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1. Poetry Friday: Song in My Heart

April is National Poetry Month! All month long we’ll be celebrating by posting some of our favorite poems for Poetry Friday. For our third Poetry Friday post, we chose Song in my Heart by Tony Medina, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Jackson from I and I Bob Marley.

i and i

Song in My Heart

I am the boy

From Nine Miles

The one sing

Like three little birds

In a reggae style

The one blessed

By Jah

To travel miles

Across the world

With my island girl

Guitar in hand

And my dreads

A twirl

With music

In my belly

And songs

In my heart

Healing the world

With my reggae art

Keeping you always

Like a song

In my heart

 Let us know what poems you’re reading in the comments section!

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2. Linda Gregerson: ‘The internet chips away at the barriers between solitary writing and solitary reading.’

Poet Linda GregersonHappy National Poetry Month! All throughout April, we will interview poets about working in this digital age. Recently, we spoke with award-winning writer Linda Gregerson. (Photo Credit: Nina Subin)

Q: How did you publish your first book?
A: I was actually very lucky. Gwen Head, who was at the time launching a new press in Port Townsend, Washington, solicited the manuscript and offered to publish it. I was working on my PhD at the time and, without this incentive, would have been much slower to complete the book.

Q: Has the Internet changed the way you interact with readers?
A: Certainly. I don’t know how many readers encounter my poems for the first time or primarily online, but surely it’s one of the major ways in which we all discover new work these days. I’m still very wedded to the printed page: I like the discipline and the restriction of it; I like the visual architecture of lines and stanzas bounded by material white space. When I discover new poets online or in journals, and find those that most compel me, I want to follow up by buying and holding in my hands and reading and rereading their books. That said, there’s wonderful immediacy to the internet: readers can contact me, and do, electronically; I can respond. The internet chips away at the barriers between solitary writing and solitary reading.

Q: What type of research process do you undergo when you’re writing poems?
A: For me as for most poets, I think, the process of research can mean a thousand things. I found myself two days ago trying to find out what I could about the geometrical structure of robins’ nests. For a series of lyrics in the voice of Dido several years ago, I reread the Aeneid and researched other, later treatments of the Dido narrative. Sometimes I find myself looking up the background to a troubling story I’ve read in the morning paper. Once I called upon a colleague in neurobiology to explain to me the workings of a Nomarski microscope (that colleague was generous beyond all measure). Another time, for a sequence on slate mining in the north of England, I studied an online compendium of interviews with miners, a series of geomorphological maps, and diagrams explaining the construction of slate roofs. Sometimes I simply stare out the window.

Q: Do you have any tips for people who want to read and perform poetry in front of an audience?
A: By all means go to as many poetry readings and performances as you possibly can. The ones in auditoriums and public libraries, the ones in coffee shops and bars, poetry performed to music, poetry performed in slams. You’ll begin to get a feel for what you like and don’t like, mannerisms you want to avoid, forms of audience engagement that appeal to you. Read to your friends; read at open mics. Some of these modes and venues will feel to you like an enlargement of your work, true to what you do. Others may be a poor fit.

Q: What advice can you share for aspiring poets?
A: Read read read. And exchange your work with other writers who are passionate about poetry.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is publishing my New and Selected Poems in September. And I’m writing an epithalamion for two dear friends who are getting married later this month.

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3. Novels in Verse: my top ten + two more to read (ages 9-12)

Novels in verse have particular power speaking to kids. Some really like the way that there are fewer words on the page. It can make reading them feel less overwhelming. Others like how much they can "read between the lines", letting their imaginations fill in the gaps. Others love the way these poets play with language.

Today, I'd like to share my personal top ten favorites (in alphabetical order). I adore sharing these with students. But know that there are many others that my kids love. At the end, I'll share two books on my "to be read" (TBR) pile.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
I have loved talking with my students about this book, how they can relate to Jackie's experiences, how they can see themselves in the book, how they can feel some of her own journey even if their experiences are different. Winner of the 2015 Coretta Scott King Award, the 2014 National Book Award, and the 2015 Newbery Honor.
The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
You can read this incredible novel as a basketball story, as a family drama, or as a novel written with a modern ear using rhythms and rhymes infused with music and motion. It speaks to kids in all sorts of different ways. Winner of the 2015 Newbery Award, and the 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor.
Heartbeat, by Sharon Creech
In flowing free verse, Annie describes her love of running, the changes in her best friend Max, the birth of her baby brother and her grandfather's growing confusion and dementia. Annie's world feels as if it's unraveling with all this change. As she runs for the pure pleasure of running, thoughts and questions race through her mind.
Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech
Oh, how I love this book. We start with Jack, who's dreading writing his own poems, forced to keep a poetry journal for his teacher. But as we get to know Jack and as he gets to know different poems, we start to see a fuller picture of a boy, his dog and his feelings. Check out this terrific reader's theater through TeachingBooks, starring Sharon Creech, Walter Dead Myers, Avi and Sarah Weeks.
The Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney
I was fascinated when I asked Andrea Davis Pinkney about why she chose to write this story in verse. She explained how she wanted to tell a story for elementary students about the Sudanese conflict, and she felt that a novel in verse would allow them more space. She was able to keep some of the more difficult scenes quite spare, so that students could infer the tragedies rather than be faced with the brutalities that her character experienced. My students continue recommending this to each other, talking about what a powerful story it is.
Rhyme Schemer, by K.A. Holt
Kids are attracted to Kevin's attitude and sass, but it's his journey that stays with them. Kevin is bullied by his older brother at home, but he then turns to bullying classmates at school. By taking pages torn from library books, he makes funny but oh-so-cruel found poems and tapes them up at school. When another student discovers Kevin's journal, he turns the tables and Kevin must find a way to make peace with his victim-turned-aggressor. This is a great choice for 5th and 6th graders who might have liked Love That Dog when they were younger.
Serafina's Promise, by Ann E. Burg
Our students were immediately drawn to Serafina and could connect with her situation, even though it was so different from their own. Serafina dreams of becoming a doctor, but she knows that she must go to school to reach her dream. This is no easy feat in modern rural Haiti. How can she do this when her mother needs her help at home, especially with a new baby on the way? Ann E. Burg writes in free verse poetry, conveying Serafina's struggles in sparse, effective language.
The Way a Door Closes, by Hope Anita Smith
This slim book reads almost like a short play in three acts. In the first 12 poems, CJ describes how he feels warm and content as part of his close-knit family. But then, everything changes as his father loses his job and then abruptly leaves home. In the 13th poem, when his dad leaves, CJ describes how it felt: "The door closed with a / click. / I felt all the air leave the room / and we were vacuum-sealed inside. / - I can tell a lot by / the way a door closes." This is a powerful book that takes readers on CJ's roller-coaster emotional journey.
Words With Wings, by Nikki Grimes
As a friend of mine wrote, this is a "peek into the mind of a daydreamer" and a wonderful teacher who encourages her in just the right way. Her teacher recognizes that Gabby is coping with her parents separation, and that daydreams are a way she escapes. He helps channel her imagination, encouraging her to let her daydreams come to life in her writing. This is a wonderful, uplifting story of a young girl finding her own voice, staying true to herself.
Zorgamazoo, by Robert Paul Weston
I loved the inventive poetry, the rhythm and rhyme, the creative fantasy. Best way to it: Dr. Seuss meets Lemony Snicket, with a healthy dose of Roald Dahl throughout. The story is fantasy, macabre, silly, and truly great fun to read aloud. The illustrations and book design add a tremendous amount to the story. Absolutely terrific wordplay, combined with a plot that keeps kids racing along with it.

My own "to be read" pile: 2 new novels in verse:

Blue Birds, by Caroline Starr Rose
Historical fiction, showing the friendship between a Native American girl and an English girl who's traveled with her parents in 1587 to Virginia. From the publisher's description: "Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind."
Red Butterfly, by A.L. Sonnichsen
Friends are including this in their favorites of 2015: a beautiful story, beautifully told. From the publisher description: "Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an elderly American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has … but what if Kara secretly wants more?"

I just love it when a character's thoughts and moods meld with mine in my mind, growing and becoming part of me. Novels in verse - usually written in free form poetry - have a particular way of doing this, where the narrator's voice almost flows into me.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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4. Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature

April is National Poetry Month and I have neglected to say anything about it thus far. Well, I am about to fix that.

The Library of Congress today launched the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature. There are fifty recordings available at the moment and it will be added to every month.

The LOC is digitizing its collection of nearly 2,000 recordings of poets and prose writers who participated in events at the library. Most of the recordings are on magnetic tape reels and until now have only been available by visiting the library.

Among the items available at launch is Robert Frost being interviewed by Randall Jarrell in 1959 and the Academy of American Poets’ 35th anniversary program from 1969 that included readings by Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. That is just the tip of the iceberg. It is a true treasure trove.

This is why I love the internet. Go now, explore the archive and enjoy.

Filed under: Poetry Tagged: Elizabeth Bishop, Library of Congress, Robert Frost

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5. ‘People You May Know’ Poetry Video Goes Viral

How do you react when you encounter an enemy? Poet Kevin Kantor explores this question with his poem “People You May Know.”

The Button Poetry YouTube channel posted a video (embedded above) featuring Kantor’s performance at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. Follow this link to listen to another one of Kantor’s pieces.

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6. Review of the Day: Beastly Verse by Joohee Yoon

Beastly Verse
By Joohee Yoon
Enchanted Lion Books
ISBN: 978-1-59270-166-7
Ages 3 and up
On shelves now

Poetry. What’s the point? I say this as a woman who simultaneously gets poetry and doesn’t get it. I get that it’s important, of course. I only need to watch my three-year-old daughter come up with an ever increasing and creative series of bouncy rhymes to understand their use. But what I don’t get is Poetry with a capital “P”. I have come to accept this as a failing on my own part. And to be fair, there are works of poetry that I like. They just all seem to be for the milk teeth set. With that in mind I was particularly pleased to see Beastly Verse, illustrated by Joohee Yoon. Full of fabulous classic poems and art that manages to combined a distinctive color palette with eye-popping art, Yoon’s creates a world that takes the madcap energy of Dr. Seuss and combines it with the classic printmaking techniques of a fine artist. The end result keeps child readers on the edge of their seats with adults peering over their shoulders, hungry for more.

As I mentioned, the resident three-year-old is much enamored of poetry. This is good because it makes her an apt test subject for my own curiosity. I should mention that my goal in life is to NOT become the blogger who uses her children to determine the value of one book or another. That said, the temptation to plumb their little minds can sometimes prove irresistible. Now Beastly Verse is not specifically aimed at the preschooler set. With poems like William Blake’s “The Tiger” and “Humming-Bird” by D.H. Lawrence, the verse can at times exceed a young child’s grasp. That said, none of the poems collected here are very long, and the art is so entrancing that the normal fidgets just tend to fade away as you turn the pages. My daughter did find that some of the more frightening images, say of the carnivorous hummingbird or the spangled pandemonium, were enough to put her off. Fortunately, each scary image is hidden beneath a clever gatefold. If the reader does not want to see the face of a tiger tiger burning bright, they needn’t open the fold at all. Not only is it a beautiful technique, it makes the book appropriate for all ages. Clever.

One might not associate Yoon’s particular brand of yellows reds, oranges, greens, and blues with evocative prints. Yet time and again I was struck by the entrancing beauty of the pages. Yoon’s traditional printmaking techniques can bring to life the hot steam that rises even in the coolest shade of a tiger’s jungle. Another page and Lewis Carroll’s “The Crocodile” lingers below the surface of the water, his innards heaving with “little fishes”. Yoon saves the best for last, though, with a poem I’d not come across before. “Dream Song” by Walter de la Mare is set in the gleam of “Sunlight, moonlight / Twilight, starlight” when the sun is just a sliver of a white hot crescent on the horizon. All the forest is lit by the orange and red rays, and out of a tree pokes the head of a single owl. The hypnotic verses speaking of “wild waste places far away” mix with the image, conjuring up the moment moviemakers call “magic hour”.

Mind you, there is always a nightmarish mirror image to each seemingly sweet picture. The eyeless caterpillar all maw and teeth is turned, on the next page, into a beautiful but equally unnerving butterfly. Only Yoon, as far as I’m concerned, could have brought us the horrific implications of “The Humming-Bird” and its existence “Before anything had a soul.” Even the last seemingly innocuous image of Captain Jonathan cooking himself an egg takes on a dire cast when you realize it’s that of a pelican (of the poem “The Pelican” by Robert Desnos) he’s about to devour.

This is by no means the first collection of animal poetry to grace our shelves. It was only two or three years ago that J. Patrick Lewis helped to collect the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. Many of the poems found in this book can be found in that one as well. However, while that book seemed to be going for sheer girth, Yoon’s selections here are carefully positioned. I was interested in the layout in particular. You begin with the aforementioned Carroll poem (which seems appropriate since a manic smiling cat graces the title page) and then transition into a nursery rhyme, a bit of typical Ogden Nash flippery (only three lines long), and then Blake’s best-known poem. Variety of length keeps the poems eclectic and interesting to read. They keep you guessing as well. You never quite know what kind of poem will come next.

Having read the deliciously multicultural Over the Hills and Far Away, collected by Elizabeth Hammill, it is difficult to pick up a collected work of poetry without hankering for a similar experience. Aside from artist Joohee Yoon’s own name and the fact that Robert Desnos was Jewish, there is very little in this collection that isn’t white and American/European. The reasons for this may have something to do with permissions. Every poem in this book, with the exception of a few, is in the public domain. None were commissioned for the book specifically. Mind you, it would have been possible for the book to follow Hammill’s lead and locate international public domain animal poems of one sort or another written specifically for children. It is therefore up to the reading public to ascertain if the book stands stronger as a collection of similar types of poetry or if it would have benefited from a bit of variety here and there.

In the end, it’s a beautiful piece. Children’s rooms are no strangers to beautiful art in their poetry collections, but Yoon’s distinctive style is hard to compare to anyone. The only poet/illustrator with the same energy that comes to mind (and that writes for kids) would have to be Calef Brown. And as debuts go, this is a stunner. A truly inventive and original collection that deepens with every additional read. Kids like it. Adults like it. It could have benefited from some diversity, absolutely. Overall, however, there are few things like it on our shelves. An inspiration.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews: A Year of Reading

Professional Reviews:

Misc: Years ago, it was Jules at Seven Impossible Things who alerted the children’s book world to Ms. Yoon’s presence.  Here is the post.


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7. Out and About: A First Book of Poems by Shirley Hughes

Author and illustrator Shirley Hughes is a Grande Dame of British Children's literature. Her 1977 picture book, Dogger, won the Kate Greenaway Award (the British Caldecott) and, in 2007 it won the public vote for best Greenaway ever. Reading Out and About: A First Book of Poems, it's easy to see why she is so beloved in England. Although she was born in 1927, Hughes clearly still has a

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8. Poetry Paige

Have fun this month by reading poems aloud, over and over!  Let’s yell out some words together to get ready for poetry month.  I’ll say the words first and then you repeat after me, ready? Me: POETRY! You: POETRY!  Me: 811! You: 811!

Let’s go up, up, up with “Oak Tree” by Georgia Heard from Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems Edited by Georgia Heard. Ready? Me: One!….

April is National Poetry Month! Whether you’re offering a poetry program at your library, visiting schools with interactive poems or creating a poetry display, April is the perfect month to share poems, read a poem at story time and introduce children’s poets including children’s poet laureate, Kenn Nesbitt to children of all ages.

This year, my interactive poetry school visits are focused on writing art inspired poems with 5th and 6th graders and writing a couplet, circle, animal and BIG poems with K-4th.   At the end of the month, the library will host a Poetry Fest at our local bookstore where students have an opportunity to share their art inspired poems.  I’m also looking forward to our Animal Poetry Party for families.  Puppets, poems and play!

Here are a few amazing poetry blogs (from three amazing children’s authors) with perfect “Poem-A-Day” projects that you can do in your library, classroom or share with children, parents, teachers and more!

photo by Laura Purdie Salas

photo by Laura Purdie Salas

Laura Purdie Salas: National Poetry Month and Poetry Tips for Teachers
A poem and new poetry tip each day!
Click on the “Educator’s” link for more great ideas. I love Laura’s “Things to Do if You Are a Bumblebee…” poem written with students on a school visit.  Write your own “Things to Do if…” poem.  Read, listen, write and connect with the poem!  (Read one of her new poems “Spaghetti”)

Irene Latham: Live Your Poem…ARTSPEAK

photo by Irene Latham

photo by Irene Latham

A Poem-A-Day Project for National Poetry Month 2015 writing from images found in the online collections of the National Gallery of Art and focusing on dialogue, conversations, what does the piece say.
My favorite art poem so far is from day #9.  Irene gave me permission to share her “Boat in Pond” poem.  Follow her blog, listen to her poems and write your own art inspired poem!

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater: The Poem Farm and National Poetry Month 2015-Sing That Poem!
Explore a game called “Sing That Poem” A new poem each day matched to a song. Guess which song and sing along!  Tuesday’s poem will be titled “Librarian’s Song.”
Also, from 2012, Dictionary Hike (I love this!)

Photo by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Photo by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Amy wrote a poem from each letter of the alphabet!

A few more favorite poetry blogs/websites:

Check out a few new children’s poetry books: 
Bigfoot is Missing! by J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt, Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Hypnotize a Tiger:  by Calef Brown, How to Draw a Dragon by Douglas Florian by Paul B. Janeczko and Jumping Off Library Shelves Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (September 8, 2015)

Children’s Poetry Book Lists:

Past ALSC Poetry Blog posts

Enjoy Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s poem “Library Book.” 

I love hearing about poetry projects from other librarians.   Please share in the comments below.  Happy National Poetry Month!

Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.  

The post Poetry Paige appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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9. Out and About: a first book of poems by Shirley Hughes

Out and About: a first book of poems Written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes Candlewick Press. 2015 ISBN: 9780763676445 Preschool thru Grades 3 I received a copy of this book from the publisher. Beloved British author/illustrator Shirley Hughes introduces a new generation of readers to her bustling, neighborhood where anything is possible. Her London is filled with diversity and

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10. On the Wing by David Elliott illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

On the Wing by David Elliott and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander is enchanting and absorbing, an ideal book for introducing young readers to poetry as well as the world of birds. Becca Stadtlander's illustrations are magnificent. The birds are presented with a realistic crispness while the backgrounds take on a more painterly feel that invites your imagination to wander and wonder

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11. A Poem in Your Pocket, by Margaret McNamara & G. Brian Karas (ages 4-10) -- delightful encouragement for all writers

Poetry encourages us to see the world through a different lens, slowing down to notice small details. But how do you encourage a child who's feeling absolutely stuck, unable to let go enough to trust their own "poet's eye"? This delightful new picture book offers a gentle lesson on how a special teacher and a visiting poet did just that.
A Poem in Your Pocket
by Margaret McNamara
illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2015
Random House teaching guide
Your local library
ages 4-10
*best new book*
Everyone in Mr. Tiffin's class is excited when he announces that poet Emmy Crane will be visiting in April to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day with them. All through April, Elinor and her class start reading poetry, learning about different types of figurative language and forms of poetry, and writing their own poems.
"Mr. Tiffin taught them about similes, and they tried them out.
'Robert is as tall as that really high building in the middle of town!' said Robert.
'Math is like a knot,' said Tara.
'One that we can untangle together,' said Mr. Tiffin."
When Elinor has trouble writing her own poems, Mr. Tiffin encourages her to keep trying. "Remember, poetry is a messy business," he tells her. But the more she works, the more frustrated she gets.

Many children will relate to Elinor's frustration--staring at an empty page can be overwhelming for any of us. Margaret McNamara develops this story in such a gentle way that she encourages all readers to try using their own "poet's eye."

When Elinor finally meets Emmy Crane, young Elinor is nearly frozen with fear. But the kind, gentle writer tells her "no poem is perfect... tell me what you were thinking about."

I adore this story, for its message that poetry begins in the heart, and for the way it shows how we all need to be kind and not judge our own attempts too harshly. Brian Karas's illustrations add gentle warmth throughout. I especially love the way he shows poet Emmy Crane as an African American woman, incorporating subtle affirmation of the diversity of our classrooms, students and authors.

Our school collaborates with local bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's, to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day. Our 4th graders are so excited that their original poems go out to the whole world, carried in people's pockets. Learn more from the Academy of American Poets:
"Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people throughout the United States celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day as schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and other venues ring loud with open readings of poems from pockets."
Read the starred review at Kirkus; and a terrific review at the blog Randomly Reading. Teachers, definitely check out this teaching guide. Illustrations ©2015 by G. Brian Karas; used with permission from Random House. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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12. Poetry Friday: Family Garden

April is National Poetry Month! All month long we’ll be celebrating by posting some of our favorite poems for Poetry Friday. For our second Poetry Friday post, we chose Family Garden by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Paula Barragán from Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para soñar juntos.

poems to dream together

Family Garden

in the backyard/of our home/there is a garden

all in our family/do our part/in maintaining

Mamá loves/to plant and nip/flowery rosebushes

Abuelita keeps/her mint herbs/in a small pot

Papá really likes/to come out hose/in hand and water

the lemon tree/the squashes/and the tomatoes

that my sisters/would grow/every spring

my brothers and I/in turn weed out/and mow the lawn

all in our family/take time to tend/each other’s dreams

even our puppy/knows how/to grow bones

in this garden/the sun shines/green smiles

What poems is everyone else reading? Feel free to share in the comments section!

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13. Poetry in motion: Celebrating moving, grooving and jumping outside (ages 3-11)

I love sharing poems with kids that create a sense of motion and play through the way they twist words, create movement and bounce to their own rhythm. Newbery winning author Kwame Alexander called basketball "poetry in motion", and today I'd like to flip that metaphor around to celebrate two collections that celebrate sports with poetry in motion.

Good Sports
by Jack Prelutsky
illustrated by Chris Raschka
Knopf / Random House, 2007
Your local library
Google Preview
ages 6-11
Prelutsky celebrates sports from baseball to soccer to gymnastics, gleefully swinging and catapulting through motion and emotions that will resonate with kids. They'll love his playful rhymes, and they will connect with the way these short untitled poems can get to the heart of how they feel.
"I'm at the foul line, and I bet
The ball will go right through the net.
I'm certain I will sink this shot,
For I've been practicing a lot.

I concentrate, then let it go...
I know it's good--I know, I know.
It makes an arc, I make a wish,
Then hear the soft, sweet sound of SWISH!"
Share these short poems with kids and ask what they notice -- do they like the rhythm and rhyming of the first two lines, or maybe the use of the "s" sounds (alliteration) in the last line, emphasizing the sound of SWISH of the basketball. Rashka's illustrations are loose and impressionistic, especially appealing to 3rd through 5th graders because they don't feel too young. I love how he incorporates diverse kids throughout--the player making the shot above has long wavy red hair, maybe a girl or maybe a boy.

For poems that celebrate all sorts of outdoor playing, definitely look for A Stick Is an Excellent Thing, with Marilyn Singer's playful poetry and LeUyen Pham's joyful illustrations.
A Stick is an Excellent Thing
Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play
by Marilyn Singer
illustrations by LeUyen Pham
Clarion / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
Your local library
ages 3-8
Kids will love the way these short poems celebrate all types of playing outside, whether it's balancing on the curb, running through a sprinkler, making stone soup with friends. Use these poems to make kids smile and also use them to show how poetry can create a freeze frame, its own small moment. Here's one that my students will definitely relate to:

I like to walk the edges--
   the curbs, the rims, the little ledges.
I am careful not to tilt,
  to stumble, lump or wilt.

I pay attention to my feet
  so that every step is neat.
I am dancing in the air
  but I never leave the street.
Pham's illustrations are full of bouncing, running, smiling kids, in both city and suburban scenes. Kids are playing in large and small groups--I love how she shows how much kids like to play together. Her kids are modern and multicultural, and full of smiles on every page. My older students will relate to Singer's poems, but the illustrations make this collection best suited for younger kids.

Both review copies were borrowed as ebooks from the San Francisco Public Library while I was on vacation. Hooray! I especially appreciate the way SFPL has ebook tutorials for first time users. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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14. Bring the Joy


I love this picture taken by verse novelist Sarah Tregay, who is working on a verse novel alphabet for National Poetry Month.

This is the first time in years that I haven’t devoted the entire month of April to poetry here on the blog. Part of this might stem from the fact I’ve written over a dozen guests posts and interviews of late, many focusing on poetry. Part certainly comes from a lack of preparation. I didn’t think to put out word to potential guest post writers ahead of time. And perhaps spotlighting poetry all of April has run its course for me. I’m not sure, really, where the truth lies. But I believe this month with poetry at its core is essential in the world of literature and a wonderful part of a rich and satisfying life.

I’ve gone through some of those guest posts I’ve worked on of late, pulling quotes that I hope might inspire you to speak of poetry joyfully to children:

On sharing poetry with children:

Because poets use line and stanza breaks to communicate, I feel like it’s helpful to both see and hear poetry. But please don’t let this stop you from sharing poetry with your children in a more informal way.

My love of poetry started with A.A. Milne. Hearing and then reciting his words, I could feel the rhythm, rhyme, and repetition that is such a mainstay in his style. Poetry’s word play and its similarity to music where the things that fired me up as a girl.

Share all sorts of poetry with your children. Let it be playful, joyful, fun. — Simple Homeschool

On encouraging children to try verse novels:

My plea to well-read and well-intentioned adults is to not let your biases or perceptions discourage a child from trying a verse novel. I’ve heard a librarian say she’ll only buy the books her students will read. How is she sure exactly what that is? Is she just serving the largest reading audience in her library? Is there a smaller number of readers who would pick a verse novel first thing and is waiting for the opportunity? And what about exposure to all types of books, whether it’s a child’s first choice or not? Our job as adults is to inspire children to read and to celebrate literature in all its forms. Let’s make sure verse novels are a part of the reading materials we make available to the young people in our lives. — Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

And finally, from the brilliant Billy Collins, consider coming to poetry this way:

…take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
Introduction to Poetry

Happy National Poetry Month, friends!


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15. The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka

I love everything about The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects, collected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka, from the title to the concept to the fantastic introduction to the amazing collection of poems and the brilliant title, taken from the Billy Collins poem near the end of the book. The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects

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16. Poetry Madness: The Hajara Quinn Division

Every year to celebrate Poetry Month, we select 32 poets to battle it out in a competition for the ages: Poetry Madness. This year, we decided to do things a little differently: instead of choosing the players ourselves, we asked four awesome poets — Saeed Jones, Andrea Gibson, Robert Lashley, and Hajara Quinn — to [...]

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17. Five questions for Nikki Grimes

nikki grimesApril is National Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than by talking with acclaimed poet Nikki Grimes? Her many books include narratives in verse, prose fiction, poetry collections, and nonfiction, frequently featuring African American characters and culture. In Grimes’s latest picture book, Poems in the Attic (illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon; Lee & Low, 5–8 years), a girl describes, in free verse, an exciting discovery: a box of poems her mother wrote during her own youth. Like a diary, the poems offer the daughter an intimate first-person perspective of her mother’s world travels as the child of an Air Force captain.

1. Your author’s note for Poems in the Attic says that you moved around a lot as a child. Did you have adventures similar to your characters’? What were some of your favorite places?

NG: My life was very different my characters’, I’m afraid. My frequent moving had to do with being in the foster-care system, and my adventures primarily took place between the pages of books! However, the challenges that result from a child frequently being uprooted, no matter the cause, are challenges I can relate to. As for favorite places of my childhood, I would have to say the public library, the planetarium, and Central Park. All three were magical.

2. How did you come up with the idea of having the mother write in a different poetic form than her daughter?

grimes_poems in the atticNG: I’d been wanting to do a collection of tanka poems for young readers for some time. I’d originally considered creating a collection of paired poems similar to A Pocketful of Poems (illus. by Javaka Steptoe; Clarion, 5–8 years), in which the character introduced haiku poetry, but using the tanka form. However, I came up with the idea for this story and realized it provided me a perfect opportunity to use two different forms to capture the voices of mother and daughter. I had tanka on the brain at that point, so it was an easy choice for me.

3. The daughter reflects, “My mama glued her memories with words / so they would last forever.” How does poetry help to glue down memories?

NG: Poetry is the language of essence. Through the use of metaphor, simile, and the rest, the poet paints a picture, catches the essence of a subject, and plumbs all of the senses connected with that subject. What better genre is there for capturing a memory?

4. As you travel and engage with children, how do you inspire in them an interest in reading and writing poetry?

NG: That interest is already in them. Poetry is a huge part of their childhood, from the ABC song to jump-rope rhymes to “Ring Around the Rosie.” Stoking that interest only requires sharing poems with them to which they can relate. One whiff of poetry about the stuff of their own childhood, their own lives, and they are off and running. Once they’ve gotten a good taste of poetry, just try and stop them from reading and writing it!

5. Which poets inspire you?

NG: Oh, my! That list is long. My library includes Lucille Clifton, Naomi Shihab Nye, Wendell Berry, W. B. Yeats, William Stafford, Jane Yolen, Pablo Neruda, Natasha Trethewey, Gary Soto, Helen Frost, Mary Oliver, Marilyn Nelson, Shakespeare (sonnets, anyone?), Langston Hughes, Mari Evans. Yikes! Okay, I’ll stop.

From the April 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.


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18. Versatile verse

National Poetry Month (better known as April) celebrates a form that can be used in myriad ways to explore any topic imaginable. Here are two collections of poems with themes in common, and two books that use poetry to help tell a larger story.

wardlaw_won ton and chopstickA kitty named Won Ton makes his second appearance in Lee Wardlaw’s Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku. Won Ton’s first-person haiku narrate his adjustment to the arrival of a new puppy. At first things do not go well — “Ears perk. Fur prickles. / Belly low, I creep…peek…FREEZE! / My eyes full of Doom.” — but eventually the two find common ground in their mutual love of their little-boy owner. The interrelated haiku together create a story of gradual friendship, but each can also stand alone, capturing Won Ton’s quintessential felineness (“Nap, play, bathe, nap, eat, repeat.”). Eugene Yelchin’s graphite and gouache illustrations contrast the sleek gray cat with the roly-poly brown puppy; pastel backgrounds highlight the pets’ expressive faces and body language. (Holt, 5–8 years)

mcnamara_poem in your pocketElinor, star of the picture book A Poem in Your Pocket, initially feels confident in her poetry-writing ability, but her firm grasp of terms like simile and metaphor doesn’t mean she can write great poetry herself. She gets more and more worried as the class prepares for a visit by a famous poet. Author Margaret McNamara slyly works in a lot of information about poetry while keeping the focus on Elinor’s dilemma. Examples of poetry the kids come up with may inspire young readers to attempt their own writing, especially since G. Brian Karas’s gouache, acrylic, and pencil pictures make the diverse group of classmates look like they’re having a great time. (Random/Schwartz & Wade, 5–8 years)

brown_hypnotize a tigerCalef Brown’s collection Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything ends with an invitation to write your own poetry, but the whole book is such an invitation. Brown takes several kids’-book conventions — such as the celebration of the outlier, weird animals, and complaints about school — and gives them fresh energy. He even infuses the yucky-foods trope with original twists (the Loofah Torte is particularly startling). From the bottom margin, a peanut gallery of creatures much given to puns comment on the poems and offer their own. Black-and-white drawings add to the jauntiness and the welcoming, joyous mood. (Holt/Ottaviano, 7–10 years)

janczko_death of the hatIn their fourth collaboration, The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects, selector Paul B. Janeczko and illustrator Chris Raschka offer readers fifty poems whose origins range from the early Middle Ages to the postmodern and contemporary eras. The poems are unified by a common theme — each is about an object — and organized chronologically. Raschka’s soft, impressionistic watercolors showcase each poem, visually encouraging readers to keep reading. Expect variety in the selections, from old favorites such as “My Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson to “Grainfield” by Ibn ‘Iyād to Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to a Stamp Album.” (Candlewick, 7–10 years)

From the April 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.


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19. Poetry Madness: The Robert Lashley Division

Every year to celebrate Poetry Month, we select 32 poets to battle it out in a competition for the ages: Poetry Madness. This year, we decided to do things a little differently: instead of choosing the players ourselves, we asked four awesome poets — Saeed Jones, Andrea Gibson, Robert Lashley, and Hajara Quinn — to [...]

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20. Poetry Friday: Hamburger Heaven

April is National Poetry Month! All month long we’ll be celebrating by posting some of our favorite poems for Poetry Friday. We’re starting off the weekend with Hamburger Heaven by Lee Bennett Hopkins from Amazing Faces.

hamburgur heaven


Lee Bennett Hopkins

He looks.                                She looks.

“Hi!”                                       “Hi!”

“My name is Cam.”                  “My name is Kim.”

“Been here before?”                “First time.”

“Kim?”                                    “Cam?”

Heart beats.                            Heart beats.





French fries,

and a

mile of smiles.

-From Amazing Faces, collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Chris Soentpiet. Now out in paperback!

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21. The Maine Coon's Haiku (2015)

The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers. Michael J. Rosen. Illustrated by Lee White. 2015. Candlewick. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]

If you love cats and poetry, this one may prove quite satisfying. If you merely like cats and poetry, you still might find something to make the book worth your time.

All of the poems are haiku. Each haiku is titled after a particular breed of cat: twenty in all. The book also provides readers with an opportunity to learn a little bit about each of the breeds featured in the book. I liked this back matter.

Which cat breeds are included?
  • Maine Coon
  • Ragdoll
  • Turkish Angora
  • Siamese
  • Russian Blue
  • Bombay
  • Norwegian Forest Cat
  • British Shorthair
  • American Shorthair
  • Burmese
  • Birman
  • Balinese
  • Himalayan
  • Japanese Bobtail
  • Abyssinian
  • Persian
  • Havana Brown
  • Scottish Fold
  • Bengal
  • Manx
I enjoyed this one. I can't say I loved it. I certainly found two or three poems which I LOVED. But I didn't love each and every poem.
paired shadows prowling
in nightfall, but just two lights
pierce that darkness
on the windowsill's
balance beam, the cat pirouettes
as the kipple pings
curled up on your book
cat won't care what happens next
now's the only page
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Winners: 2014 Best Books on Kid Lit Review



Well, it’s a little later than it should be,  . . . .but the voting is done and the winners have been chosen. Thank you to everyone who voted for the 2014 winners.   It was an honor to review each of these books.

To become a Top Book, and in the running for Best Book, a book must receive a 6-star review here at Kid Lit Reviews, released within the 2013 and 2014, and have been reviewed between December 1, 2013 and November 30, 2014. Voting normally occurs in December and the results announced in January. This year the only variation was the actual voting, which took place in March. Hopefully 2015 will be a healthier year and all will go as planned.

So, without any further delay, here are the winners.  Congratulations to all.

2014 PB hi resBest Picture Book

The Grudge Keeper

Author:  Mara Rockliff

Illustrator:  Eliza Wheeler

Publisher:  Peachtree Publishers    (April 1, 2014)


2014 MB hi resBest Middle Grade Novel

The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire

Author:  Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Cover Artist:  David McClellan

Publisher:  HarperCollins Children’s Books    (September 23, 2014)


2014 NF hi resBest Nonfiction Book

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Author: Patricia Hruby Powell

Illustrator: Christian Robinson

Publisher: Chronicle Books    (January 14, 2014)


2014 poetry hi resBest Poetry Book

Rhyme Schemer

Author:  K. A. Holt

Publisher:  Chronicle Books (October 1, 2014)


2014 holiday hi resBest Holiday Book

Lobo’s Howliday (The Adventures of Loveable Lobo #5)

Author:  C. L. Murphy

Illustrator:  C. L. Murphy

Publisher:  Peanut Butter Prose    (December 1, 2013)


cat-reading-bookWINNERS: I can offer you the files for your “stamp,” if you are interested. Otherwise this is more bragging rights than anything. Please email (or use contact form). Once again, congratulations to all the winners!


(flags and reading cat © Laura Strickland @ My Cute Graphics)

Filed under: Children's Books, Holiday Book, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: 2014 best books on KLR, C.L. Murphy, Christian Robinson, Chronicle Books, David McClellan, Eliza Wheeler, HarperCollins Children’s Books, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, K.A. Holt, Lobo’s Howliday (The Adventures of Loveable Lobo #5), Mara Rockliff, Patricia Hruby Powell, Peachtree Publishers, Peanut Butter Prose, Rhyme Schemer, The Grudge Keeper, The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire

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23. The Kidtastic Giveaway

More April surprises have arrived.  We have joined forces with some other great children’s book authors for a big giveaway.  During April 5th – April 9th you can download the kindle version of our book, The Pig Princess from Amazon for FREE.

Pig cover

And since we think pigs rule we want to let you know about Scott Gordon’s children’s book, Pigtastic which is also FREE on Amazon during this period.


We saved the best for last.  You can enter to win a 3DS XL and a game of your choice.

ENTER HERE.: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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24. Hypnotize a Tiger, by Calef Brown (ages 5-12)

I love sharing poetry that makes kids laugh, especially with puns and twists of phrases that make kids giggle. Even better, in my view, is poetry that makes kids think and laugh and then make their own puns. Calef Brown's new collection is full of delightful surprises, perfect for the punster in your life.
Hypnotize a Tiger
Poems About Just About Everything
by Calef Brown
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2015
Your local library
ages 5-12
*best new book*
Calef Brown’s witty verse and illustrations leap and frolic from one topic to the next, full of wordplay, humor and rhymes. Whether he's riffing off of his "peeps" like Lazyhead "eating frozen raisin bread" while staring at the TV, or sharing "poems of a particular vehicular nature", Brown is at his best when he combines short witty verse with pen and ink drawings.

Rhyming word play is delightful and footnotes add to the humor, encouraging careful reading. Here's one of my favorites:
Lou Gnome

Look who came back home
to Hoboken--
it's Lou Gnome!
Like the G in his name,
Lou is silent.
Completely nonviolent.
He doesn't speak,
even when spoken to.
None of the Gnomes in Hoboken do.

Those that are gnome-schooled
are required to recite the Pledge of the Wee-Gents,
sometimes at huge events.
Irreverent? Certainly! But for kids who think that using a G in the word gnome is completely nuts, this poems makes absolute sense. I also love all the ways that Brown plays with language, not only using obvious end-rhymes like home and gnome, but also substituting beginning sounds to imply rhymes in your head (don't you love gnome-schooled?!).

My students and I keep finding treasures to make us laugh. In "Roman Pets", Brown declares that "They even found a dog brush/ in a catacomb." Get it? Cat-a-comb? Dog-brush?!! The footnote reads: "A puppy at play/ on the Appian Way/ was happy to say/ he was not in Pompeii."

Many reviewers have called Brown's poems "nonsense verse", but I have to declare that they make the upmost sense! Just take a look at how he combines pigeons and frogs into "Pigeon Frogs":
"Pigeon Frogs!
Pigeon Frogs! ...
All day long
they hop and flutter.
Snatching crumbs
and catching flies
with bobbing heads
and bulging eyes."
If you were to combine the qualities of a pigeon and a frog, wouldn't you say you'd find "bobbing heads and bulging eyes"?!! I can't wait to use this poem with our 3rd graders and ask them to work together to make their own creative animals.

Illustrations ©2015 by Calef Brown; used with permission from Macmillan. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Macmillan. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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25. ‘Everything Must Go’ Poetry Video Goes Viral

Can you put a price on a human being? Poet Alex Dang ponders on this question with his moving poem, “Everything Must Go.”

The Button Poetry YouTube channel posted a video (embedded above) featuring Dang’s performance at the February 2015 Soap Boxing Poetry Slam. Follow this link to listen to another one of Dang’s pieces.

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