We’re celebrating poetry’s impact and importance with five fabulous new collections, each filled with verses that will inspire the wordsmiths of tomorrow.
If you’ve ever wondered how to walk on Mars, distinguish a goblin from an elf or frighten a creepy monster, then you simply must get a copy of The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-to Poems. Instruction on the aforementioned activities can be found in this ingenious illustrated anthology, which features wonderful works from world-class poets—including Douglas Florian, Marilyn Singer, Nikki Grimes and Kwame Alexander—selected by Paul B. Janeczko (The Death of the Hat). In “How to Build a Poem,” Charles Ghigna offers fitting inspiration that sums up the collection’s aim:
“Let’s build a poem
made of rhyme
with words like ladders
we can climb”
Playful illustrations by Richard Jones bring unity to the assortment of voices, forms and poetic modes that fill this playful anthology. Who knew a how-to collection could be such a hoot?
Poetry rocks! If you require proof, just check out Rhett Miller’s No More Poems!: A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse. Miller, whose day job is songwriter and frontman of the alt-country band Old 97’s, has produced a rowdy, rollicking, irresistible collection of poems, many of them written from a kid’s perspective. In pieces about too-early bedtimes, quibbling siblings and mysteriously missing homework, he brilliantly channels the mindset of a typical tween. Miller is a wordplay pro with the skills to set up extended rhyme schemes. Featuring bold mixed-media illustrations by Caldecott-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat, this inspired collection sings from start to finish.
Avery Corman’s Bark in the Park!: Poems for Dog Lovers is a fun frolic with canines of nearly every conceivable breed. Corman is an expert at articulating what makes dogs unique, whether the pooch is a cocker spaniel (“an always on-the-run dog, / A floppy ears and fun dog”), an Afghan hound (“Although he’s noble and aloof . . . he still says ‘woof!’”) or a pug (“Is the Pug cute / Or is the Pug ugh?”). Corman’s poems are compact—many consist of a single stanza—and filled with alliteration. Artist Hyewon Yum’s renderings of the pups (and their respective people) are spot-on. A sunny, silly, buoyant book, this is a winning tribute to a kid’s best friend.
In Isabelle Simler’s stunning volume Sweet Dreamers, it’s nighttime in the wild, and critters are quietly snoozing. Through minimalist poems, Simler explores their sleeping habits. A delightful menagerie of animals on land and in the sea—koala bear, cat, ant, giraffe, seahorse, stingray and dolphin—populate this lovely collection. Simler employs a spare writing style, yet she perfectly captures each creature in repose. The bat “dreams upside down,” she writes, “toes clinging to the ceiling, / kite-fingers folded like a blanket.” From the sloth, “slung like a hammock,” to the mighty humpback whale, who “nosedives / into sleep” in the ocean, “balancing on her head / or the tip of her tail,” Simler conjures up original imagery for each animal that readers of all ages will appreciate. Her dense, detailed illustrations, highlighted with vibrant touches of color, depict the glittering majesty of the natural world at night. The perfect way to wind down the day, Sweet Dreamers is the ultimate bedtime read.
Allan Wolf takes readers on an unforgettable galactic journey in The Day the Universe Exploded My Head: Poems to Take You Into Space and Back Again. Using a variety of poetic forms, including the sonnet and the elegy, Wolf writes about eclipses, meteorites, shooting stars, astronauts, cosmonauts and famous scientists. But this isn’t just straight-laced science; Wolf’s poems brim with mischief. He depicts Jupiter, the solar system’s largest occupant, as “the planets’ bodyguard,” whose “gravity keeps space debris / from landing in the yard.” And Saturn is a diva who’s proud of her planetary bling:
“My rings are often copied,
but they never get it right.
The secret’s in the extra ice
I add to catch the light.”
In her colorful, cosmic collages, illustrator Anna Raff imbues the planets with plenty of personality (the Sun sports Wayfarer-inspired shades; Neptune strums a guitar). From takeoff to touchdown, this space mission is a success.