BookPage is celebrating the virtues of verse during National Poetry Month with a group of volumes sure to inspire budding bards everywhere. For young readers, the economy and emotion of poetry hold a unique appeal, and this special month is the perfect time for them to learn more about a genre that's centuries old but still as fresh as an April shower.
A prolific and established children's poet, Karla Kuskin has put together a marvelous collection titled Moon, Have You Met My Mother?. From the understated (I have a little guppy/I would rather have a puppy) to the hilarious (Butter/butter/butter/butter that's a word/I love to utter) to the profound (Watch the day curtains close/hear the wind going grey/at the edge of the edge/you and I/turn the page), Kuskin covers topics that will engage and challenge young readers.
Poems about pets, the seasons, the human body and the moon are enlivened by Sergio Ruzzier's simple line drawings. Sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, his classic illustrations will remind readers of the sketches of Shel Silverstein. The Sun in Me: Poems About the Planet, compiled by Judith Nicholls, is a wonderful tribute to the natural world. Though works by Emily Dickinson, Issa, David McCord and Sappho are included here, lesser-known writers also shine. The opening poem, Mary Kawena Pukui's "Behold" sets the tone: "Sing out and say/Again and refrain/Behold this lovely world." What follows are 28 poems that celebrate and encourage respect for the earth, each accompanied by Beth Krommes' charming scratchboard pictures. Detailed, energetic and full of the life of the planet, they're the perfect visual complement to this broad collection of provocative poetry.
Author Diane Ackerman and illustrator Peter Sís have published a lovely, understated volume of verse called Animal Sense. In five chapters that reflect the five senses, Ackerman muses on the magic of various animals and their special ways of interpreting the world. The section on hearing, for example, offers an homage to bats and their remarkable auditory powers, as well as a tribute to the songs of baby birds. Readers of Animal Sense will find it hard not to be charmed by the millions and millions of dots that make up Peter Sís' remarkable illustrations. A star-nosed mole poking his head out of his hole looks especially sweet, and Jackie the German Shepherd, with his phenomenal sense of smell, fairly pops out of his page. A delight for animal and poetry lovers alike.
The first time I read The Wishing Bone and Other Poems by Stephen Mitchell, I was struck by the book's old-timey feel. The watercolor and ink illustrations by Tom Pohrt are reminiscent of Kate Greenaway's pictures, and the playful, unusual word choice similar to the work of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll will transport readers to another time. In the illustrations to a poem called "The Trial," a kangaroo serves as judge, and a bewigged pig is the attorney. Any person privy to the inner workings of the judicial system will love the confusion that ensues when the defense attorney (a bear) states, "I know my client's innocent/But can't remember why/You'll have to take my word for it/He wouldn't hurt a fly. /If only I could find my notes/The proof would make you cry." Such celebrations of words and their sounds are what poetry is all about.
Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems from WritersCorps is a different sort of poetry anthology. Published as a project of WritersCorps, a program that allows at-risk youth to "improve their literacy and self-expression," this slim paperback is filled with all the joy and angst urban teens feel today. Relationships, racism, homelessness no topic is taboo or too difficult for these young writers to reflect on in verse. At the beginning of each chapter in this powerful collection is a writing prompt for readers to consider as they compose their own poems. Given the wide popularity of poetry slams in many schools, this volume should serve as an inspiration for any fledgling poet.