Our 5 Favorite Poetry Books for Kids

April is National Poetry Month, so let’s do a roundup of our favorite poetry books for kids. While a lot of children’s books use rhyming text to tell a story, these books are specifically created to showcase poems – whether originally written for a children’s audience or not. I love poetry books for kids that believe children can manage interesting, “advanced” writing and imagery. The variety of language and structure is great for their growing brains and imaginations… and also refreshing for the grownups who read with them!

(New to my blog? All my children’s book recommendations are here, or check out my children’s books Pinterest board. My book posts all use affiliate links, but check your local library too!)

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, curated by Paul B. Janeczko and beautifully illustrated by Melissa Sweet who works in mixed media including painting, drawing, and collage. The nice folks at Candlewick Press sent us a review copy of this one, and we are so grateful. It’s a delight. It’s a collection of tiny poems that capture everything I love about reading poetry with kids – especially the fresh use of language different from prose stories, and the imagination of the authors who often created their poems based on noticing something in the world and seeing it in an unusual way. I read this with Boy Detective one lazy weekend afternoon and we stopped so many times to discuss our reactions to the poems, and how we each understood them. He was also tickled as he found various little details in the illustrations.

Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian. Sly humor, puns, and other plays on words combined with the planets, and gorgeous artwork. Even if the young reader in your world isn’t an astronomy fanatic, this is a fun book.

Eric Carle’s Dragons, Dragons, which is Eric Carle paintings illustrating excerpts from poetry by various authors. It’s sometimes hard to recall, when faced by the avalanche of Eric Carle merchandise, that it all started because he is a good artist. Pair his paintings of dragons and various other mythological monsters with poems about them, and Boy Detective was mesmerized. We had to buy the book, since it wasn’t feasible to fly to his cousins’ house in Colorado to re-read it often.

Little Dog Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, with art by June Otani. This ode to the relationship between one little girl and her very little dog is so satisfying for anyone who’s spent time around dogs. I love the spare language of the poems and their accessibility. This would be a great pick for convincing kids to try writing their own poems. And heads up since you can’t tell from the cover, the girl is drawn as Asian-American. Otani, who passed away in 2012, was Japanese-American. (Her family was held in an internment camp during WWII.)

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer, with art by Josée Masse. As soon as I read the first page, I knew my language-loving, puzzle-loving seven year old son was going to adore it. And I was right. :) His eyes lit up as we read the first pair of poems and he got what was happening. Each set of two “reverso” poems, on the same same page, is the same lines, the second reversed from the first. Only changes of punctuation and capitalization are allowed. And here they tell two different sides of the same fairy tale: Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf, Cinderella and her stepsisters, Beauty and the Beast. I’m blown away by the thought required to craft these forwards-backwards stories.

Some of the poem sets are more successful than others, but overall the collection is very strong. The Sleeping Beauty and the Wide-Awake Prince is one of my favorites because of how perfectly it shows the “grass is always greener” effect. Mirror Mirror, the Snow White set of poems, is chilling. Masse’s split-screen painting for each set of poems is such a perfect match for the poems. Follow Follow, the next one Singer published, is just as good, if not better. (How often does that happen?) Again, not every poem quite clicks, but the ones that do are stunning. I’m in awe of how this technique and Singer’s insight can give great emotional depth to stories we’re already overly familiar with – in such short poems!

And that’s the list of our favorite poetry books for kids! If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing on social media or with friends!

13 thoughts on “Our 5 Favorite Poetry Books for Kids

  1. Angela

    wow! I wasn’t familiar with any of these. I have one of Eric Carle’s other poetry books that is fun too. Out of my four children I only have one that is a book lover, to my great heartbreak. I am determined to change that though. There is just too much great literature to allow that. :)

  2. Helen- Life in Random Bits

    I love, love poetry! The first time I was absolutely taken with poetry was some time around 4th-5th grade. I discovered Jack Prelutsky’s “For Laughing Out Loud” and spent the entire library time calling people over and reading the poems aloud, generally laughing so hard I was crying.

    I was hooked. And really, for funny, you can’t beat Prelutsky or his collections.

  3. Skye

    Angela, you can do it! You’re right, there are FAR too many good books out there and no one should miss out.

    Helen, did I seriously just do a post on kids’ poetry and not include Jack Prelutsky? What is wrong with me?!

    Jennifer, that’s some blog fodder right there… :)

  4. Pary Moppins

    My daughter is an avid reader but not so much into poetry (except for Shel Silverstein). I’ll have to show her this list and maybe she’ll find some that she likes. Thanks for the list!

  5. Skye

    Pary Moppins, I definitely never pitch a book to Boy Detective as “hey read some poetry” because I think he’d look at me funny! Hook ’em on the topic first. :)

    Jeannie that is so cool you write it! I have a friend who does as well and I really admire y’all who take the time to express yourselves in such a medium. Way more delicate and artistic than a blog post, or at least more than mine!

    Patti I feel like I could just photocopy the rest of the list of books I’ll be posting about during the next year. Although I guess Sweet E is still young, we have time!

  6. Alli

    I’ve been an avid reader since early childhood and now I’m enjoying reading to and listening to my grandchildren read. And I love poetry. I will be sharing this post with my daughter, so that she can check out these books when she takes her kids to the library. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Amy A

    Thanks for the suggestions! I’ve got a couple of book-lovin’ boys myself and I think they might really enjoy some of these!

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