Oh, how I’ve procrastinated this list. I think I’ve been “working” on it for more than a year. I feel somewhat fraudulent posting on best poetry books for kids because I’m no expert. National Poetry Month is forcing me to face my own fear of poetry to finally complete this list.
Poetry for April has permeated our house. My kids are all doing poetry units at school. No coincidence, I think.
The other week, PickyKidPix had to go to the library to research poems of oppression for her school poetry project. (Strange topic, right? Her friend Devin has “rain” as a poetry topic). We asked the librarian where the poetry books were. I had no idea there was a HUGE section of poetry books for kids in the Non-Fiction section!
It was eye-opening to realize the poetry books are NOT organized by topic. I’m no expert on the Dewey Decimal system but I’m not sure this is the best way to organize poetry books for kids. We pored over four bookcases of poetry books looking for people of color which is a little like searching for that proverbial needle. Nevertheless, we found this small pile.
After digging for poetry books, I realize that sometimes it’s nice to have a list served up to you. I hope this list serves you well!
Please share your favorite poetry books for kids. Together we can build this list. Thanks so much!
Our Favorite Poetry Books for Kids to Read
10. Forest Has a Song: Poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
This was my first “official” poetry for kids’ book that I read in its entirety and enjoyed the experience (as poetry scares me). If you want an easy and pleasant slide into poetry, try this lovely picture book with themes of spring and nature. It’s perfect for celebrating National Poetry Month with your kids this month!
9. A Pizza as Big as the Sun by Jack Prelutsky
Grasshopper and Sensei received this as a birthday present in third grade and it remains one of her favorite books. She says it’s really funny and highly recommends it.
8. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
If you were to own just one poetry book for kids, I think this would be my choice.
7. Cool Melons Turn into Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa story and haiku translations by Matthew Gollub, illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone
I didn’t know who Issa was either so I had to look him up. Kobayashi Issa (小林 一茶, June 15, 1763 – November 19, 1827), was a Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest of the Jōdo Shinshū sect known for his haiku poems and journals. He is better known as simply Issa , a pen name meaning Cup-of-tea. He is regarded as one of the four haiku masters in Japan, along with Bashō, Buson and Shiki – ‘the Great Four, Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki’.
My kids found some of his Haiku poems to be strangely fascinating, especially the one about melons turning to frogs.
6. Poems to Learn by Heart by Caroline Kennedy
Categorized by topic, Caroline Kennedy of the Kennedy family, shares her love of poetry and her children’s favorites. Jon J. Muth illustrates with his usual gorgeous and sensitive watercolor renderings.
5. The Swamps of Sleethe: Poems From Beyond the Solar System by Jack Prelutsky
For PickyKidPix’s 5th grade poetry project, there were just two rules. You had to find physical books rather than Googling the internet and no Jack Prelutsky. He’s every kids’ go-to poet apparently, so it’s time to share the wealth.
4. Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer
The concept is diabolically clever: fairy tales retold through reverse verse. Yes, fairy tales told in verse will read as traditional and familiar BUT if you read the poem in reverse, it’s a whole different story. I love retold fairy tales and this is just too good to miss.
3. Call Me Maria by Judith Ortiz Cofer
For a multicultural pick, I love this unusual chapter book that combines poetry, letters and story to tell the story of a young girl who emigrates from Puerto Rico to New York City. It’s not the usual immigrant story you’d expect though. Her parents are divorced and her father is in NYC working as a super in their building. Her mother, back in Puerto Rico, is middle class. As Maria masters English, she also discovers the poet within herself. [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
2. Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
We love anything Roald Dahl and his humorous poems that turn fairy tales upside down are irresistible fun!
1. Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech
Sharon Creech taught me to love poetry with this slender volume. I thank her for that! She can convince your child too if you read this book. Young Jack in this sequel to Love That Dog is also experiencing a poetry unit, the loss of his dog, and an annoying cat next door.
More Great New Poetry Books
How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
A poetry memoir from three-time National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson. This is a peek into Pre-Civil Rights America of her family as they traveled around the country as a military family. Her father was a rare black military officer. Her mother, a rare career mom. Told in fifty unrhymed sonnets in iambic pentameter, Marilyn’s perspective is also an original spin-off of a standard. Her family quietly broke color barriers in this coming of age story of a young girl discovering the power of the pen. [Poetry novel in verse memoir, for 12 and up]
Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer and Lynn Melnick
These 100 poets express diverse points of view and experiences. This is a list of “Who’s Who” for future poet laureates. [young adult poetry anthology, ages 14 and up]
More Great Poetry Book Lists for Kids
Multicultural poem books from Colorin Colorado
Best Poems for Kids from School Library Journal
Latino American Poetry Books for grades 3 and up from Vamos a Leer.
Poetry Picture Book Giveaway
I am giving away Forest Has a Song: Poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. To win, please enter the Rafflecopter. Sorry, USA and Canada only because the shipping gets so expensive. APO Military addresses overseas are fine.
p.s. Poetry Book Lists for Kids:
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.