50 Best Poetry Books for Kids

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November 11th, 2010

With its regular rhythm, wordplay and often creative rhyme scheme, poetry understandably captures the interest of children, probably better than its prosaic peers in many instances. Some likely learned how to read with simple, memorable bits of verse, which laid the foundation for life's most fundamental skill. Parents and educators alike hoping to nurture a love of the written word and learning in their youthful charges may wish to do using the following books. No matter a child's preferences, he or she will almost certainly find something appealing in one of the selections.

Classics and Classic Anthologies

  1. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot: Meet some delightfully eccentric, rambunctious felines and enjoy Edward Gorey's equally whimsical illustrations in this fun and feisty classic.

  2. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein: The truly gifted Shel Silverstein produced some excellent poems, songs and drawings for different audiences, but his offerings to children remain some of the most memorable.

  3. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein: With so many humorous sketches accompanying them, it makes sense that Shel Silverstein's poetry was some of the first many young people read on their own.

  4. Falling Up by Shel Silverstein: Seriously, any parent or teacher who does not expose children to at least one of his books is doing them a serious disservice!

  5. Piping Down the Valleys Wild compiled by Nancy Larrick: Introduce young readers to the works of Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and many more with the classic compilation Piping Down the Valleys Wild

  6. The Random House Book of Poetry for Children compiled by Jack Prelutsky: Poetry-loving kids will greatly enjoy the 572 poems hand-picked for them by the venerable Jack Prelutsky, making this a particularly excellent gift idea.

  7. Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young compiled by Jack Prelutsky: Educators and parents should definitely pick up this anthology and incorporate it into any reading lessons.

  8. It's Raining Pigs & Noodles by Jack Prelutsky: One of the most prolific writers and compilers of children's poetry ever, almost anything Jack Prelutsky pens is a classic. Be sure to read his other works not listed here as well!

  9. Vile Verses by Roald Dahl: Part of what made Roald Dahl's books for children so memorable is the inclusion of whimsical, cheeky rhymes. This compilation pieces together particularly striking moments from enduring classes such as Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, James and the Giant Peach and many more!

  10. Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl: Accompanied by his frequent collaborator, illustrator Quentin Blake, the beloved writer tackles classic fairy tales with his trademark rapier wit and scalding humor.

  11. Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl: These poems feature a number of imaginative animals overflowing with quirk and mystery certainly to the delight of many a child.

  12. The Best of Ogden Nash by Ogden Nash: Compiled by the late poet's daughters, this anthology contains over 500 of his beloved light verses. However, some of the darker poems somewhat temper the delight and grant the volume more of a balance.

  13. Ogden Nash's Zoo by Ogden Nash: Most kids love animals — or at least one or two species, anyways — and this book provides them with lovely poems about some popular favorites.

  14. Children's Classic Poetry Collection compiled by Nicola Baxter: Poets generally more associated with adult audiences, such as G.K. Chesterton and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, still dabbled in writing pleasing works suitable for the very young.

  15. A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson: Beloved Treasure Island scribe Robert Louis Stevenson wrote many imaginative, playful poems for his own children to enjoy.

  16. Favorite Poems Old and New compiled by Helen Ferris Tibbets: This excellent anthology brings together a diverse selection of classic and contemporary poets writing on a wide range of subjects.

  17. Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose by Scott Gustafson: Mother Goose's classic tales come to vivid, dreamlike life through lush illustrations and gentle rhymes.

  18. Sea Fever by John Masefield: Older children interested in one poet's perspective of English history and its peoples would do well to pick up some of John Masefield's more notable works.

  19. The Complete Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne: Step into the Hundred-Acre Wood and engage in the adventure of its timeless, enjoyable cast of colorful characters.

  20. Eric Carle's Animals Animals compiled by Laura Whipple: Iconic illustrator Eric Carle contributes his golden talents to fantastic animal-themed poems by some of the world's favorite writers.

  21. I Like This Poem compiled by Kaye Webb: Kids pick out their favorite poems by classic and contemporary writers alike and share them with readers, all accompanied by joyous Antony Maitland illustrations.

  22. The Poetry for Young People Series compiled by Various: Introduce children to some of the greatest poets of all time through this special series covering a broad spectrum of themes and peoples.

  23. A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear: Edward Lear's anarchic verses provide an excellent conduit through which parents and children may bond over reading poetry.

  24. The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense by Edward Lear: "The Owl and the Pussycat" and the poet's other whimsical, nonsensical writings come to life in this essential volume.

  25. The Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry compiled by Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael Sampson: Another excellent anthology blending the classic with the contemporary, all wrapped up with lovely illustrations by the incomparable Eric Carle.

  26. The Llama Who Had No Pajama by Mary Ann Hoberman: Many of Mary Ann Hoberman's poetry books unfortunately fell out of print, but lately they have returned to delight more generations.

  27. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman: Paul Fleischman teaches readers about poetry's participatory potential with an amazing series of insect-themed poems.

  28. I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman: More lovely verses to enjoy alone or in a chorus with like-minded friends, this time dedicated to avian imagery.

  29. Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices by Paul Fleischman: Kids who hold a passion for poetry may like the idea of sharing these rhythmic offerings with their loved ones.

  30. The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker: Young readers who find fairies enchanting and stimulating to the imagination will love these lively poems and delightfully detailed illustrations.

  31. A Child's Book of Poems compiled and illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa: Gyo Fujikawa's gentle drawings breathe life and wonder into classic poems by Emily Dickinson, William Blake and many more beloved writers.

  32. Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O'Neill: Suitable for the youngest of readers, this book features verses meant to teach them color names and concepts.

  33. How to Eat a Poem compiled by The American Poetry & Literacy Project and Academy of American Poets: All the contributors involved with the production of this anthology selected the classic and contemporary entries explicitly for their literary merit.

Possible Future Classics

  1. Love to Mama compiled by Pat Mora: 13 Latino/a poets pay homage to their mothers and grandmothers in this warm compilation more than suitable for sharing with family.

  2. If Peas Could Taste Like Candy by Crystal Bowman: Covering a wide range of subjects, Crystal Bowman's poems reflect a child's natural curiosity and imagination.

  3. A Bad Case of the Giggles compiled by Bruce Lansky: Bruce Lansky asked children to select what they considered the most rollickingly hilarious poems to share with their peers. The first volume can be found here, but does not currently feature any consumer reviews.

  4. Science Verse by Jon Scieszka: Both educational and entertaining, these poems introduce young readers to some of the most fascinating scientific principles around.

  5. Truckery Rhymes by Jon Scieszka: Read some terrifically fun interpretations of traditional nursery rhymes told from the perspective of spunky anthropomorphic vehicles.

  6. Lunch Money and Other Poems about School by Carol Diggory Shields: The 24 poems here wring fun and imagination out of mundane elements of the classroom setting, yet still teach some essential lessons along the way.

  7. If You're Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand by Kalli Dakos: Another fun and engaging read that turns elementary education into delightful verses for children to share with friends and family.

  8. Shape Me a Rhyme by Jane Yolen: Photographer Jason Stemple provides absolutely stunning images to bring Jane Yolen's poems about nature and form to vivid life.

  9. An Egret's Day by Jane Yolen: More sumptuous photos accompanying informative, engaging and educational verses about a day in the life of a common water bird.

  10. A Mirror to Nature by Jane Yolen: Another breathtaking collaboration between Jane Yolen and Jason Stemple, this time teaching children lessons on how reflections work in nature.

  11. Thirteen Moons on a Turtle's Back by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London: Each poem — accompanied by Thomas Locker's lush illustrations — ties into an overarching narrative, where an Abenaki grandfather relays tales from different Native American traditions.

  12. Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer: Marilyn Singer's incredibly clever verses pull from familiar fairy tales and sport an intriguing structure that allows them to be read up and down alike.

  13. Punctuation Celebration by Elsa Knight Bruno: Very young children get an introduction to the important punctuation points in a series of 14 memorable, educational poems.

  14. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex: Readers of all ages will likely find these playful, lyrical peeks into the lives of some very famous monsters, making this a great book for parents and children to share!

  15. Falling Down the Page by Georgia Heard: This interesting little poetry book revolves around the gimmick of list-structured verses, so kids looking for something new may want to explore Georgia Heard's work.

  16. Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanni: Along with the accompanying CD, kids can gain a better understanding of how poetry and lyrics flow to certain beats.

  17. If I were in Charge of the World and Other Worries by Judith Viorst: The entirety of Judith Viorst's book revolves around poems meant to open up conversations between kids and their parents, with topics ranging from crushes to keeping secrets.

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