National Poetry Month

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I will highlight some wonderful poetry books that are colorful, educational, and delightful. Among them, you’ll discover sijo poems, read haikus, and learn about Langston’s dream. Poetry is a wonderful way to learn about stanzas, form, imagery, and word play. These books are a magnificent treat if you love to read!

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou, paintings by Jean-Michael Basquiat
For children in grades 1-3
Library Catalog

This book is a wonderful introduction to poetry. Maya Angelou uses a playful tone that shows readers that a fear can be an illusion: “Don’t show me the frogs and snakes/And listen for my scream/if I’m afraid at all it’s only in my dream.” Images of contemporary graffiti by Basquiat provide visual accompaniment to the words.

That is my Dream by Langston Hughes and Daniel Miyares
For children in grades 1-3
Library Catalog / Libby

Langston Hughes is one of my favorite poets. His poem “A Dream Deferred” is particularly well known and appreciated. That is my Dream shows us a boy who wants to fling his arms wide open, to whirl and dance and imagine a world where boys and girls can drink from the same fountain. One of the most powerful illustrations depicts an African American boy drinking from a fountain that reads “Colored Only,” followed a few days later by an illustration of two boys drinking from a pool of water in nature without any signs of division.

Peaceful Pieces by Anna Grossnickle Hines
For children in grades 4-6
Library Catalog

The arts play an important role in helping us all understand the human condition, especially at a time when the notion of peace seems like an idyllic concept. In Peaceful Pieces, readers learn that words can sometimes be as harmful as weapons, and that calming our busy brains can bring us inner peace. The book also shows what a boy thinks when his father is away in “Soldier,” and how fear interferes with peace. This book might be helpful for children who have questions about the war in Ukraine, peace, and what it means to have peace of mind. The illustrations of handmade quilts are also a wonderful addition.

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes
For children in grades 4-8
Library Catalog / Libby

One Last Word draws most of its inspiration from the Harlem Renaissance. Nikki Grimes composed these poems based on works by Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Jean Toomer, and many others who provided a rich artistic tapestry during an important era in history. One of my favorite poems in the collection is “David’s Old Soul,” which was inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”

What is the Moon by Ruby Lytle
For children in grades 4-8
Library Catalog

Haiku are some of the most difficult poems to write but also very beautiful. Haiku are short and use a 5-7-5 syllable structure. They are often thought-provoking and heartfelt, offering a glimpse at satori, or a moment of awareness. What is the Moon is filled with wonderful poems that use elements of nature, a common haiku theme, to awaken the reader. The illustrations also show the culture of Japan, including traditional clothing and instruments such as the shakuhachi flute.

¡Yum! ¡MMMMM! ¡Que Rico! by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
For children in grades 4-8
Library Catalog / Libby

This beautiful book portrays the indigenous food of the Americas in a collection of haiku. Among the poetry, the reader learns some fun facts about pecans, papayas, and peanuts. For example, did you know that the papaya is also known by the name tree melon, and thought to have originated from southern Mexico and Central America? “Chewing your perfume/we taste your leafy jungle/juicy tropics.”

Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Istavan Banyai
For children in grades 4-8
Library Catalog

This book introduces sijos, a form of poetry that originated in Korea. Like a haiku, a sijo has a fixed structure, in this case divided into three or six lines. A sijo leaves the reader with a joke or an unexpected twist at the end. In this collection, “October” and “Echo” are two of my favorites.

Lemonade by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Nancy Doniger
For children grades 4-8
Library Catalog

Lemonade is a fun book that teaches poetry as if it is a puzzle, and can be used as a writing warm-up to ignite the imagination. The concept is simple: take a word and break it down to create a poem. The word snowflake already has two words in it, but it can be broken down even further: “a few flakes fall/a new season awakes.” A great book for anyone who loves word games, puzzles and poetry.

Hoop Queens by Charles R. Smith Jr.
For children grades 4-8
Library Catalog

Hoop Queens celebrates poetry, hip-hop, and basketball. First, readers get a glimpse into the world of basketball. The book also includes notes about each poet and player. A great book for those who love sports and poetry.

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