April is National Poetry Month and a great time to explore what poetry can be. As we get older, poetry becomes less about rhyming sounds and more about creative expression, something that resonates in the soul. The following books are great for kids and tweens looking for what Lawrence Ferlinghetti called the “eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.”
Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes
Eleven-year-old Garvey is bullied, overweight, and ignored by his dad. When he builds up the nerve to audition for the school chorus, Garvey discovers his talent for singing and begins to like himself as he is. Grimes’ deceptively spare book is written entirely in Tanka verse: five lines, with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. Despite the sparse word count, Grimes creates a poignant story of self-acceptance, full of rich emotions and authentic characters.
A Poke in the I selected by by Paul Janeczko
For a visual treat, check out Janeczko’s playful collection of “shape poems,” chock full of homonyms, acrostics, and other word art reminiscent of e. e. cummings. From the concise “STOWaWAY” by Robert Carola, to the whirly “Forsythia” by Mary Ellen Scott, the poems dance across the page, more enjoyed as pictures than read aloud. Raschka’s bright illustrations of paper and watercolor complement each piece without distracting, and Janeczko includes tips on who to create your own concrete poem.
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander
Compiled and co-authored by Newberry Winner Kwame Alexander, this new book of original poems is like a tribute album. Professional writers riff on favorite poets such as Basho, Emily Dickinson and Walter Dean Myers. They emulate, expound, and thank their literary ancestors in short pieces alongside radiant mix-media artwork by Ekua Holmes, 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner. Like any good cover album, their work stands alone yet inspires the audience to explore the originals.