April 2012

Poetry springs up everywhere

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April 2012

Poetry springs up everywhere

Feature by
April 2012

Poetry springs up everywhere

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Every year I look forward to the spring crop of children’s poetry books, which always brings a bouquet of creativity. This year is no exception.


The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems, illustrated by Antoine Guilloppé, is a fascinating collection sure to captivate young and old alike. Just leave this book out in plain sight and watch what happens!

What is a “found” poem, you might ask? It’s a piece of already existing text that is then “made” into a poem, as explained by editor Georgia Heard, who collected these examples. Such text might be a line from Twitter, a note found on a floor, a photo caption, a sign or graffiti.

For instance, here’s a poem called “Pep Talk” that consists of phrases from a box of OxiClean detergent:

   Keep cool.
   See a brighter solution.
   Mountain freshness.
   Boost your power!

This little book makes for fun perusing. There’s a poem created by crossword puzzle clues, another from a dictionary entry and another from the book titles on a young girl’s shelf. This is a collection guaranteed to inspire family fun or give students a new way to look at poetry.


Run, jump, blow bubbles or stomp in a puddle: That’s the refreshing theme of A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play. Prolific poet Marilyn Singer doesn’t disappoint in this celebration of classic children’s fun, which is likely to remind adults of their own experiences hosing friends with sprinklers, rolling down hills and playing hopscotch or hide and seek.

Singer captures the endearing exuberance of childhood with poems like “Really Fast”:

   Skateboard races,
   pigeon chases,
   running bases.
   Backyard dashes,
   racecar crashes,
   puddle splashes.
   Everything’s a blast
   when you do it really fast!

LeUyem Pham’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to these lively poems. Her colorful pages are full of smiling kids who laugh, leap and lunge. But be forewarned: This book isn’t a great choice for bedtime, because the poems will make readers want to head right out the door.

Outdoorsy kids are likely to adore a new poetry collection with the engrossing title Nasty Bugs. Children’s poetry connoisseur Lee Bennett Hopkins has collected another winning swarm of poems, with names sure to entice kids, such as “Stink Bug,” “Ode to a Dead Mosquito” and “Barbed and Dangerous.”

Will Terry’s illustrations are truly glorious, with a spread on the stink bug swirling in a fiery background of orange, red and yellow as a huge green bug leers at the reader, with fumes rising. Terry brings readers eye to eye with a litany of malevolent creatures, such as fire ants, boll weevils, lice and bedbugs.

Many mothers will (not!) appreciate the first verse of Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s poem, “Lice”:

   Ridiculous Pediculus
   O tiny vampire louse
   You crawl from head
            to head
                 to head
   from house
           to house
                to house.

Not only are these poems fun, they also contain facts that will keep kids entertained, educated and grossed out, all at the same time. In addition, an explanatory section at the end contains a short but intriguing entry for each bug mentioned.

For more outdoor poems, dip into the exceptionally clever A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down. Dana Jensen has written a series of “vertical” poems, with each line containing just one word. Some of these poems read from top to bottom, while others read from bottom to top. Kids will love this form and no doubt want to try to write their own.

Jensen writes about such upward and downward topics as giraffe necks, popping balloons, rockets blasting into space and kites soaring in the wind. Tricia Tusa’s illustrations add the perfect touch of humor, personality and motion.


When my identical twin girls were born 13 years ago, I dearly wish I’d had Take Two! A Celebration of Twins. This is a treasure chest of poems for parents, siblings and twins, sprinkled here and there with interesting facts. (Imagine, for instance, this hard-to-believe item: “In the 1700s, Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev of Shuya, Russia, had sixteen sets of twins. She also gave birth to four sets of quadruplets and seven sets of triplets!”)

Written by the dynamic children’s literature duo of J. Patrick Lewis (a twin himself) and Jane Yolen, these fun poems address many aspects of twinhood, including the novelty, fun and frustrations. Best of all, the poems are both heartfelt and humorous. Consider these lines from “What’s It Like to Be a Twin?”:

   ’Cause a twin’s a double rainbow
   Or the fork that goes with the knife.
   He may wear around the edges,
   But he’s guaranteed for life.

This is a beautifully designed book as well, with layouts pleasing to the eye and doubly adorable illustrations by Sophie Blackall. Even though my twins become teenagers this month, I’m keeping this book on our shelves for years to come.


BookSpeak!: Poems about Books is a lively, lovely literary collection. Laura Purdie Salas writes verses about things like coming to the end of a book, falling asleep while reading and an avid reader begging for a sequel. One particularly clever poem asks readers to pay attention to the indexes of books and says: “So I’m telling you, kid: / ignore the rest of the book. / All you really need is me.”

Josee Bisaillon’s illustrations are varied and wonderful, adding an extra dimension of fun and whimsy.

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Get the Books

The Arrow Finds Its Mark

The Arrow Finds Its Mark

By Georgia Heard
Roaring Brook
ISBN 9781596436657
A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

By Marilyn Singer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
ISBN 9780547124933
Nasty Bugs

Nasty Bugs

By Lee Bennett Hopkins
ISBN 9780803737167
A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down

A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down

By Dana Jensen & Tricia Tusa
ISBN 9780547390079
Take Two! A Celebration of Twins

Take Two! A Celebration of Twins

By J. Patrick Lewis & Jane Yolen & Sophie Blackall
ISBN 9780763637026
BookSpeak!: Poems about Books

BookSpeak!: Poems about Books

By Laura Purdie Salas
ISBN 9780547223001

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