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Poetry with pictures

These illustrated poetry collections touch on a variety of topics — from the everyday to the prehistoric to the supernatural — but all provide inviting ways to introduce primary readers to poetry.

In Did You Hear What I Heard?: Poems About School, thirty-five poems follow the months of the school year, from “Bus Stop” to “Sing a Song of Summer,” with lots of everyday experiences in between. Kay Winters’s poems are short, mostly upbeat, and funny. Patrice Barton’s digital pictures feature exuberant and active children who seem to be around first-grade–age, with a range of skin colors and ethnicities. (Dial, 4–7 years)

Calef Brown gives his characteristically quirky, funny verse and acrylic and gouache art a spooky twist in The Ghostly Carousel: Delightfully Frightful Poems. The seventeen poems celebrate ghosts, witches, demons, and even fondue-eating cannibals. Each leaves room for kids to wonder what they might see on a “ghostly carousel” of their own creation — an imaginative exercise perfect for the Halloween season. (Carolrhoda, 5–8 years)

Douglas Florian’s Friends and Foes: Poems About Us All teases out many of friendship’s fundamentals, as well as its more nuanced complexities. Colored-pencil and crayon illustrations on manila paper help keep the mood bright, but also appropriately imperfect and rough. While the poetry vacillates from serious to silly, the tone remains comforting and affirming throughout. Readers will likely recognize aspects of their own friendship dynamics and may find needed humor and solace. (Simon/Beach Lane, 5–8 years)

The imaginative, clever poems of David Elliott’s In the Past introduce ancient animals (all but one extinct), moving chronologically from trilobites in the Cambrian era to woolly mammoths from our current geologic time period, with good representation across species. The poems are knowing, humorous, and filled with scientific details. Matthew Trueman’s dynamic, creatively composed mixed-media illustrations plunge readers into past environments using awe-inspiring perspectives. A timeline is appended. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)

From the October 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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