Poetry Studio... Writing poetry with children - 2022 Book Reviews


Picture book poetry collections explore a variety of topics and concepts.

In An American Story, Kwame Alexander provides considerable information in eloquent free verse that addresses many questions young people might have about the enslavement of Africans. In a difficult lesson to teach (“How do you tell a story that starts in Africa and ends in horror?”), a teacher relates how a people who work and play, tell stories, and have dreams are stolen from their lives and sold in America. Interspersed with her story are pages of the students’ thoughtful questions and comments. The result is an unforgettable narrative of brutal circumstances among resilient people who hold “history in one hand” and clench “hope in the other.” Readers will want to spend time examining the rich emotional detail of the realistic photographed clay sculptures that make up the expansive spreads on the pages. Yellow pages featuring charcoal sketches representing the present-day teacher-student interactions are inviting and an effective contrast to the stark illustrations of the past. An appended page includes a note from Alexander explaining the inspiration for the book and another from Coulter describing her fascinating process of creating the illustrations. This gem in words and art is a must-read book for sharing aloud with students, for allowing questions, and encouraging discussion.

In Smoke at the Pentagon by Jacqueline Jules, twenty fictional voices, ranging in age from 5 to 21 react to the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Told in first person, the poems reflect aftermath experiences of the subjects: confusion about the tragedy, families stockpiling groceries, worry for a parent, concern for a Middle Eastern classmate, the appearance and rebuilding of the Pentagon, the funeral of a neighbor, attitudes toward Muslims, air travel, and more. Expressionistic collages in a saturated palette feature diverse characters whose facial expressions depict a variety of emotions. In an introductory Author’s Note, Jules provides a brief overview of 9/11 and discusses her inspiration for writing the poems. The final page lists the names of the individuals whose lives were lost at the Pentagon that day. Adults (caregivers and teachers) who are looking for additional material to help explain the events of September 11, 2001, might find this poignant and important book helpful.

Remember is a dazzling contemplative picture book adaptation of U.S. Poet Laureate (2019-2022) Joy Harjo’s poem of the same title with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade. Eloquent text reminds us of our connections to elements of the cosmos, to earth (with its many colors of skin), to family, to the plants and animals (“alive poems”), to people (“Remember you are all people and all people are you.”). Everything has a history, and we must listen to the stories. In perfect complement, richly hued illustrations swoop among the words and across the pages. Rendered with gouache, watercolor, and colored pencils, the highly detailed layered spreads draw upon Goade’s Tlingit cultural traditions and imagery, including formline design (explained in the Artist’s Note), and depict human interactions with the natural world. Concluding notes about the writing of the poem and creation of the illustrations by the author and illustrator are beautifully written must-reads. This breathtaking book bears repeated readings and thoughtful reflection.

In Paul Janeczko’s anthology collection Where I Live: Poems About My Home, My Street, and My Town, 34 poems divided into three sections as indicated in the title, celebrate the unique and special joys of what makes “home” a home, whether it’s a physical structure or the area surrounding it. Topics familiar to young readers vary widely within each section - e.g., window, rooftop, backyard, pets (“Home”); block party, ice cream truck, sidewalk cracks, snowplow (“Street”); car wash, grocery store cat, snowy [park] benches, people (“Town”). The poem styles are rhyming and free verse. Many of the collection’s contributors are recognized children’s poets of the past, and their selections might be familiar, as their work can be found in other sources. Contemporary poets are also prominently featured. The full-page illustrations in colored pencil and watercolor feature a diverse cast of characters and reflect a warm, peaceful mood of community. One of Janeczko’s final compilations before his passing, this anthology is a good choice for sharing aloud and for inspiring readers to consider the special aspects of where they live and then to write about them.

In Welcome to the Wonder House, Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard invite readers into twelve rooms that inspire curiosity and imagination. Each room (e.g., Creatures, Nature, Time, Quiet, Mystery, Wishes) contains 2-4 poems (29 in all) in different, mostly free verse forms. The focus is our natural world…and beyond. Some of the poems pose questions. All of them employ vivid imagery and poetic devices. The poems conclude with “A Note About WONDER,” which encourages “wonderers” to “listen to the ordinary and the extraordinary” that exist everywhere. Ethereal mixed media illustrations in blues and purples with bits of gold complement the text and add touches of whimsy, creating an overall effect that is breathtaking. The closing endpapers pose additional questions for readers to ponder, some of which can be answered by inquiry and others by thoughtful reflection. This book will inspire art, multiple topics in science, and poetry writing. Simply lovely.

As she did with Serengeti: Plains of Grass (2022) (reviewed on this site), Leslie Bulion transports readers to the islands just off the coast of Ecuador in Galápagos: Islands of Change. An opening essay follows the evolution of the islands from their formation as volcanoes through millions of years of weather influences and adaptations of animals and plants. In 28 engaging poems, animals ranging from tiny zooplankton, boobies, the finches, and lizards, to the lumbering giant tortoises are highlighted with information about their appearance, behaviors, and interconnectedness with other animals and plants. An additional factual blurb accompanies each poem. Gouache and pastel illustrations fill the pages with the colors of the land and sea as well as the islands’ animal and plant species and offer much for readers to peruse. Substantive back pages include: “Galápagos: A Delicate Balance” (an essay on the influences of climate change and human impact); a glossary and map; “Poetry Notes” (a discussion of the variety of poetic forms); further reading, including internet sources and organizations that advocate a sustainable future for the Galápagos, and a list of species featured in the poems. This stunning STEM title will amaze and inform readers and provide opportunities for discussion about the importance of preserving earth’s extraordinary wild places.

A companion to David Elliott’s earlier collections, On the Farm (2008), In the Wild (2010), In the Sea (2012), On the Wing (2014), In the Past (2018), In the Woods (2020), and At the Pond (2022), the fifteen short rhymed and unrhymed poems in At the Poles highlight animals that inhabit the polar regions. Divided into categories - Arctic, Arctic/Antarctic, and Antarctic - the poems include familiar animals (polar bear, walrus, narwhal) and as well as lesser known (tardigrade, Antarctic shag). Facts about appearance and behaviors are cleverly imbedded in the texts of the poems. The final selection “Polar Bear” reminds readers of the vulnerability of Earth’s creatures: “We would not/love the world/so much/without/your lonely/majesty.” Glorious collages created with inks, gouache, and crayon fill double-paged spreads depicting the subjects appropriately in their natural surroundings. Informational blurbs about each animal are appended. This book is a good fit for integrating poetry into science instruction about habitats.

“What? You’ve never seen animals in pants?” asks the disbelieving child at the beginning of Suzy Levinson’s Animals in Pants. That all changes after reading the 23 short rhyming poems in this collection. Readers will chuckle at the “Downward Dog” in yoga pants, a hyperactive squirrel in a tracksuit, a chicken in bell bottom disco pants grooving to the music, penguins that prefer jeans, what turtles wear under their shells (underpants), kangaroos (who have not left the building) in jumpsuits and blue suede shoes, and so many more. The use of language is delightfully clever. Colorful illustrations match the humor of the poems. This very hip collection will have high appeal for rereading. Readers may want to imagine other animals in pants and write about them. The book ends with “What? You’ve never seen animals in hats?” thus opening the door for the class to create their own collection of illustrated poems. (reviewed digitally)

Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench by Lydia Lukidis is an adventure like no other. After a series of questions, readers are invited to squeeze into a submersible vehicle and glide into the Mariana Trench. At each level of depth (noted at the bottom of the pages), rich poetic description introduces a “wondrous creature.” Boxed page inserts provide facts about their appearance and survival. The enormous pressure of the water is a constant reminder. Deep indigo-to-black backgrounds fill the pages - the only light source (presumably from the submersible) focuses on highly detailed illustrations of the mysterious creatures. Fascinating back matter features a cutaway of the trench with the surface at the top and labeled creatures at various depths all the way down to the deepest valley. Additional information includes a “Did You Know?” section with questions and answers and “Why Does the Mariana Trench Matter?” providing larger context. A glossary rounds out the book. This unique topic is likely to arouse readers’ curiosity. There are no sources for further reading though experts are acknowledged by name. This STEAM title adds a new dimension to science curriculum study of the ocean.

James Christopher Carroll’s poetry picture book, Sister Spring, is a breathtaking example of personification. In this companion to Mother Winter, Spring awakens “on the very last breath of frost,” and much loved by all the animals, she fulfills all the tasks needed for the season to emerge. First, she sings, calls, charms the sky, mourning doves, trees in the woods, fish, and clouds to join the celebration. Then all others are summoned to dance the meadow, hold the moon’s light and dream seeds into growing. Extraordinary, vividly colored expressionistic paintings fill the pages with spring backgrounds and ethereal figures. The book introduces readers to an appreciation of fine art as well as to exquisite use of language in its brief text.

Watch Me Bloom: A Bouquet of Haiku Poems for Budding Naturalists by Krina Patel-Sage presents 24 species of flowers in haiku form. Most of the flowers will be familiar to readers, depending on where they live. Wildflowers, backyard gardens, city window boxes, and flowers with cultural significance bloom across the pages. Words in the haiku reflect concepts of courage, harmony, pride, and kindness. Vividly colored digital illustrations feature a diverse cast of cheery-faced characters interacting with the blossoms in some way. Appended pages provide snippets of information about the flowers in “Floral Fun Facts.” The final page indicates that each entry highlights the “Five Ways to Wellbeing” - connect, be active, take notice, keep learning, and give. This mindfulness title provides examples of haiku for writers, offers information, and provides discussion opportunities about living a mentally healthful lifestyle.

With a topic we rarely find in poetry for children, Push-Pull Morning: Dog-Powered Poems about Matter and Energy by Lisa Westberg Peters brings science to a kid-friendly level. In 19 mostly free verse poems, a boy and his energetic dog explore eleven topics, including force, inertia, gravity, magnetism, friction, electricity, and more. Through routine pet care (walking, feeding, giving the dog a bath, taking the dog to the vet, and lots of play), the two friends demonstrate the science topics in a light-hearted manner that makes the concept relatable to younger readers. In the final poem “Paradox,” the boy ponders their existence in the vast universe as the two of them cuddle up to a story with Aunty Rose. Line drawings add humor and depict a comfortable boy-and-his-dog relationship. Appended pages of “Dog Powered Notes” delve more deeply into each science concept. This unique STEM title will enhance readers’ understanding of physical science and entertain them at the same time. (reviewed on NetGalley)

What makes a family? Two unlikely species in Finding Family by Laura Purdie Salas. In the spring, a pair of loons tend two eggs in a nest. Later when they find shards of eggshells and search for the chicks (perhaps eaten by predators?), they find only one. As it grows, however, it becomes apparent that it is not a loon - it is a mallard. Initially, the young duckling adopts loon-like behaviors. But as it matures, it manifests mallard behaviors as well. The spare lyrical text provides information about both species. The repeated phrase, “Nobody knows,” answers questions about the fate of the loon chicks and the future of the mallard duckling that can only be considered “animal mysteries.” Lovely digital illustrations in greens and blues of the woods and lake framed by a peach sky depict the tranquility of the setting. Appended material includes “Is this story true?” documenting the loon-mallard family on which this story is based, “intruder” behavior, a Venn diagram comparing loons and mallards, and sources and additional reading. Readers will be enchanted by this story. Their curiosity should lead them to further investigation about waterfowl and other adopted animal families. (reviewed on NetGalley)

In ZAP! CLAP! BOOM! The Story of a Thunderstorm, a rhyming poem by Laura Purdie Salas traces the development of a summertime thunderstorm. Children are playing outside on a “blue-forever” day when subtle changes to the air, clouds, and wind begin. Before long, heavy clouds loom and howling winds, “electric zigzags,” and rumbling thunder has sent everyone, including the animals, inside. The storm passes quickly, leaving a “dazzling, sparkling, fresher” Earth. The precise rhymes make the poem perfect for reading aloud. Artwork created three dimensionally with layered papers in rich colors fill the pages. A concluding section, “The Science Behind Storms,” presents facts about thunderstorms in reader-friendly text along with an invitation to enjoy the unfolding of a storm from a cozy spot inside. This book is an excellent choice for weather units in science and for rereading on a stormy spring day.

In We Are Branches, Joyce Sidman and illustrator Beth Krommes invite readers to consider the physical world in unique ways just as they did in another of their collaborations, Swirl by Swirl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011). Branches are all around us…lifting to the sun, sinking into the earth, in the sky, in water, inside plants and animals. They tell their story of similarities and differences in vivid free verse (“Listen/to our beginnings:/a whisper of wet, a trickle of song”). Tiny word labels are tucked inside intricate scratchboard and watercolor illustrations that portray a variety of landscapes. Readers are likely to spot something new every time they examine this exquisite art. The back pages offer a definition of branching and scientific explanations of how branches function in nature - grow, support, flow, spark, crack and freeze, repeat - and in human bodies. This picture book poem concludes, “Branches are everywhere. Branching in the shape of life!” An awe-inspiring addition to the science curriculum!

Animals come in amazing colors, and this collection by Susan Johnston Taylor provides ample evidence that this statement is true. Animals in Surprising Shades: Poems about Earth’s Colorful Creatures introduces young readers to a variety of animals and poetic styles. An introductory poem plus 13 more include fascinating facts about insects, amphibians, birds, and more (many of them lesser known). Each poem is accompanied by an engaging informational blurb and a definition of the poem type (some also less familiar; e.g., pregunta and gogyohka). Vivid language and abundant use of poetic devices enhance the read-aloud factor. Colorful spreads painted in gouache and rendered digitally are detailed and eye-catching. Back pages include a glossary of scientific terms used in the poems and a list of sources. An excellent choice for animal units in science, the color and content will draw readers to repeated readings. (reviewed on NetGalley)

In Super Small: Miniature Marvels of the Natural World, Tiffany Stone introduces 15 amazing tiny creatures that are likely unknown to most readers. The poems are lively, mostly rhyming, and chock full of onomatopoeia and playful language (“If you ask an axolotl,/then that axolotl might/relax a lot…”) that make them fun for reading aloud. Introductory and closing poems relate smallness to the book’s reading audience. Each poem is accompanied by a factual sidebar containing information about the animal’s unique “superpower,” illustrated in graphic format. The humorous illustrations, described as “rendered with Photoshop and a magnifying glass,” fill the pages with action and color. These marvelous minis are sure to send readers to additional resources to learn more about them, and they might discover even more tiny animals in the process. Small is mighty is the implied message, as the final page challenges readers with the question, “What is YOUR superpower?” This book will be a popular title in a science unit on animals.

Linda Ashman invites readers to meet 20 champs of the animal kingdom in Champion Chompers, Super Stinkers and Other Poems by Extraordinary Animals. An opening poem invites all contestants who think they have an attribute that might be the best. Most of the animals are familiar (e.g., cheetah, beaver, giraffe, sloth, bald eagle); others may be less so (e.g., snailfish, Eurasian hoopoe, Etruscan shrew). All of them are champions for various reasons: Fastest Flyer, Best Engineer, Longest Tongue, Strongest Bite, Deepest-Dwelling Fish, and the like. Told in the voices of the animals themselves, the lively rhyming poems use onomatopoeia, alliteration, and word play effectively. Variations in font and print size throughout the text add even more appeal. Each poem is accompanied by an informational paragraph that highlights why that animal is the “champ.” A final poem congratulates the participants for their “astounding feats and features.” Digital illustrations depict smiling animals proud of their accomplishments. Appended material discusses the difficulty of animal measurement, the mask poem form, protecting endangered species, and sources. This entertaining and informative science read-aloud is sure to send readers in search of more animal champions. (reviewed on NetGalley)

In a companion title to Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up (2018) and Out of This World: Star-Studded Haiku (2022) (both reviewed on this site), Sally M. Walker examines arboreal science in Trees: Haiku from Roots to Leaves. Ten topics, including scientific nomenclature, seeds, activity both on the inside and outside of trees, treetops, leaves, helpfulness of trees, and wild and urban forests, are addressed in a series of haiku. Vivid description, poetic devices, and appealing metaphors - ”dinosaur salad” (gingko leaves); “tree elevators” (xylem); “tree’s diary” (concentric circles); “rain forest hammocks” (sloths) - enliven the verse. Expansive brightly colored gouache illustrations depict interactions of animals and people with trees. Back pages include a timeline showing the emergence of trees, extensive information about the growth, functions, and distribution of trees, an Author’s Note about Walker’s personal connection to trees, a glossary of scientific terms used in the poems, and a list of sources. This book encourages curiosity and appreciation. Read the haiku aloud to students; then go on a class tree walk and look closely at our green friends; come back and write.

As they did in their earlier collaboration, No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History (Charlesbridge, 2020), Lindsay Metcalf, Keila Dawson and Jeanette Bradley explore the contributions of youth in No World Too Big: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change. Sixteen poems, written in a variety of styles (all of which are defined in the appended pages), introduce readers to twelve climate activists and three groups from around the globe who have made a difference in the world community as well as in their own countries. Their contributions are unique and diverse and demonstrate the power of young people who set specific goals and do what it takes to achieve them. Digitally created illustrations reveal detailed portraits of the poems’ subjects. Each double-paged spread includes an informational blurb about the activist and offers an action statement that readers can fairly easily accomplish. Black and white endpapers show a world map noting the subjects and their home countries. The book concludes with suggestions for what people can do as individuals and in groups, a glossary, and biographical sketches of the fifteen poets. This thought-provoking collection introduces likely unknown (except for Greta Thunberg) young people who are committed to action against climate change.

In You Are My Pride: A Love Letter from Your Motherland by Carole Boston Weatherford, Africa, “the mother of all humanity,” addresses her children and traces their evolution through time. The evocative free verse text lets us know that the path to survival has not always been easy…fraught with torment, danger from stronger creatures, and fierce elements of nature. All along, Mother Africa provided what was needed. In perfect complement to the words, full-page watercolor illustrations by E. B. Lewis reveal the rise of life from its beginnings to present day in breathtaking misty washes that grow more clearly defined as time passes. Back matter is a brief overview of our understanding of human evolution including a timeline of key species and development. Weatherford makes the point that many pieces of the puzzle are still missing. Imbedded within the message that Earth’s children are her treasure is the implication that Earth is our treasure to respect as we hear her “whispering in a language that belongs to no nation but to all humanity.” This is a book to read, ponder, and discuss, and then read again.

Using the dynamic language and explosive style of his earlier sports poetry collections about basketball players, Hoop Kings and Hoop Kings 2 and Hoop Queens, Charles R. Smith scores a goal with Soccer Queens. Thirteen soccer greats, past and present, are featured with homage in the final poem to the 1999 team who “kicked their name into history” with a World Cup victory. Different poetic styles are represented, and the arrangement of the words on the pages reflect the high energy of the poems. Vivid verbs provide constant action, making the poems ideal for reading aloud. Illustrations of the players are superimposed on stylized backgrounds rich in color. A team photo and concluding notes about the writing of the poems finish the collection. Soccer fans will clamor for the book, and readers who know little about soccer will appreciate the skill these players exhibit.

In 30 imaginative poems organized into three themes (“Night Arrives,” “Shut-Your-Eyes Time,” and “Dream Wheels Turning”), Sean Taylor takes listeners for a bedtime ride on The Dream Train. The poems are a mix of rhyming and free verse and address familiar nighttime topics: preparing for bed, the moon and stars, dreams, nocturnal animals, and sounds at night. Rhythm, onomatopoeia, and repetition of words make them ideal for reading aloud. The seasonal metaphors in “Four Moons”…winter moon, a “silver face;” spring moon, “a magic egg;” summer moon, “a ball of straw;” autumn moon, “a rosy apple”… encourage observation and creative thinking. “The Baker Dog” gives a humorous nod to nighttime workers. Mixed media illustrations in luscious colors contain numerous tiny details for young eyes to notice. And the Dream Train itself rumbles through the pages. Listeners will likely choose their favorites from this cozy collection for repeated readings.

Poetry Collections

Charles Ghigna - aka “Father Goose” - has assembled 101 of his poems in The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry. Organized around broad themes of home, the four seasons, animals, and poetry itself, these lovely poems are short and structured in familiar rhyming patterns. The words paint vivid pictures of the beauty and serenity of nature. Exquisite watercolor collages in soft shades give the book a dream-like quality. Both a Subject Index and Title Index are appended. Perfect for reading aloud - children are sure to want repeated readings of their favorites from this handsome volume. As the final poem suggests: “Words that sing./Words that soar./ Words that leave us/Wanting more.”

Just as he did in I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups (2017), Chris Harris takes liberties with language in a second collection of raucous poetry, My Head Has a Bellyache and More Nonsense (also for “mischievous kids and immature grown-ups”). The poems are a feast of wordplay, surprises, and so much fun it might make your belly hurt! Tucked among the nonsense are some reflective and thought-provoking selections as well a tad bit of irreverence. Although the poems are great for reading aloud, the visual gags will have readers poring over the pages…an escaped buffalo, the threat of a meteor crashing into the book, even the page numbers (Did you know that the Candyland game has 134 spaces?) The humor carries through to the end - when was the last time you chuckled over the glossary and index? Characters in the cartoon illustrations romp across the pages, giving the poems even more energy. This goofy collection will appeal to all age groups. Be prepared for readers to read the same poems aloud over and over and laugh…and laugh…and laugh!

Two Truths and a FIB Poetry Anthology edited and compiled by Bridget Magee is many things - a STEAM title, a handbook of different poetry styles, a personal introduction to 29 poets, and the opportunity to “see the world…through a Fibonacci lens.” Each of the 30 topics is presented by two “truth” poems and one that is not true written in the Fibonacci poem style. The truths highlight a wide variety of topics in science, history, math, art, and more. They are filled with fascinating facts that will have students wanting to seek additional information. The “fibs” are fun to ponder (they are explained with more facts). Even the author bios contain a fib - some rather extraordinary! The variety of poetic forms, each with a specific definition to accompany the example poem, makes this a reference of sorts for student writers. With so many samples as models, budding poets will want to try writing their own Fibonacci poems. This all-in-one anthology will enjoy many repeated readings. (Reviewer disclosure: I have poetry selections included in this anthology.)

The Red Ear Blows Its Nose, Robert Schechter’s collection of nearly 100 rhyming poems, is clever, imaginative, thought-provoking, and chock full of word play. What fun for readers it would be to think of something no one’s said before…and play with vocabulary (e.g., “ig” means “not,” so all words are their opposites - I’m not igkidding!)…and consider this piece of advice: “Hold your nose in high esteem/and don’t be slow to show it. You only get one nose in life, so make sure you don’t blow it.” In addition to laugh-out-loud humor, science concepts and some of life’s weighty mysteries to ponder also appear. The lively rhythmic poems in this collection are meant to be read and reread, and they will be! Small, pen-and-ink drawings adorn the pages. A must for the classroom library, shelved near Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein. (reviewed digitally)

In Welcome to Monsterville by Laura Shovan, the first poem invites readers to come inside and meet the residents. And what a community it is! A next-door neighbor dressed in blue with six paws blows green bubbles. Monster houses jump, spin, dance, giggle, and rattle the neighborhood. A cow has an ice cream shop. Bubblegum Head roars. And so many more creatures who, according to the author, “represent an emotion, or state of being: fear, curiosity, self-love, sadness, isolation.” Depictions of the individual characters in colorful line drawings are otherworldly, humorous, and sympathetic. Readers will see their own feelings in these characters and might be inspired to create new residents with poems and illustrations of their own. An introductory essay by a professional counselor discusses the monsters, real and imaginary, in all our lives. A concluding Author’s Note describes the creative process of working with the illustrator in the development of this collection. Readers will likely want to revisit Monsterville again and again through repeated readings of the lively, quirky poems.

Poets and such…

U.S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and Pulitzer Prize-winning Ted Kooser is a name more familiar to adults than to young readers. In Ted Kooser: More Than a Local Wonder, Carla Ketner introduces the poet to a new audience. As a boy, Ted Kooser immersed himself in stories about people and places of the rural Midwest, not knowing that one day those stories would help him find his voice as a writer. As a boy in Iowa, Teddy soaked in the yarns spun by his family and small-town neighbors. The tales, as well as the people who told them, eventually worked their way into the poems he started writing in school and later in his refrigerator box “office.” Ted continued to write…poem…after poem…after poem. And after a time, his words caught the attention of readers who celebrated the worlds he created. Luminous watercolor paintings capture the mood of this quiet story as well as evoke a nostalgia for times past. A concluding Author’s Note offers additional biographical information. Four of Kooser’s poems are appended. This lyrical picture book biography reflects the power of oral storytelling and shows young readers how patience and persistence can help dreams come true. A book to savor.

In There Was a Party for Langston, Jason Reynolds invites readers to celebrate the “King of Letters” himself, Langston Hughes. And what a party it was! The event was the grand opening of the Langston Hughes Auditorium at the Schomburg Center in Harlem in 1991. A glance at the opening endpapers leads readers to believe that everyone (the “best word makers” among African American authors) came to celebrate…at least in spirit. Part biography of Langston’s rise as a writer and ALL “bumping, jumping, thumping” boogie woogie as the books and their authors look on from the shelves. The illustrations, created with handmade stamps and edited digitally, pulse with movement and sound and stylized WORDS that jump and swoop and wiggle across the pages. In an author’s note, Reynolds explains that a photograph of Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka dancing inspired the story. The closing endpapers feature a “shelf” of Langston Hughes’ titles. This book is pure joy - a stunning achievement in words and pictures that will inspire curiosity about the featured individuals.

“Good things come in threes, like peas like wishes like sisters.” In Starflower: The Making of a Poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, J. M. Farkas and Emily Vizzo focus on Millay’s childhood and her relationship with her two sisters. The Millay sisters were distinctive - red-haired Edna, called Vincent, was the fieriest and learned to read from Romeo and Juliet. Their home was filled with music and poetry and more books than the library. After their father left, the sisters spent months alone while their mother traveled as a nurse. They explored the edge of the sea, tended wildflowers, drew pictures, and moody Edna wrote poems as they managed to stay warm in winter and survive. The elegant lyrical text is complemented by realistic depictions of the sisters against mostly color drenched backgrounds. Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay grace the book’s endpapers. A brief biography and Author’s Note, which discusses the influence of Millay’s mother and sisters on her writing life, and photographs are appended. Picture book readers will not meet Edna St. Vincent Millay for many years, but they will enjoy this richly illustrated story of three courageous sisters who were devoted to each other.


Alexander, Kwame. An American Story. Illus. by Dare Coulter. Little, Brown

Ashman, Linda. Champion Chompers, Super Stinkers and Other Poems by Extraordinary Animals. Illus. by Aparna Varma. Kids Can Press

Bulion, Leslie. Galápagos: Islands of Change. Illus. by Becca Stadtlander. Peachtree

Carroll, James Christopher. Sister Spring. Creative Editions

Dotlich, Rebecca Kai and Heard, Georgia. Welcome to the Wonder House. Illus. by Deborah Freedman. WordSong/Astra

Elliott, David. At the Poles. Illus. by Ellen Rooney. Candlewick

Farkas, J. M. and Vizzo, Emily. Starflower: The Making of a Poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay. Illus. by Jasmin Dwyer. Cameron Kids

Flake, Sharon G. Once in a Blue Moon. Knopf

Ghigna, Charles. The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry. Illus. by Sara Brezzi. Schiffer Kids

Harjo, Joy. Remember. Illus. by Michaela Goade. Random House Studio

Harris, Chris. My Head Has a Bellyache and More Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grownups. Illus. by Andrea Tsurumi. by Little, Brown

Janeczko, Paul B. Where I Live: Poems about My Home, My Street, and My Town. Illus. by Hyewon Yum. Candlewick

Jules, Jacqueline. Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember. Illus. by Eszter Anna Rácz. Moonshower/Bushel & Peck

Ketner, Carla. Ted Kooser: More Than a Local Wonder. Illus. by Paula Wallace.
University of Nebraska Press

LaRocca, Rajani Mirror to Mirror. Quill Tree

Levinson, Suzy. Animals in Pants. Illus. by Kevin Howdeshell. Cameron Kids/Abrams

Lukidis, Lydia. Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench. Illus. by Juan Calle. Capstone Editions

Magee, Bridget (Ed.). Two Truths and a Fib Poetry Athology. wee words for wee ones

Metcalf, Lindsay H., Dawson, Keila V., and Bradley, Jeanette (Eds.). No World Too Big: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change. Illus. by Jeanette Bradley. Charlesbridge

Patel-Sage, Krina. Watch Me Bloom: A Bouquet of Haiku Poems for Budding Naturalists. Lantana Publishing

Peters, Lisa Westberg. Push-Pull Morning: Dog-Powered Poems about Matter and Energy. Illus. by Serge Bloch. Astra/WordSong

Reynolds, Jason. There Was a Party for Langston, King of Letters. Illus. by Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey. Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Salas, Laura Purdie. Finding Family: The Duckling Raised by Loons. Illus. by Alexandria Neonakis. Millbrook

Salas, Laura Purdie. ZAP! CLAP! BOOM! The Story of a Thunderstorm. Illus. by Elly MacKay. Bloomsbury

Schechter, Robert. The Red Ear Blows Its Nose: Poems for Children. Illus. by S. Federico. Word Galaxy

Shepard, Ray Anthony. A Long Time Coming. Illus. by R. Gregory Christie. Calkins Creek/Astra

Shovan, Laura. Welcome to Monsterville. Illus. by Michael Rothenberg. Apprentice House Press

Sidman, Joyce. We Are Branches. Illus. by Beth Krommes. Clarion

Smith, Charles R. Soccer Queens. Candlewick

Stone, Tiffany. Super Small: Miniature Marvels of the Natural World. Illus. by Ashley Spires. Greystone

Taylor, Sean. The Dream Train: Poems for Bedtime. Illus. by Anuska Allepuz. Candlewick

Taylor, Susan Johnston. Animals in Surprising Shades: Poems about Earth’s Colorful Creatures. Illus. by Annie Bakst. Gnome Road

Walker, Sally M. Trees: Haiku from Roots to Leaves. Illus. by Angela Mckay. Candlewick

Waters, Charles and Sorell, Traci. Mascot. Charlesbridge

Weatherford, Carole Boston. You Are My Pride: A Love Letter from Your Motherland. Illus. by E.B. Lewis. Astra

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