from this collection of 13 animal poems that are designed for two (or more) voices and meant to be read aloud. Readers will be delightfully challenged to translate the sounds from printed form to oral presentation. Although onomatopoeia is the prominent literary device in the poems, vivid imagery ("Frost powders trees.") and alliteration ("Balmy air breathes on buds.") enhance the settings of the animal serenades. Digital illustrations resemble painterly collages and contain sufficient details of the animals' appearance. The incorporated font sizes and arrangements are visually appealing. Extensive "Nature's Notes" are appended and provide additional information about the featured animals (including individual sounds of various frogs and fish in their respective poems). Be prepared for some noisy renderings (and fun!), and make this book available as a model for students to work with a partner and create their own multiple voice poems.

Hutchens, Verlie.  Trees.  Illus. by Jing Jing Tsong.
Beach Lane.  Gr. 1-4
This collection begins, "Each tree offers/a story/a clue/a dance/that makes it/its very own/self," and poems about 14 different trees show readers the truth of that statement. The trees are familiar and are representative of different geographic areas, including palm trees, sequoia, willow, aspen, birch). Short poems, both fanciful and serious, celebrate unique qualities of the trees. Vivid similes and metaphors describe each tree's appearance (e.g., the "blue porcupine armor" of the spruce, the sycamore's "jigsaw puzzle gown," the red bud's "pink-purple giggles"). Paintings and block prints arranged in digital collages offer varied viewpoints and are striking in color and design. The excellent use of personification provides examples for student writing. A great choice for a science unit on trees, these poems will send readers outdoors to observe small details, sketch, and write.

Landry, Leo.  Home Run, Touchdown, Basket, Goal! Sports Poems for Little Athletes.
Godwin/Henry Holt.  Gr. K-2
Twelve rhyming easy-to-read poems representing a variety of sports (gymnastics, bicycle racing, tennis, swimming, ice skating, soccer, martial arts, plus the four suggested by the book's title) will have high appeal for young athletes. Most of the poems reflect on the movements, gear needed, and desired result of the sport or game featured without mentioning the sport by name. Readers will have to use inference and visual clues to identify the poem topics. (Some, such as lacrosse, might be less familiar.) Brightly colored, cartoon-like illustrations done in watercolor and pen-and-ink feature a diverse cast of athletes. The rhythm makes these poems in this sure-to-be-popular collection good for reading aloud.

Lessac, Frané.  Under the Milky Way.
Candlewick.  Gr. K-4
One long poem takes readers on a journey of celebrations under the stars across the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) and into Canada. A multicultural cast of characters is engaged in a variety of activities appropriate to the place, such as attending a ballgame and a rodeo, camping out, floating down a river, ice skating, watching a Chinese New Year parade, and trick-or-treating. The focus of the text is on what we have in common: the Milky Way. Each page of the poem is supported by highly readable facts about the location and its inhabitants (human and animal) or the events depicted. The vividly colored gouache folk art illustrations are filled with numerous small details and, of course, the stars. Backmatter explains the Milky Way and identifies some key constellations and how to find them. Another title, set on the other side of the world, was published simultaneously with this one: Under the Southern Cross. Both of these books are sure to send readers outside to look UP!

Meyer, Eileen R.  The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems about Our 16th President.  
Illus. by Dave Szalay.  Charlesbridge.  Gr. 2-5
Organized around superlative expressions that describe our 16th president, 19 rhymed poems highlight experiences from Lincoln's life from the time he was a boy into his presidency. From "Most Studious," "Biggest Dreamer," and "Best Wrester," through "Best Advice" (growing whiskers), "Best Yarn-Spinner," and "Most Permissive Parent," readers learn quite a bit about Lincoln as a person. Lincoln as a leader is exemplified in poems about the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and his friendship with Frederick Douglass. In "Best Use of an Accessory," his stovepipe hat does the talking. Each poem is accompanied by a short factual paragraph that expands the poem's content. The book's tall, narrow format corresponds to the fact that Lincoln was our tallest president, and the digital illustrations add homespun quality. Extensive backmatter includes an author's note, a timeline of Lincoln's life, resources for young people, websites, quotation sources, and a bibliography. A page of age-appropriate superlatives invites readers to think of ways they stand out. A nice addition to a study of presidents that might lead students to research other presidential superlatives.

Miller, Rhett.  More Poems!: A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse.
Illus. by Dan Santat.  Megan Tingley Books/Little Brown.  Gr. 3-6
This collection of 23 zany and occasionally subversive poems are in touch with the likes, dislikes, frustrations, anxieties, and silliness of middle-grade kids. The mostly rhyming verse is intended to make readers laugh, with topics such as wanting a dog, resisting bedtime, sibling rivalry, being a weirdo, needing to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, poor manners, homework excuses, and bad breath. Caldecott medalist Santat's large and colorful cartoon-like illustrations complement the words and add to the humor. The book is a nod to the light verse of Shel Silverstein (the poem "This Bathtub's Too Small" is very reminiscent of "Crowded Tub" from A Light in the Attic) and Jack Prelutsky. Adults might be a bit disturbed at times by the attitudes and behaviors of the poems' main characters, but readers are likely to roar.

Salas, Laura Purdie.  In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House.
Illus. by Angela Matteson.  Wordsong.  Gr. K-3
One can scarcely imagine all that takes place inside and outside the house at night when we are sleeping. As the 26 poems in this collection tell us, nighttime is not as restful and still as we think it is. All of the poems but one take the form of a persona (mask) poem in which the inanimate subjects speak in first person. Woven into these narratives are other types of poetry plus poems for two voices. Acrylic and gouache illustrations pop off the pages, giving everything in the house a lively sense of fun (except for the markers suffering from the absence of their caps) and the toilet (for obvious reasons). Great for reading aloud and inspiring readers to imagine what goes on at night in their own homes, the poems are excellent models for young writers to experiment with their own persona poems.

Schaub, Michelle.  Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections.
Illus. by Carmen Saldaña.  Charlesbridge.  Gr. K-3
In the first poem of this collection, a little girl's teacher asks the class to bring in something they collect, throwing her into a tizzy. In most of the remaining 17 poems, she explores the collections of family members, friends, and people in the community. She admires her mother's buttons and her father's trains, her sister's snow globes, and her brothers' baseball cards. Coins, teapots, clocks, and figurines are pleasing to look at, but just not for her. The mail carrier's smiles are less tangible, and stars are not for her to keep. At last she finds "what brings me joy!" The digitally rendered illustrations reflect a diverse cast of cheerful characters. The last page encourages readers to start their own collections and offers tips for doing so. This book is a good conversation starter about collecting.

Singer, Marilyn.  Who Named Their Pony Macaroni?: Poems about White House Pets.
Illus. by Ryan McAmis.  Disney Hyperion.  Gr. 3-6
In 32 poems, Singer introduces readers to a menagerie of animals that, at some point in a presidential term, made their home in the White House. Dogs, cats, birds, and horses are well represented, including those pets that received their own fair share of publicity (e.g., the Bushes' Millie, Clinton's Socks, Nixon's Checkers, Franklin Roosevelt's Fala, and Caroline Kennedy's Macaroni). Goats, sheep, cows, a raccoon, and even a pair of bald eagles also enjoyed presidential favor. Different forms of poetry feature an impressive array of rhyming texts that offer glimpses into the character and habits of their owners. Colorful mixed-media collages provide humor and place the pets within the context of their surroundings. Backmatter includes "Executive Pets," blurbs that offer additional information for each poem and a bibliography. Partner this book with these titles: Wackiest White House Pets by Kathryn Gibbs Davis; Presidential Pets: The Weird, Wacky, Little, Big, Scary, Strange Animals That Have Lived in the White House by Julia Moberg; If You Want a Friend in Washington: Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful Presidential Pets by Erin McGill. An ideal collection for instilling interest in our presidents.

Steinglass, Elizabeth.  Soccerverse: Poems About Soccer.
Illus. by Edson Ikê.  WordSong.  Gr. K-4
For young soccer players and fans, 22 poems representing a child's viewpoint cover almost every aspect of the game, including the equipment, various moves, and playing an actual game. The volatility of game-time emotions is addressed in paired poems, "Apology" and "Accepted," and in "Handshake," and the all-for-one spirit emerges in "Teammates." Multiple forms of poetry are used throughout. At the end of the book, the author defines each type and invites readers to match the definitions with the poems. Digitally produced illustrations in vivid colors reflect considerable motion and feature a diverse cast of soccer players. This combination of poetry and a popular sport is a G-O-O-O-A-L!

Turk, Evan.  You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks.
Atheneum.  Gr. All ages
Beginning endpapers open this amazing book with the sun rising in Acadia National Park in the east, and concluding endpapers feature the stars over the rocky formations at Olympic National Park in the west. Turk's love and respect for our national parks and the creatures who make their homes therein is evident in this homage to 22 of them. The repetitive refrain in the text reminds us that no matter our living circumstance, "You are home" in the parks. Word choice is vivid and poetic ("the prowling bobcat/slinking between slivers/of light and shadow"). Breathtaking illustrations created with pastels in lush colors on black paper make every page turn a feast for the eyes. The text concludes with a stunning gatefold of Yosemite. Backmatter includes a note from the author describing his connection to the parks as the son of a 40-year Park Service employee, as well as a bit of history, and the value of our parks. His illustrator's note explains that much of the art was done on location or was based on drawings from previous visits to the parks. A map of the U.S. showing the location of the parks, thumbnail sketches of those shown in the book, and additional facts about parks and animals are appended. Readers who have never visited national parks will long to go, and those who have will smile with recollection. A masterful book.

Vande Griek, Susan.  Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel and Other Poems of Birds in Flight.
Illus. by Mark Hoffmann.  Kids Can Press.  Gr. 2-5
Twelve different birds, some more familiar than others, cartwheel, plunge, and dive through this collection of free verse poems about their movements. The poems and the accompanying informational blurbs contain facts about their appearance and behaviors that will fascinate readers (e.g., while courting, bald eagles lock talons in mid-air and tumble toward the earth breaking apart just before they land). The descriptive language introduces readers to terms they may not associate with the movement of birds, such as "mob," "stoop," "kettle," and "dread." The use of repetition and internal rhyme adds to the read-aloud appeal. Gouache and digitally rendered illustrations artfully arranged on the pages reflect movement. Additional facts about the birds, a glossary, and paintings of the depicted birds' feathers are appended. A good choice for bird unit in science class.

Weatherford, Carole Boston.  The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop.
Illus. by Frank Morrison.  little bee books.  Gr. 3-6
In the introduction, rapper, DJ, and record producer Swizz Beatz discusses his first encounter with hip-hop and encourages readers to learn more about the roots of rap. The text utilizes a very rhythmic beat in a single rhymed poem that introduces the stars of rap within the context of its pillars (breakdancing, graffiti, word play, and more). Every few pages, a running rhythm pulsates along the bottom. Richly colored, highly detailed illustrations fill the pages. Readers will easily recognize the more familiar rap music artists. In appended notes, both the author and illustrator discuss their connection to rap and hip-hop. A glossary of hip-hop terminology and a "Hip-Hop Who's Who" round out the volume. Partner this book with When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill. The text is best read aloud, reminding us that "Hip-hop is a language that's spoken the whole world 'round." Readers will want to follow up with rereadings on their own.

Wolf, Allan.  The Day the Universe Exploded My Head.  Illus. by Anna Raff.
Candlewick.  Gr. 3-8
In 29 poems, both factual and humorous, the sun, moon, planets, and numerous other space objects cavort across the universe. The text often uses technical scientific vocabulary and presents different styles of poetry and rhyme schemes. Readers will enjoy the clever rap by DJ Energy and MC Square, Pluto and Charon dancing with the stars (though the Fred and Ginger reference will likely be lost on them), and oh, so lonesome Neptune singing the blues. Several of the poems are color-coded and meant to be read aloud by more than one voice. Wolf is serious too, as he pays homage to the "Children of Astronomy" (past and present scientists) and to the astronauts and cosmonauts who lost their lives. Digitally assembled color collage illustrations of the space objects feature large, expressive faces, complete with accessories, set against a dark sky background. Backmatter includes notes on the poems that add additional information and, in some cases, discuss the form and meter of the poem. A glossary of space terms and internet resources round out the book. (In the conclusion of his Acknowledgments, Wolf offers a lovely comparison of poets and astronomers that is worth sharing with students: "Both see the world as if seeing it for the first time.") A blend of science and poetry that will entertain as well as inform.

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