During the month of April, we are celebrating National Poetry Month in the Children’s section of the library. If you are like me, you may have memories of trying to decipher and analyze poetry in high school causing you to not like it very much. Words like meter, stanza, and quatrain may send you running for the hills, yet it is easy to tune in to the poetry of your favorite music artist and it will have you listening for hours. 

Poetry is vitally important for children of all ages. Early nursery rhymes and rhyming books help young children hear the patterns in language which support word recognition and spelling. Since there are no hard and fast rules when creating poetry, it helps older children to explore and play with language in non-threatening ways. There are many wonderful novels written in verse that middle grade and high school students enjoy.  

Stop by the library on Thursdays for a poetry Take and Make and write your own poem to add to our “Poetree.” While you’re here go to the orange special selection cart and check out some of these great poetry books! 

Poetry in Picture Books

If you have never been introduced to Pete the Cat then now is the time. James Dean and Eric Litwin have created a series of books that have been enchanting children for years. In Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes Pete tells the story of his day at school thru rhymes and song. Kids love to echo the repetative text and to sing the song with Pete. An audio of the book, printable activites, and more are available on the Pete the Cat webite: petethecatbooks.com/songs-videos

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

From the publisher: Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.

Poetree by Shauna Lavoy Reynolds

Sylvia is a shy little girl who writes a poem about Spring and ties it around a tree. When she returns to the tree the next day there is a new poem tied to the tree, one that she didn’t write. Was the tree actually writing poems to her? As Sylvia and her new friend write poems to each other they celebrate the beauty of nature and the joy of playing with words. The soft watercolor and pencil illustrations bu Shahrzad Maydani are just as poetic as the words written by Shauna Lavoy Reynolds. Poetree will soon become a favorite book to read and explore over and over again.

Novels in Verse

Odder by Katherine Applegate

Odder has Spent over 25 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List and it is a perfect book for readers just beginning to explore novels in verse. This is a tender story based on true events of otters who are rescued by the Monteray Bay Aquarium. It is told from the point of view of Odder (an otter) who has spent time at the aquarium, first as a pup when he is separated from his mother and later when he is injured while out at sea. It is a wonderful story of survival, hope, and the importance of caring for nature. To learn more about the aquarium, their otter programs, and to watch a live feed of otters visit their website: montereybayaquarium.org/animals/animals-a-to-z/sea-otter

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Thanhha Lai shares an account inspired by her own experience as a child, of a young Vietnamese girl leaving her changing childhood home and settling in Alabama in 1975. It is a poignant tale of the challenges that immigrants face when leaving all that is familiar and having to adapt to the complete unknown. I first discovered this book while looking for an audio book on Hoopla to listen to while I was driving. The narrator told this story so sweetly and gently I had to look up the book in hard copy. What I discovered was a novel that was written entirely in verse, which was new to me. The words flow so well and it very easy to read. Check out Thanhha Lai’s website for more information about her books.

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson illustrates, in verse, that place we often find ourselves after a traumatic event – caught between the memories of the past and the challenges of the present. ZJ, the narrator, is the son of a professional football player who is suffering from chronic migraines and memory loss due to repeated blows to the head playing the game. He is coping with not only the loss of who his dad was, but finding ways to relate to who his dad is now. Each chapter is a poem and each poem conveys the struggles of ZJ as he learns to mourn the past and learn how to navigate the present.

If you would like to find some more fun poems and activities then check out this post from We Are Teachers – 15 Best Poetry Websites For Kids.

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