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Recommended Poetry: Preschool and Primary

argueta_salsaArgueta, Jorge Salsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem
32 pp. Groundwood 2015. ISBN 978-1-55498-442-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-55498-443-5

Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. This bilingual cooking poem plays on the multiple meanings of salsa for a musical recipe. As a boy and his family prepare salsa roja, his imagination runs wild, with ingredients becoming instruments. Onomatopoeia and detailed ingredient descriptions play on various senses; Mesoamerican-inspired drawings in earthy tones suit the poem’s combination of traditional and modern. (The lack of measurements may leave some readers perplexed.)
Subjects: Poetry; Cookery; Bilingual books; Foreign languages—Spanish language; Food

brown_slickety quickBrown, Skila Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks
32 pp. Candlewick 2016. ISBN 978-0-7636-6543-2

Illustrated by Bob Kolar. In this playful and illuminating volume, poems almost as varied as the creatures themselves introduce such species as the great white shark, wobbegong, goblin shark, and frilled shark. A double-page spread for each species gives the subjects plenty of room. Kolar’s dynamic digital illustrations in blues, greens, and browns immerse readers in the underwater habitat. An accessible and engaging appreciation of these fascinating animals.
Subjects: Poetry; Animals—Sharks

great migrationGreenfield, Eloise The Great Migration: Journey to the North
32 pp. HarperCollins/Amistad 2011. ISBN 978-0-06-125921-0

Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Following an informative introduction, poignant poems tell the story of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the cities of the North. Many of the pieces give voice to unnamed travelers’ thoughts; Greenfield explores the heart of each person. Gilchrist’s cut paper, ephemera, paint, and processed photographs create collages, adding the right air of seriousness and history to the poetry.
Subjects: Poetry; African Americans; Southern States; History, American

Forget-Me-NotsHoberman, Mary Ann, selector Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart
144 pp. Little/Tingley 2012. ISBN 978-0-316-12947-3

Illustrated by Michael Emberley. Hoberman has selected more than 120 poems that are good choices for memorization. Divided into eleven sections, the collection is a treasure trove of the familiar and the fresh. Emberley’s watercolor, pastel, and pencil pictures both embellish and illustrate the poems. A wonderful gift book for poetry lovers, but even children who have never considered memorizing a poem will find much to love here. Ind.
Subjects: Poetry Collections; Memory

janeczko_firefly july2Janeczko, Paul B., selector Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
48 pp. Candlewick 2014. ISBN 978-0-7636-4842-8

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Sweet’s child-friendly mixed-media illustrations — loosely rendered, collage-like assemblages in seasonal palettes — enhance the thirty-six excellent poems showcased on the book’s ample spreads. As brief as three lines or a dozen words, most of the verses are by familiar poets (Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes), including those known for their children’s verse (Alice Schertle, Charlotte Zolotow). A fine addition to the seasonal poetry shelf.
Subjects: Poetry Collections; Seasons

All the Water in the WorldLyon, George Ella All the Water in the World
40 pp. Atheneum/Jackson 2011. ISBN 978-1-4169-7130-6

Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. Lyon celebrates the essence of life itself in a lyrical poem about the water cycle. In sweeping, digitally rendered art resembling watercolor and collage, Tillotson creates luxuriant ocean swirls and pelting streaks of rain. It’s a familiar subject but a vital one, to which author and illustrator bring a passion and artistry that give it the power of story.
Subjects: Poetry; Water; Environment—Conservation—Natural resources; Water cycle

muth_hi, kooMuth, Jon J Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons
32 pp. Scholastic 2014. ISBN 978-0-545-16668-3

Twenty-six haiku are presented by young panda Koo, eventually joined by two human children. The story told through the haiku follows the cycle of the seasons (a note explains Muth’s choice to forgo the traditional five-seven-five syllable pattern). Each haiku contains just one capital letter, in order from A to Z. Muth’s watercolors are as clear as the child-friendly, easily understood haiku.
Subjects: Poetry; Poetry—Haiku; Seasons; Animals—Pandas

Stardines Swim Across the SkyPrelutsky, Jack Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems
40 pp. Greenwillow 2013. ISBN 978-0-06-201464-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-201465-8

Illustrated by Carin Berger. Ingenious book design pairs with inventive poetry to feature unusual critters such as Fountain Lions, Braindeer, and Slobsters. The fun comes in the perfect but unexpected matches Prelutsky makes, such as the Jollyfish, “radiant, / Ebullient blobs of mirth.” Berger incorporates found objects, aged paper, and other miscellanea. The total effect is both whimsical and fascinating.
Subjects: Poetry; Imagination

wardlaw_won ton and chopstickWardlaw, Lee Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku
40 pp. Holt 2015. ISBN 978-0-8050-9987-4

Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. Kitty Won Ton (Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku) is not happy about the new puppy. Yelchin’s graphite and gouache illustrations depict with sensitivity and humor the sleek gray cat’s initial fear and horror alongside the roly-poly brown puppy. Each haiku is complete in itself; together the poems create a whole tale of displacement and eventual mutual understanding.
Subjects: Poetry; Animals—Cats; Animals—Dogs; Poetry—Haiku; Humorous poetry

 

Added April 2017:

bogart_white cat and the monkBogart, Jo Ellen The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Bán”
32 pp. Groundwood 2016. ISBN 978-1-55498-780-1 Ebook ISBN 978-1-55498-781-8

Illustrated by Sydney Smith. “Pangur Bán” is a ninth-century Old Irish poem about the simple contentment a monk and a cat find in work and life together. In this picture book edition, the adaptation is as unostentatious as the watercolor and ink illustrations, which meld a medieval spirit with a modern sense of cartooning, a juxtaposition that is fresh and seems entirely right. Author’s note appended.
Picture Books; Animals—Cats; Religion—Monks; Poetry; Middle Ages

frost_among a thousand firefliesFrost, Helen Among a Thousand Fireflies
32 pp. Candlewick 2016. ISBN 978-0-7636-7642-1

Photographs by Rick Lieder. In this third collaboration (Step Gently Out; Sweep Up the Sun), Frost’s poem tells of a female firefly looking for her mate: “How will she find / one firefly / among so many?”; Lieder’s luminous photos achieve a surprising variety. The blend of science, gentle poetry, and spectacular photography will make children long for warm summer nights. A closing note offers additional facts.
Subjects: Poetry; Animals—Fireflies

hughes_sail awayHughes, Langston Sail Away
40 pp. Atheneum 2015. ISBN 978-1-4814-3085-2

Illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Drawing on Matisse, seemingly, as inspiration in technique, color, line, and shape, Bryan crafts vivid paper collages to illustrate a selection of water-related poetry by Langston Hughes. The construction-paper palette — a rainbow of pastels, jewel tones, browns, and grays — vibrates with energy. Happy faces, in a variety of dark complexions, smile up from boats and riverbanks, populating a brilliant world suffused with light.
Subjects: Poetry; Oceans

keats_song about myselfKeats, John A Song About Myself
40 pp. Candlewick 2017. ISBN 978-0-7636-5090-2

Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Keats’s playful nonsense poem features the kinds of rhymes that children love to repeat (“And away / In a Pother / He ran / To the mountains / And fountains  / And ghostes / And Postes / And witches / And ditches”) even if the words don’t make complete sense to them. This is more of a book for one-on-one sharing than a group read, especially with the plethora of details to be discovered in the exuberant watercolors. An appended note details the origins of the Keats ditty, written almost two hundred years ago — and now revisioned as a joyful nonsensical experience for young listeners and readers.
Subjects: Poetry; Poetry—Nonsense verse; Humorous poetry

latham_fresh deliciousLatham, Irene  Fresh Delicious: Poems from the Farmers’ Market
32 pp. Boyds/Wordsong 2016. ISBN 978-1-62979-103-6

Illustrated by Mique Moriuch. Twenty-one poems about various fruits, vegetables, and other farmers’ market items offer unconventional literary images, such as how potatoes are “crooked as a ‘come here’ finger,” and how okra are “mouse-sized swords.” The childlike perspectives of the poems are further upheld by simple, playful images rendered in acrylic and collage. Educators with school gardens may appreciate the book’s cross-curriculum opportunities. Recipes are appended.
Subjects: Poetry; Markets; Farms and farm life; Food; Fruits and vegetables; Cookery

nesbitt_one minute till bedtimeNesbitt, Kenn One Minute till Bedtime: 60-Second Poems to Send You Off to Sleep
168 pp. Little 2016. ISBN 978-0-316-34121-9

Illustrated by Christoph Niemann. Over 120 short poems by contemporary writers are organized into six sections, each led by one of Nesbitt’s poems. Along with poems about bedtime, night, etc., appears an eclectic selection of pieces flowing naturally from one to another. Energetic, often funny line drawings are color-coded to each section. Nonsense poems, wordplay, nature, and tenderness mix for a collection that families will enjoy sharing.
Subjects: Poetry Collections; Bedtime; Night; Sleep

weatherford_sugar hillWeatherford, Carole Boston Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood
32 pp. Whitman 2014. ISBN 978-0-8075-7650-2

Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. “Sugar Hill, Sugar Hill where life is sweet” repeats throughout this rhymed tribute to Harlem’s storied neighborhood, home of many well-to-do African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance, including Paul Robeson, Lena Horne, Thurgood Marshall, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Christie’s pastel-hued illustrations and Weatherford’s poetry give a strong sense of vibrant simultaneous action, and neither slides into nostalgia.
Subjects: Poetry; African Americans; Neighborhoods; City and town life; Harlem (New York, NY); Harlem Renaissance

From the April 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes Good Poetry?”

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