When most people think of poetry for kids, Shel Silverstein often comes to mind, and rightly so since his poems are a silly and delightful right-of-passage for any child. April, being National Poetry Month, offers the perfect time to take a look at the variety and scope of poetry for children beyond the Silverstein collections. We’ll be taking a look at classics, rhymes, meter, and novels in verse. Today, we start with a few new books that are welcome additions to the poetry shelf.
The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka
The introduction of the book explains the set up for this collection of poems. Janeczko selects poems from different time periods, starting with the early Middle Ages, that are about everyday things – clouds, hats, cats, trains – by poets that are familiar and perhaps not as familiar to today’s readers. A fascinating book that makes comparing language and meaning between major literary periods a snap. Raschka’s bright and friendly watercolor illustrations are perfect accompaniment to each poem no matter when it was written.
from the early Middle Ages 400-1000
translated by Craig Williamson
A moth ate a word. To me that seemed
A curious happening when I heard of that wonder,
That a worm should swallow the word of a man
A thief in the dark eat a thoughtful discourse
And the strong base it stood on. He stole, but he was not
A whit the wiser when the word had been swallowed.
The Maine Coon’s Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Lee White
First, Rosen published a collection of haiku for dog and bird lovers, but he didn’t forget those cat lovers out there. This collection of original haiku about cats is a fun and informative book about different cat breeds. Each haiku includes a little tidbit about what makes the breed unique, or it describes a typical cat trait. The illustrations are well-suited for each breed and match the mood & tone of each poem. A nice choice to read along with T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
whooshing down the hall:
Angora, then her all-white
dust devil of hair
Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything by Calef Brown
While the previous two books above have very specific focus, this book of original poetry by Brown, takes a look at many kid-friendly themes – things that go, school, food, and animals to name a few. There is also a section of poems using portmanteaus. Clever word play, fun rhyme, and general silliness abound in this entertaining collection.
Giant prehistoric critters
once used volcanic craters
to cook gigantic fritters
and titanic taters.
This was disrupted
by massive eruptions,
resulting in fossilized critter matter
embedded in petrified fritter batter.