Spring into Poetry
Then spring into something new; discover more amazing poetry written for young people, including poetic forms like novels in verse.
Children's Poetry and Novels in Verse
Continued Sense of Wonder is a quarterly discussion group, which takes place at the City Library, for adults who enjoy children's books. The September 2018 meeting looked at Children's Poetry and Novels in Verse. For many of us attending that evening, poetry books written for children were among the first books we owned. Some of us learned classic children's poems by heart (and as adults misremembered them); my personal favourite is Halfway Down by A. A. Milne from When We Were Very Young. Some of us admitted we did not read much poetry as adults, and many adults say they don't have time for poetry. I'd like to suggest that reading poetry written for children, or revisiting poetry you read as a child, will give you a new appreciation of poetry and all of its many forms.
Today there is an amazing array of poetry books available for children, many highly illustrated, and which can be enjoyed by all ages. There are classics, which include nonsense poems like those by Edward Lear, humorous verse such as Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales and various editions of perennial favourites, such as Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. There are specific books covering different poetic forms: ballads, limericks, haiku, concrete poems that are shaped strangely, and spoonerisms where the words are tangled; and newer forms such as novels in verse and slam poetry.
Poetry is primarily an oral form of literature, and most of us were introduced to it as infants, in the forms of nursery rhymes we heard our parents, or grandparents, repeating. We could all probably recall half a dozen of these rhymes with no effort at all. You will find books of simple and traditional rhymes, such as Mother Goose and My Village: Rhymes From Around the World, on the shelves at 398.8.
In the poetry section, at 821, you will find well-known classic collections by A. A. Milne and T. S. Eliot, and anthologies, like A Child's Introduction to Poetry, next to illustrated picture books of single poems. You will also find poetry books on specific themes, such as: animals, art, earth, emotions, growing-up, seasons, technology, poets, and even about books and libraries.
Funny poems appeal to everyone: I loved Pam Ayres' humorous poetry when I was at primary school and many years later saw her perform her poems at Dunedin's Regent Theatre. The talented Michael Rosen also causes tears of laughter in young and old with his live performances. To see him perform his poems and stories, check out his YouTube channel here. Centrally Heated Knickers and Jelly Boots, Smelly Boots are two of his recent collections.
The booklists below represent some of the highlights from our collections: Poetry Anthologies and Collections, Classic Children's Poetry, New Zealand Children's Poetry, Novels in Verse, Rhyming Picture Books (including some New Zealand favourites), some books about poetry and poets from the Children's Literature Research Collection, and finally some helpful guides to writing poetry.
Poetry Anthologies and Collections
101 Poems for Children: A Laureate's Choice Edited by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Emily Gravett
Better Out Than In Adam Wallace, illustrated by Heath McKenzie
Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka
A Hurricane in My Head Matt Abbott
I Don't Like Poetry Joshua Seigal
I'm Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith
I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book Edited by Iona and Peter Opie, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood Calvin Trillin, illustrated by Roz Chast
One Minute Till Bedtime: 60-Second Poems to Send You Off to Sleep Selected by Kenn Nesbitt, illustrated by Christoph Niemann
Out and About: A First Book of Poems Shirley Hughes
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children Introduction by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Talking Turkeys Benjamin Zephaniah
What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lee White
Also check out Sylvia Vardell's poetry blog: Poetry for Children
Classic Children's Poetry
A Children's Treasury of Milligan: Classic Stories and Poems Spike Milligan
I Carry Your Heart With Me e. e. cummings, illustrated by Mati Rose McDonough
Jabberwocky Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Joel Stewart
There are many editions of this poem, even a graphic novel version.
Keep a Pocket in Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Johanna Wright
My Very First Mother Goose Edited by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Now We Are Six A. A. Milne
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats T. S. Eliot, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
The Owl and the Pussycat Edward Lear
Many illustrators have taken on this classic nonsense poem.
Paul Revere's Ride Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Monica Vachula
Peacock Pie: A Book of Rhymes Walter De La Mare, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
Revolting Rhymes Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Rudyard Kipling Edited by Eileen Gillooly, illustrated by Jim Sharpe
That is my Dream! Langston Hughes, illustrated by Daniel Miyares
New Zealand Children's Poetry
Classic Rhymes for Kiwi Kids Peter Millett, illustrated by Scott Tulloch
Feel a Little: Little Poems About Big Feelings Jenny Palmer, illustrated by Evie Kemp
The Letterbox Cat and Other Poems Paula Green, illustrated by Myles Lawford
Nonstop Nonsense Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Packing a Bag for Mars: Selected Poems with Notes for Teachers and Encouragement for Beginning Writers James Norcliffe, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children Edited by Paula Green, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Poet Paula Green also manages Poetry Box: A New Zealand Poetry Page For Children
The Word Witch: The Magical Verse of Margaret Mahy Edited by Tessa Duder, illustrated by David Elliot
Novels in Verse
Booked Kwame Alexander
A poetic tale about twelve-year-old Nick who loves soccer and hates books.
Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Dad and Sam are joined on their fishing trip by Sam's pesky sister. Book comes with a list of poetic forms.
Moo Sharon Creech
Short chapters that blend poems and prose to trace the story of a displaced city girl as she adjusts to life in the country.
Out of the Dust Karen Hesse
Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family's wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression.
Pearl Verses the World Sally Murphy, illustrated by Heather Potter
About grief and finding your place in the world.
The Poet X: A Novel Elizabeth Acevedo
A 2019 Carnegie award-winning YA novel in verse where a slam poetry club helps the central character Xiomara, known as X, to speak up.
Unbound Ann E. Burg
Nine-year-old Grace and her enslaved family must flee into the Dismal Swamp to escape being separated after Grace says her thoughts out loud.
Rhyming Picture Books
Rhyming picture books are very popular with children and parents alike. Who can forget Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy or Slinki Malinki by New Zealand's Lynley Dodd? Britain's Julia Donaldson also excels in creating delightful rhyming picture books including The Rhyming Rabbit. And no list of rhyming picture books would be complete without stories by Margaret Mahy, including A Summery Saturday Morning. Here are some other rhyming picture books, including some about poetry.
Around the World
Daniel Finds a Poem Micha Archer
Duck in a Truck Jez Alborough
Hickory Dickory Dash Tony Wilson, illustrated by Laura Wood
The Hole Kerry Brown, illustrated by Lucia Masciullo
How to be a Lion Ed Vere
A Poem in Your Pocket Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
New Zealand Rhyming Picture Books
Ambulance, Ambulance! Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
Nicketty-nacketty Noo-noo-noo Joy Cowley, illustrated by Tracey Moroney
Rhyming Picture Books from Dunedin
Bruce Finds a Home Kathryn Van Beek
Louise Stuck Up To Her Knees Steve Crosland
St Clair Splash Rachel McCoubrey
This collection has helpful resources on poetry, with introductions to children's poetry and anthologies of ideal poems for reading aloud.
Children's Literature, Briefly (4th Edition) Michael O. Tunnell and James S. Jacobs
Has a section of children's poetry.
A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano
Includes a very helpful section on poetry.
Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme Chris Roberts
Delves into the meanings of forty nursery rhymes.
A Little, Aloud, for Children: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry for Reading Aloud Edited by Angela Macmillan
The simple act of reading aloud brings health and happiness to young and old. Look to this book for a great selection of read-aloud choices.
So They Call You Pisher: A Memoir Michael Rosen
Autobiography of Rosen's first twenty-three years.
A complete guide to Winnie-the-Pooh the bear who first appeared in When We Were Very Young.
Explosion at the Poem Factory Kyle Lukoff
A picture book which is a fun introduction to writing poetry.
How to Write Poems Joseph Coelho
Pizza, Pigs and Poetry: How to Write a Poem Jack Prelutsky
Read, Recite and Write series JoAnn Early Macken
What is Poetry?: The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems Michael Rosen, illustrated by Jill Calder
You will find these guides to writing poetry (written for children and teachers) at 808.1 in Children's Non-Fiction.
National Poetry day is in late August each year, when spring is just around the corner. Spring is a good time for poetry; by reading poetry written for young people, you will see the world afresh, and you will spring back into poetry, and feel renewed. It is often said: "A poem a day keeps the doctor away."