I’ve loved poetry ever since I was a child and my father read to me from the “Childcraft” poetry volume. With National Poetry Month coming up in April, this is a good time to concentrate on passing on a love of verse to a new generation. The Poetry Foundation recognized the importance of nurturing young readers when they started awarding a national “children’s poet laureate” several years ago. Their website explains that “the children’s poet laureate aims to raise awareness that children have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them.”
First to hold the new position was Jack Prelutsky, who really deserved it. He has published many volumes with guaranteed kid appeal. A good one to start with is Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face and Other Poems: Some of the Best of Jack Prelutsky. Here are the first two stanzas of the title poem:
Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.
Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you’d be forced to smell your feet.
(You get the idea.)
During her tenure as children’s poet laureate from 2008 to 2010, Mary Ann Hoberman published Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart, which includes many memorable verses, by her and other poets, arranged from short to long with tips for memorizing so a reader can “know it forever.” Here’s one of the short ones she wrote herself, called “Hippopotamus”:
How far from human beauty
Is the hairless hippopotamus
With such a square enormous head
And such a heavy botamus.
Don’t miss the anthology edited by current Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. It is called Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs that Squeak, Soar, and Roar! The photos, by National Geographic, are just stunning. The poems range from thoughtful to amusing, including Lewis’ own “Wedding Bears:”
A panda by the name of Ling-
Ling met another panda, Ping.
They fell in love the first of spring
And hand in hand, Ling-Ling and Ping
Planned a panda wedding-ding.
The sun was shining.
So was Ling-
Hand in hand with Ping.
These renowned poets are a good place to begin when discovering children’s poetry. But what I would really recommend would be to head for “811.54” on the library shelf (that’s a Dewey Decimal Number) and just start browsing. Have you discovered any really good poetry books for children? We’d like to hear about them in our comments below.