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April brings showers and rhymes. Poetry brings together beautiful words that describe the elegant symbiosis of spring and all that the Lord has created. There is also great pleasure in rhyming patterns as they drip off when spoken out loud. In fact, all poetry begs to be read out loud for the impact of the imagery and rhythm to be completely enjoyed.
Something else that is important with rhyming: learning how to read. Simple rhyming books with few words are a perfect way to instill confidence and enjoyment in reading for new readers. The rhyming patterns make it easier for these youngsters to predict, sound out new words and remember words and phrases. The first four books are simple rhyming stories making them excellent for emergent readers. The next four books are poetry collections. The rest of the books are good for ages eight through twelve.
Maxi the Little Taxi, by Elizabeth Upton, and brightly colored by Henry Cole, takes you through a busy day for a small yellow taxi. This anamorphic car has big eyes on the windshield and a face so bright and happy you can’t help but smile back. As he goes through his day, “Max zipped here, / He zipped there, / He zipped everywhere”. But he also becomes very muddy on the outside and even sticky from customers’ ice cream on the inside. However, his last customer helps him get sparkling clean. This book is a delight and youngsters will adore it.
Nellie Belle, by Mem Fox, and full-page illustrations done digitally by Mike Austin, is another perfect new reader story full of a simple story rhyming cadence that repeats, propelling children to want to reread it over and over again. Nellie begins her day digging in her yard but ends up swimming in the sea and going to the park. Her adventures are many and almost sing-song in the rhythm.
Zoo Zoom!, by Candace Ryan, and with brilliantly colored pictures by Macky Pamintuan, has a variety of animals blasting off to the moon and back again. Each full-page spread has a few vibrant colored animals attempting to guide the ship to their destination. The rhyming words are few and simple making this a perfect emergent reader.
The Hide-and-Scare Bear, by Ivan Bates, teaches an important lesson besides enjoying the rhyming pattern throughout. Bear enjoys jumping out and scaring his small animal friends. They all decide he needs to know they don’t like it and someone needs to be brave and stand up and tell him. When little rabbit doesn’t run away but stays until he’s done ranting his attempted scare, he tells Bear, “Try showing kindness to / those that you meet. / No more snarling and growing / and stamping your feet.” Bear learns much from this small bunny and bullying is not making him happy. The mixed media illustrations are rich and full of color.
A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young, by Michael Rosen, and richly painted with watercolor by Chris Riddell, is an oversized book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Everything is large in this precious book from the text to the subject matter. There are poems about animals, music, behavior and more. This book is a keeper!
Kooky Crumbs: Poems in Praise of Dizzy Days, by J. Patrick Lewis, and delightfully illustrated by Mary Uhles, celebrates silly days, funny days and fun days. But mostly the praise for this book is for poems and how fun they can be. There are clever poems about Grape Nuts, math and zippers. Chances are this amusing book just might motivate you to compose a fantastically inventive poem.
Consider the Lemming and Alpha Beta Chowder, both by Jeanne Steig, and illustrated by William Steig, include delightful poems that follow a quatrain, couplet and limerick style. The first book tells tales about animals and the second book takes you through the alphabet with a poem representing each letter. Both books are small in size but big with interest.
Sail Away, by Langston Hughes, and filled with colorful paper collages by Ashely Bryan, takes the reader through a variety of water, waves and boats by this celebrated poet that died back in 1967. But the artist, who is also much celebrated, has brought these poems to life filled with movement through these spectacular collages. The color is rich and seems to flow off the page.
Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks, by Skila Brown, and digitally painted with exactitude by Bob Kolar, showcases what lurks beneath the depths of the oceans. These concrete poems seem to glide through the murky depths with the sharpness of teeth and finesse of their elusiveness. There are facts about each of the fourteen sharks illustrated on each open-page which include the tiger shark and the bull shark.
What are You Glad About? What are You Mad About?, by Judith Viorst, and with drawings by Lee White, are poems that take the viewpoint of a child and subjects that might matter to them. The chapter headings include: “How Are You Feeling Today”, “School Stuff” and “Friends and Other People”. The author has many credits and highly acclaimed books to her name which includes “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”.
Among a Thousand Fireflies, by Helen Frost, and photographed by Rick Lieder, is a beautifully told and illustrated free verse that is lilting with the miracle of the firefly. The striking light of this small creature is set against the dusk and amazingly is able to locate her counterpart amongst the thousands of others. This is a perfect blend of science, poetry and color.
David L. RobinsApril 9, 2016
I met Langston Hughes in person when I was a 1946 student at Ogden High School, Ogden, Utah. He gave me one of his books that has long reposed in my personal library for driving him to the railroad station after he had completed his visit. My father, Leonard A. Robins, was an English teacher at OHS in 1946 and gave me the assignment to take Mr. Hughes to the railroad station. Thanks for the memory....