One of the best ways to enjoy our language, in an eloquent manner, is through poetry. This genre is one of my favorites because every year new picture books of rhythm, rhyme, haiku and free verse enlighten, as they lighten, our days so we can enjoy the beautiful imagery that language can create. These books are all picture books and are good for all ages to enjoy.
Out and About: A First Book of Poems, by Shirley Hughes, is a splendid way to introduce youngsters into the world of wonderful words. By beginning with spring and going through an entire year, Ms. Hughes correlates her spunky Katie and her little brother by painting bright illustrations that encompass both open pages. This beautiful book is a keeper!
Sweep Up the Sun, by Helen Frost, with photos by Rick Lieder, is a wondrous combination of one poem stretched throughout the book, with photos of a variety of birds as they begin their flight. There is much to ponder as you read through and gaze upon the beauty of these birds. Beginning in life and trusting all that you are capable of achieving are just a few of the uplifting components described.
On the Wing, by David Elliott, and gorgeously painted by Becca Stadtlander, is beauty personified through both the open-page illustrations and the effervescent and clever poems that match up each feathered specie. By the book’s end, the delivery of all these poems, along with the pictures, will undoubtedly astound you!
Flowers Are Calling, by Rita Gray, and beautifully painted with watercolor and using digital media by Kenard Pak, celebrates the continuum and interdependency of life as each life in the forest depends on each other to live and grow. By combining the beauty of word and visual illustrations, the result showcases the interconnectivity and importance of flowers, animals and insects in the cycle of life. Cleverly packaged inside the poetry story are labeled parts describing the plants or trees.
When the Wind Blows, by Linda Booth Sweeney, and vividly illustrated with open-page spreads throughout by Jana Christy, seems to breeze through the book as if a gale was pushing you to the end. Onomatopoeias propel the air to a cumulative end where mother and child snuggle deeply in bed as wind and rain hits window pain. Each double-page showcases the four line poetry story along with a perfectly matched illustration. As the storm begins to wind down, so does the family featured and the lights in their home go out.
Monkey and Duck Quack Up!, by Jennifer Hamburg, and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, is an excellent story to help youngsters understand rhyme. It’s also hilarious. Monkey decides to enter a two-person rhyming contest with his friend, Duck. However, as he comes up with all kinds of rhyming words, all Duck says is “quack”. But as the story unfolds and they are on stage and Monkey proceeds with their poem Duck is able to pull off the ending with his “quack” word. However, there is a surprise waiting at the end that will surely bring some giggles.
The Maine Coon’s Haiku (and Other Poems for Cat Lovers), by Michael J. Rosen, and painted digitally by Lee White, takes on this specialty poetry form most magnificently. There are twenty different types of cats, so there are twenty different haiku poems. Each poem, which features a five-seven-five format, is an open-spread utilizing both open pages with color and depiction of the breed of feline.
Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, collected by Elizabeth Hammill, and illustrated by more than 70 celebrated artists, is filled, in this over-sized book, with one hundred and fifty nursery rhymes that originate from twenty three different countries. Many of these rhymes are very familiar and chances are you grew up with many of these. The glowing and unique illustrations that are by the many different illustrators make the colors and images flow and change on every turn of the page. And the juxtaposition of rhythm and rhyme make this book a must on every youngster’s book shelf.
Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry, by Vern Kousky, tells the tale of Otto who loves to read. He actually loves poetry and recites many great poets such as T. S. Eliot and Robert Louis Stevenson. But the other owls don’t appreciate his recitations. But little mouse does and eventually the entire community of owls begins to listen and applaud him. The mixed-media illustrations have a background of dark tones helping make the contrast of the story stand out.
The Death of the Hat (A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects), selected by Paul B. Janeczko, and artistically illustrated with his trademark paintings by Chris Raschka, pulls together an array of poems that reflect the history of poetry. It is believed that poetry is the oldest art form and so Janeczko and Raschka have collaborated on poetry inspired by objects that reflect when the poet lived. There is a peach blossom during the Renaissance or a lament for the hat in modern times. This is a book that would be valued in any level of school or grade. And Raschka’s watercolors emit the aura of each poem brilliantly.