A beginner's guide to children's poets
April may be National Poetry Month in the U.S., but poetry needn't be confined to one month in people's lives.
There are so many wonderful children’s poetry books and authors and I don’t have time to write in-depth reviews about them all, but I’d like to share some “shout outs” of children’s poets and their books.
Here is a list of authors writing poetry for children, along with some of their books and clues to their subject matter. The headings are loosely structured around the themes of the poems, the poet’s ethnicity or reflect the author’s interests, but not always. Good poems break out of any classification, which is as it should be.
These books of children’s poetry are all ones that I have read and recommend. In addition to the honor or awards categories already mentioned on this site (see our children's poetry awards page), many of these authors have won other literary and/or poetry prizes.
I hope you enjoy perusing these many children’s poets and they lead you to find others.
Sharon Creech (Newberry Medal winner; first American winner of the CILIP - Carnegie Medal)
Love That Dog--A novel for kids grades 4-8 written in prose poem form about a boy, his dog, poetry and loss—told with humor
Hate That Cat--A sequel to Love That Dog, also written in prose poem form about the same boy dealing with learning more about poetry, his family issues and a new pet
Heartbeat--A novel in prose form about a 12 yr. old girl coming of age
G. Neri—(see African American poets)
Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks—(winner of the Marion Vannett Ridgeway award for Poetry)—14 Story-poems with terrific illustrations. Very funny and easily memorized by kids aged 8+
Flamingos on the Roof—(Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry)--14 more story poems in the same vein as Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks
Runny Babbit-tongue twisters and brain teasing poems for kids 5-11
Douglas Florian—(Lee Bennett Hopkins award 1995 and others)
insectlopedia—poems about all kinds of insects, some in forms of the bugs, wonderful paintings too. Ages 3+
Beast Feast—won the Lee Bennett Hopkins award and was an ALA notable book of the year, all about, you guessed it, BEASTS, in his inimitable style of made up words and gorgeous paintings
Oddhopper Opera: A Bug’s Garden of Verses—A beautifully illustrated, humorous take on a garden full of bugs from early spring to late fall. Rhyme, alliteration, onomatopoeia, fun for ages 5+
Paul B. Janeczko/Chris Raschka—(both men have won many awards)
A Foot In The Mouth—Poems to Speak, Sing and Shout—a selection of many poets' work in various forms and voices, with great artwork by Raschka
A Poke In The I—A Collection of Concrete Poems—poems whose form looks like what they are about, ages 5+
A Kick In The Head—An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms—continuing the theme of forms, traditional and non-traditional with great illustrations
A Crow Doesn’t Need A Shadow—A Guide to Writing Poetry from Nature—part field guide, part writing guide, it has lots of ideas for stimulating writing from the natural world, ages 6+
Rose, where did you get that red?—Teaching Great Poetry to Children—a tried and true book for stimulating poems “in the tradition of” other great poets, includes poems from kids too, ages 7+
Poetry Speaks to Children—A collection of written poems, ½ read aloud on CD—a mix of adult writers and those who write specifically for kids, great for the variety of voices and styles, ages 8+
A Fire in My Hands: Revised and Expanded Edition—free verse poems about growing up in California’s Central Valley, themes of being a kid, work, being poor, Latino and Catholic, but mostly about the poetry of everyday life, ages 11+
Pat Mora—(NEA in arts award, Southwest Book awards)
Confetti: Poems for Children—Latino themes include: colors, animals, abuelitas (grandmothers), some words in Spanish with glossary, brightly colored illustrations, ages 5-10
Pam Muñoz Ryan—(multiple award winner)
The Dreamer—an imagined story told poetically about Pablo Neruda growing up in Chile, some of his poems included, ages 9+
Poetry for Young People series—a book of poems by the acclaimed author with illustrations by Jerome Lagarrigue, about growing up black in the South; issues of racism, freedom, work, women and more
Chess Rumble—a debut novel in free verse about an angry, urban, black, middle school boy who learns to channel his frustrations through chess. Good for ages 10-14
Gwendolyn Brooks—(Pulitzer Prize winner, Poet Laureate of Illinois)
Bronzeville Boys and Girls—A collection of poems from 1956, reissued with illustrations by Faith Ringgold, Caldecott Honor artist. Poems about joys and pains of any childhood. Bronzeville is a neighborhood in Chicago. Ages 6+
Sherman Alexie—(National Book Award winner)
Faces—for teens and up
Joy Harjo—(many awards and prizes, including NEA fellowships and Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award)
For A Girl Becoming (reviewed on this site)
Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams—gorgeous paintings by Julie Paschkis illustrate this lovely volume of funny, delicate, serious poems about dreams and nightmares, even dog dreams
Visit Suzanne Edison's site.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.