Since April is National Poetry Month, we asked our friends at the New York Public Library to come up with a list of poetry books for kids for this month's Little Lions post. Luckily Peggy Salwen, Senior Children's Librarian at the 67th Street Branch, is a big poetry fan so she was up to the task.
While many children's books are written in verse, these tomes feature true poems, not just stories that rhyme. And since poetry books, like poems, come in many styles, there are a variety of choices here, from themed collections to a single illustrated ode.
1. Switching on the Moon: A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems – collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by G. Brain Karas
The perfect book to add to your nighttime routine, this collection features 60 gems about going to bed, dreaming and other nocturnal happenings written by famous authors like Lord Tennyson and Sylvia Plath, and modern-day poets such as former Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman. G. Brain Karas' lovely illustrations evoke the magic of the night. Find it at NYPL or buy it on amazon.
2. I Am the Book – collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Yayo
Ages 6 and up
Hopkins compiled a small collection of poems about the joys of reading. The poets capture the sense of adventure a new book can bring and the sadness of coming to the end of a great story. Yayo's bright and bold illustrations beautifully complement the text. Find it on NYPL or buy it on amazon.
3. Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart – collected by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley
Ages 4 and up
Are you up to Mary Ann Hoberman's challenge? You will be when you read these poems, which are quite memorable. Hoberman, a renown poet herself, believes that once you memorize a poem, it becomes a part of you, and her collection contains classics your grandparents learned by heart in school, like Longfellow, as well as contemporary selections. She even shares tips on memorizing them! I like this book so much I bought it for my niece and nephew. Find it at NYPL or buy it on amazon.
4. Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs by Alan Katz, illustrated by David Catrow
Ages 3 and up
Whether you read or croon these whimsical poems, your family's sure to get a kick out of them. Most of the selections can be sung to familiar tunes (ex: the title poem, which fits perfectly to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame:" "Take me out of the bathtub. Take me out of the suds. I’ve been here soaking since half past two. I feel so sudsy and wrinkly too." The selections are all fun, and a couple are gleefully gross like "The Yogurt Flies Straight from My Brother." Find it at NYPL or buy it on amazon.
5. His Shoes Were Far Too Tight: Poems by Edward Lear – collected by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Calef Brown
Ages 4 and up
Edward Lear wrote nonsense poems back in the 1800s and many of his odes are still well-loved today. Pinkwater, a very funny author himself, has chosen some of his favorites like “The Owl and the Pussy Cat” and “The Nonsense Alphabet.” Calef Brown's amusing illustrations just add to the laughs. Find it on NYPL or buy it on amazon.
6. Handsprings: Poems & Paintings by Douglas Florian
Ages 5 and up
New York-based poet Douglas Florian really knows how to celebrate spring. “Play Ball!” and “Spring Training” mark the start of baseball season while other poems remind us of why we embrace fresh flowers, April showers and even mud. This small collection really spreads the warmth of the season. Find it at NYPL or buy it on amazon.
7. Me I Am! by Jack Prelutsky, illustrations by Christine Davenier
Do you live with a little individual who knows exactly what she (or he) wants to do? If so, share this book with that kid. Jack Prelutsky wrote this poem in the 1980s, and it's printed here in a single volume with wonderful pictures of children just being themselves, warts and all. Find it on NYPL or buy it on amazon.
8. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen
Ages 6 and up
Another fantastic poetry collection that celebrates the wonders of the night. Joyce Sidman’s odes to our dark hours begin with these rich lines: “To all of you who crawl and creep, who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep…” Her evocative poems and Rick Allen's detailed illustrations will inspire young readers to learn more about what happens outside while they sleep. Find it on NYPL or buy it on amazon.
9. A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children by Caroline Kennedy, illustrations by Jon J. Muth
Ages 9 and up
Kennedy scion Caroline selected the classic poems in this volume, and that's her as a child on the cover reading a book to her Teddy bear. It’s a striking picture on a striking collection of old favorites like “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost and Christina Georgina Rossetti's “Hurt No Living Thing” with a few newer poems by the likes of Prelutsky and Nikki Giovanni. Find it at NYPL or buy it on amazon.
10. Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry – collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Parents will already know many of these poems by the likes of Margaret Wise Brown and A. A. Milne, but they'll be new to young kids. Sharing these beloved lines with your children is a great way to get them interested in poetry. Bonus: This is a large book with just one poem per page, so it's easy for emerging readers to follow along. Find it at NYPL or buy it on amazon.
Read about some of our other favorite children's books.
Thanks to The New York Public Library for providing this book list. You can find all of these titles at the library.