Things Could Always Be Verse: Picture Books for National Poetry Month

Although we had a performer in place of Family Storytime this week, I did get to share poetry books with two second grade classes, in honor of National Poetry Month.  These were the ones we read:


Guess Again! by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Adam Rex ( link)

This was one of the most gratifying read-alouds I’ve ever shared with a group.  It’s a series of riddles, with clues, rhymes, and silhouettes that all seem to be leading to an obvious answer, only the solution is always something completely unexpected.  For example: He steals carrots from the neighbor’s yard./His hair is soft, his teeth are hard./His floppy ears are long and funny./Can you guess who?  That’s right!  My…Grandpa Ned!  This worked incredibly well for second grade because they were so certain they knew the answer, and they exclaimed so loudly each time the real answer was revealed.  The first class made me read it twice, so they could all shout out the real solutions.


What a Day it was at School! by Jack Prelutsky; illustrated by Doug Cushman ( link)

Jack Prelutsky is a genius at children’s poetry, with a gift for humorous twists along the lines of Shel Silverstein.  In this collection, a cat describes his school day to his mother, with different poems describing how his science homework dog, how he accidentally started a food fight at lunch, and even how he farted in class.  In the last poem, he has to write a poem for class that has to have meter and rhyme, which gave me an opportunity to talk about meter in poetry.


Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer; illustrated by Josee Masse ( link)

This is an amazing and beautiful book.  Each page features a different fairy tale: Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, etc.  And each is actually two poems: the first poem reads normally, from top to bottom; the second takes the exact same poem but flips it, as if you were reading it from bottom to top, where it takes on an entirely different meaning.  For example, for Red Riding Hood, the first poem is from the girl’s perspective: In my hood, / skipping through the wood, / carrying a basket, / picking berries to eat — / juicy and sweet / what a treat! / But a girl / mustn’t dawdle. / After all, Grandma’s waiting!   The second poem uses the same lines in reverse to show the wolf’s point of view: After all, Grandma’s waiting, / mustn’t dawdle… / But a girl! / What a treat — / juicy and sweet, picking berries to eat, / carrying a basket, / skipping through the wood / in my ‘hood. The kids especially loved the illustrations, which mirror the way one thing transforms into another: the wolves legs becoming the trees in the forest, the seven dwarves’ mine becoming the evil queen’s face.  A brilliantly executed poetry collection that could make for a fun, and challenging poetry assignment.  The second graders were mesmerized.


There were lots of other books I could have shared, including almost any rhyming picture books. Some of my favorites:

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich: and other stories you’re sure to like, because they’re all about monsters, and some of them are also about food…  by Adam Rex ( link)

I read this to some second grade classes last year, and it was a huge hit!  Each poem features the woes of a different monster: the Phantom of the Opera can’t get It’s a Small World out of his head; Count Dracula has spinach in his teeth; Big Foot is tired of being mistaken for the Yeti.  Very funny and off-the-wall.

Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop by Chris Raschka ( link)

A great book to illustrate how writers can use words to mimic sounds or experiences, in this case Charlie Parker’s jazz rendition of Night in Tunisia.  I’ve read this book so many times to both of my kids that I can almost recite it from memory, and it’s a blast to read aloud: Be bop. Fisk Fisk. Lollipop. Boomba Boomba  The language captures the play and joyful unexpectedness of jazz music.

17 Kings and 42 Elephants by Margaret Mahy; illustrated by Patricia MacCarthy ( link)

A rhythmic poem describing 17 kings and 42 elephants walking through the jungle.  It’s fun to have the kids clap or stomp along with the beat, which is infectious.

What are your favorite poetry books for kids?