`"Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail. "

There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail. 

See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!

 They are waiting on the shingle--will you come and join the dance? 

Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance? 

Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?"

-Lewis Carroll,  The Lobster Quadrille










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Erin's Children's Poetry Page!!







Judy Freeman’s 40 Favorite Poetry Books for Children



Here are some poetry books that will appeal to a variety of tastes and interests and enrich the lives of children who read them.

For teachers looking for ideas to make these books come alive for their students, I have included a "germ" with each title. A germ is a short, sweet, pithy, useful, inspired idea for you to consider and make even better. Grow the germ into a full-fledged lesson or unit, adding your own clever spin and know-how, and share it with your colleagues.


All the Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth,
illustrated by Natalie Babbitt
Farrar, 1994
Grades 2-8

Each page in this compilation of four poetry books contains a brilliant, spare, perceptive poem along with a pen and ink illustration to pore over about common objects such as zinnias, safety pins, tigers, coat hangers, and libraries.

GERM: Each child can bring in and observe closely one small thing and write a new poem describing its qualities.


And the Green Grass Grew All Around: Folk Poetry from Everyone,
compiled by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Sue Truesdale
HarperCollins, 1992
Grades 2-6.

Divided into 15 sections, including people, food, school, teases and taunts, and nonsense, the book's roomy layout contains a meaty collection of more than 300 poems, songs, riddles, and chants.

GERM: Students can interview their parents and search their memories to compile both a written and taped classroom collection of additional jump rope rhymes, autograph verse, and other such valuable nonsense.


Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems / Los Ángeles Andan en Bicicleta y Otros Poems de Otoño
by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Children's Book Press, 1999
Grades K-6.

In 21 brief poems, written in both English and Spanish and illustrated with upbeat, vivid paintings, a young narrator observes his life in Los Angeles, with a keen eye, describing his family, school, and neighborhood. Alarcón says, "These poems celebrate Los Angeles as a Promised Land where people from all over the world can make their dreams come true."

GERM: View the city at other times of the year in his Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems (1997) and From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems (1998).


April Bubbles Chocolate: An ABC of Poetry,
compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Barry Root
Simon & Schuster, 1994
Grades K-3.

Master compiler Hopkins has assembled a delightful poetry alphabet representing many of our best children's poets. The alphabet poems are illustrated with good-humored paintings.

GERM: Word lovers can compile a new collection of their favorite poems, arranged alphabetically or by subject.


Bing Bang Boing
by Douglas Florian, illustrated by the author
Harcourt Brace, 1994
Grades 1-6.

Children who thrive on the nonsense poems of Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein and Prelutsky fans will devour with relish the fat collection of these 176 short and punchy poems.

GERM: Children can pick their favorites to read for Florian Day.



The Butterfly Jar
by Jeff Moss, illustrated by Chris L. Demarest.
Grades 2-6.

The more than 80 thoroughly enjoyable, witty, funny, and insightful poems in this book will soon become classroom favorites.

GERM: Devour, recite, and memorize favorite selections.


Candy Corn
by James Stevenson, illustrated by the author
Greenwillow, 1999
Grades 2-6.

Two dozen fresh, insightful, and cheerful little poems about eating peanuts and speaking bird and rock-and-rolling dumpsters and an after-Halloween pumpkin create a strong feeling for small observations. The genial black line and watercolor pictures make you wistful for summer.

GERM: When sampling poems from all four "corn" books—Sweet Corn (1997),Popcorn (1998), and Cornflakes (2000)—bring in all four types of corn for kids to taste.


Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888,
by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, illustrated by Christopher Bing
Handprint, 2000
Grades 3-Adult.

Share this classic narrative baseball poem about mighty Casey, overconfident batter, who strikes out, with this glorious facsimile of an old-timey newspaper and scrapbook of "The Mudville Sunday Monitor."

GERM: Hand out verses to pairs of children, bring in props—wiffle bats and balls and hats, maybe a big box of Cracker Jacks—and have them dramatize the poem.


A Child's Calendar by John Updike,
illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Holiday House, 1999
Grades 1-6.

There's one lovely rhyming poem for each month of the year, along with two detailed and lovely watercolor and ink illustrations.

GERM: Write and illustrate new poems about your favorite months.


Chocolate Dreams,
by Arnold Adoff, illustrated by Turi MacCombie Lothrop,1989
Grades 5-8

More than three dozen salivatingly luscious, mostly free-verse poems, some wistful, others desperate, are all tributes to chocolate in its many forms.

GERM: Candy fanatics can write odes to the snacks of their reveries, bring in a sample to show, and present their poems to the rest of the group.


Dinosaur Dinner (With a Slice of Alligator Pie): Favorite Poems by Dennis Lee,
by Dennis Lee, selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Debbie Tilley
Knopf, 1997
PreK- Grade 4

Here's a delightful compilation of 41 nonsense poems by one of Canada's most revered children's poets.

GERM: Recite the poem "Alligator Pie" and have children create new verses.


The Disappearing Alphabet,
by Richard Wilbur, illustrated by David Diaz
Harcourt, 1998
Grades 2-6

What would happen to each letter of the alphabet if it vanished is the premise of this set of 26 short poems, one for each letter.

GERM: Listeners can come up with more words, leaving out essential letters and predicting the results. Next, have each student pick a vowel and try to write a story without using it at all.


The Dream Keeper and Other Poems,
by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Knopf, 1994
Grades 4-8.

Originally published in 1932, this powerful collection of 66 poems is still fresh and affecting.

GERM: Brian Pinkney has created new illustrations to go with the poems. Don't show them; have your listeners select a poem and illustrate it, and then compare their interpretation with Pinkney's.


Eric Carle's Animals, Animals,
compiled by Laura Whipple, illustrated by Eric Carle
Philomel, 1989
Grades K-4

Indulge in the giant, gaudy, and gorgeous combination of poetry and picturescelebrating animals that swim, creep, fly, and leap.

GERM: Listeners can identify the animal families represented, and research facts about their favorite creatures.


Families: Poems Celebrating the African American Experience,
by Dorothy S.Strickland and Michael R. Strickland
Boyds Mills Press, 1994
Grades K-4.

Two dozen selections by well-known writers including Lucille Clifton, Eloise Greenfield, and Langston Hughes give insight into the lives and thoughts of children.

GERM: Have children depict their unique and memorable family members in poems and drawings.



Flicker Flash,
by Joan Bransfield Graham, illustrated by Nancy Davis
Houghton Mifflin, 1999
Grades 2-6

In 23 flamboyant concrete or shape poems, learn about the many properties of light.

GERM: Teachers of science units on light will find this invaluable. For water and weather units, don't miss Splish Splash (1994).


Good Books, Good Times!,
compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Harvey Stevenson
HarperCollins, 1990
Grades 1-5

Celebrate the delights of reading with 14 delectable book-based poems.

GERM: Have children write poems about why reading is special to them.


Inner Chimes: Poems on Poetry,
compiled by Bobbye S. Goldstein, illustrated by Jane Breskin Zalben
Wordsong: Boyds Mills, 1992
Grades 2-6

This elegant collection of 20 poems, accompanied by meticulous watercolors, is just what you need to explain the miracles of verse creation.

GERM: Kick off a poetry book talk with these poems on poetry.


by Douglas Florian, illustrated by the author
Harcourt, 1998
Grades 2-6

There are 21 amiable and insightful short, rhyming insect poems in Florian's latest foray into the animal kingdom.

GERM: Each child can select an insect to research, and recite or read aloud the accompanying poem as part of the oral report. All can also observe favorite insects and write illustrated poems about them, incorporating unusual facts and observations. For other eye-opening Florian takes on animal families, read In the Swim (1997), Lizards, Frogs and Polliwogs (2001), Mammalabilia (2000), and On the Wing (1996).


It's Raining Pigs & Noodles,
by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by James Stevenson Greenwillow, 2000
Grades K-6

Once again, Prelutsky delights all our senses with more than 100 witty, wordplaying poems to recite and sing.

GERM: Photocopy a wide assortment of these ditties and hand them out to small groups to practice and then perform aloud for everyone. Also use Prelutsky's similarly formatted and splendid The New Kid on the Block (1984), A Pizza the Size of the Sun (1996), and Something Big Has Been Here (1990).


Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices,
by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Eric Beddows
HarperCollins, 1988
Grades 4-8

Fourteen spare two-columned insect poems, some whimsical, some touching, are meant to be read aloud by two sets of readers—one on the left, and one on the right—like spoken songs, with some lines read in harmony, some solo, and some in unison.

GERM: Pairs of readers can select, practice, and perform the poems.


The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems,
by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Betty Fraser
Harcourt, 1998
PreK-Grade 3.

Introduce another stellar and attractive collection by a major children's poet whose astute wordplay children will enjoy hearing over and over.

GERM: Stage a class poetry reading of some of the poems in this collection.



Love Letters,
by Arnold Adoff, illustrated by Lisa Desimini
Blue Sky: Scholastic, 1997
Grades 3-6.

Innovative collage illustrations of found materials make each of these 20 quirky love poems memorable.

GERM: Children will be eager to write, illustrate, and share their own love letters to people or things they find endearing.



Meet Danitra Brown,
by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Lothrop, 1994
Grades 3-5.

This is a fresh, upbeat, charming character study in rhyme, with13 poems narrated by Zuri Jackson about her best friend, Danitra.

GERM: Children might want to write descriptive poems about their best friends.


My Man Blue,
by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
Dial, 1999
Grades 3-6.

In 14 sober, introspective, casually rhymed poems, the narrator, a sensitive inner city African-American boy, describes his growing friendship with a grown man, Blue, a "rugged dude."

GERM: Discussion point: What has the narrator learned from Blue? Come up with a list of words that describe Blue.


My Very First Mother Goose,
edited by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Candlewick, 1996
PreK-Grade 1.

A home and classroom treasure with 68 well-chosen verses and a personable entourage of typical Wells bunnies, pigs, and cats, rendered in grand and colorful watercolors.

GERM: You need no excuse to share these old standards with your kids. Recite them, sing them, draw them, act them out. Other marvelous collections include Raymond Briggs' The Mother Goose Treasury (Dell, 1986.), Tomie dePaola's Tomie dePaola's Mother Goose (Putnam, 1985), Arnold, Lobel's The Random House Book of Mother Goose (Random House, 1986), Iona Opie's Here Comes Mother Goose (1999), Iona and Peter Opie's Tail Feathers from Mother Goose (Little, Brown, 1988), and Zena Sutherland's The Orchard Book of Nursery Rhymes (Orchard, 1990).


Now We Are Six,
by A. A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
Dutton, 1992
PreK-Grade 4

This classic, originally published in 1927, is a book of poems about Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin and their friends. The adventures continue in the companion collection, When We Were Very Young (1924).

GERM: Read along with The House at Pooh Corner and Winnie-the-Pooh.


Pass It On: African-American Poetry for Children,
by Wade Hudson, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Scholastic, 1993
Grades 1-4

Nineteen poems by well-known poets chronicle the range of African-American experience, from personal to political.

GERM: Look up supporting information about the many poets represented here.


The Pig in the Spigot,
by Richard Wilbur, illustrated by J. Otto Seibold
Harcourt, 2000
Grades 3-6.

In 28 wonderfully clever wordplay poems, illustrated with goofy scenes, find words within words—eat in sweater, neigh in neighborhood, ant in pantry—and see how they are related.

GERM: Brainstorm a list of words containing words and have children work in pairs to decide how the words are related to each other.


The Place My Words Are Looking For,
by Paul Janeczko, illustrated with photos
Atheneum, 1990
Grades 5-10

Thirty-nine American poets share their poems and personal thoughts about writing poetry.

GERM: Students can search out and share other examples of each poet's work.



Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers
by Paul Janeczko, illustrated by Cathy Bobak. Atheneum, 1994. Grades 5-10.

Incorporating 72 poems arranged alphabetically by subject or theme, this inspirational guide to writing poetry also offers self-help exercises for composing various types of poems and advice from 23 poets on how to improve one's writing.

GERM: Incorporate the exercises and advice into poetry composition by students.


Sad Underwear and Other Complications: More Poems for Children and Their Parents,
by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Richard Hull
Atheneum, 1995
Grades 2-6

Viorst offers 44 blue-chip verses about children's fears, questions, and special requests.

GERM: Fairy tale parody fans will be tickled to note that there are poems that muse on the fates of Beauty and the Beast, Rumpelstiltskin, the fisherman and his wife, and Hansel and Gretel. Also read her classic If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries (1981).


Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic,
by Steven Schnur, illustrated by Leslie Evans
Clarion, 1999
Grades 1-6.

An alphabet of evocative acrostic poems, where the first letter of each line combines to form a word that is the subject of the poem, takes us though the delights of spring, illustrated with bold, elegant hand-colored linoleum cuts.

GERM: Have your children compose and illustrate new acrostic poems for winter and summer. Schnur continues the cycle with Autumn (1996) and Summer (2001).


Sylvia Long’s Mother Goose,
selected and illustrated by Sylvia Long
Chronicle, 1999
Grades PreK-1

Sylvia Long’s delightful detailed watercolors bring a warmth and gentleness to more than 75 mostly familiar Mother Goose rhymes.

GERM: Hold a Mother Goose recital where pairs of children recite verses they've learned.


Talking Like the Rain: A First Book of Poems,
compiled by Dorothy M. Kennedy and X. J. Kennedy, illustrated by Jane Dyer
Little, Brown, 1992
K-Grade 5.

A must for libraries, this beguiling anthology, with more than 100 poems and soft, dreamy watercolors, contains many old favorites and gives a taste of the best children's poets, past and present.

GERM: Children can pick and illustrate their favorites and share them with each other.


There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,
by Simms Taback, illustrated by the author
Viking, 1997
PreK-Grade 2

A die-cut hole in each page reveals the fly, spider, bird, and other creatures the ravenous old woman devours.

GERM: Sing this one and act it out, using flannelboard animals or puppets. Children can write and illustrate new verses with new animals.


There's a Zoo in Room 22,
by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
Harcourt, 2000
Grades 1-4

There are 26 marvelous pets in Miss Darling's classroom, from anaconda to zorilla, and her kids describe each one of them in jaunty rhyme.

GERM: Pet-lovers can look through animal books to select new pets that might be fun to keep in school, and write and illustrate poems about them.


This Land Is Your Land,
by Woody Guthrie, illustrated by Kathy Jakobsen
Little, Brown, 1998
Grades 1-6

In a glowingly illustrated picture book crammed with coast to coast details, including quotes from Woody and his many songs, we learn the rest of the verses as we travel through the United States.

GERM: Sing it, of course!


Where the Sidewalk Ends,
by Shel Silverstein, illustrated by the author
HarperCollins, 1973
K-Grade 6.

One of the funniest books of children's poetry ever written, this one is a true classic.

GERM: What nonsense verse-loving kids don't already know and love the sequels, too: A Light in the Attic (1981) and Falling Up (1996). Have a poetry party to recite their favorites.


Wake Up House!: Rooms Full of Poems,
by Dee Lillegard, illustrated by Don Carter

Knopf, 2000
PreK-Grade 3

Thirty-four quick, perceptive poems take us on a sunup to sunset tour of everything in the house.

GERM: As you read these aloud, pull out of a mini dollhouse the corresponding miniature items, such as a mirror, broom, hanger, and night light. Children can then look carefully around and compose schoolroom or library poems.