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Perfect Poems for Reading Out Loud

April is National Poetry Month! Celebrate by visiting your local bookstore or library in search of poetry books for children. To truly appreciate poems, be they silly or serious, read them out loud together. Try doing this as you write your own poems, too. As U.S. Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis said in a recent interview, "Poetry should be read out loud even if you are all alone in a room. Readers should want their ears to have as much fun as their mouths are having."

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Parents' Choice Award-winning poetry selections:

Ages: 5 & Up
Author: Jack Prelutsky
Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman
Knopf, $19.95

As Dr. Seuss proved, singsong sounds, rhymes, and verse have ongoing appeal. None more than For Laughing Out Loud: Poems to Tickle Your Funnybone. Here are 132 of the funniest poems ever assembled, filled with the sort of zany lunacy that makes kids giggle and parents groan before laughing. Children will cackle over frogs that croak, the dog that brings in the mailman with the mail, and the little girl who learns how much easier life is when you're a slob. They'll laugh out loud at the boy who has a hot dog for a pet and at the captain who played ukulele in his underpants.

Dear Hot Dog Dear Hot Dog
Ages: 3 & Up
Author: Mordicai Gerstein  
Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

Mordicai Gerstein's ode to the everyday follows three young children from morning 'til night. Gerstein celebrates 22 things that touch a child's day, including a toothbrush, pants, shoes, air, an ice cream cone, and more. Each poem poses and ponders, observes and opines, all from a child's perspective. The illustrations bring life and authenticity to this irresistible introduction to poetry.

Forget-Me-Nots Forget-Me-Nots
Ages: 3 & Up
Author: Mary Ann Hoberman   Illustrator: Michael Emberley  
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (Hard Cover)   

The poems in this well-rounded children's collection are chosen as "poems to learn by heart," but they make for excellent read-alouds or silent reading as well. Editor Mary Ann Hoberman, a former Children's Poet Laureate, groups modern and classic poetry into categories such as Delicious Dishes, Beautiful Beasts, and Happiness Is. There are poems for many moods and in many styles; some of them are from the genre of children's poetry, while others are poems that appeal to children and adults alike.

Every Day's a Dog's Day: A Year in Poems Every Day's a Dog's Day: A Year in Poems
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Marilyn Singer   Illustrator: Miki Sakamoto  
Penguin Putnam Inc./Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

Beginning in January and running through the year, the poems combine human holidays with important dog days, such as, "Cat-chasing Day," and "Visit to the Vet." The poems display cheerful, insightful understanding of the canine viewpoint. "Boat Ride," for example, says: "There's nothing for a dog to do / In this thing called a canoe." In humorous stylized, full- color illustrations, four canine characters are featured, although lots of other dogs and children also romp through the pictures.

The Delicious Chocolate Donut (And Other Off-Kilter Poems) The Delicious Chocolate Donut (And Other Off-Kilter Poems)
Ages: 8 - 11 yrs.
Springwater Music Group, $9.99 (CD)   

These thirty-nine fun and often witty poems are each a delicious treat for the ears and tongue. Fun to read, but even more fun to hear and speak, quirky observations come to life via performances by the author, Mark Weakland, and collaborators Christine Laitta and Biff Baron. Children of all ages will delight in this collection. The accompanying book is icing on The Delicious Chocolate Donut.

A Foot in the Mouth A Foot in the Mouth
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Paul Janeczko   Illustrator: Chris Raschka  
Candlewick Press, $17.99 (Hard Cover)   

In their third collaboration, Janeczko and Raschka once again prove that combining flawlessly-chosen poems and deftly complementary illustrations once again has the happy effect of leading readers-even reluctant ones-through an invisible doorway into the world of verse. And because this poetry collection is-according to the breezy and enthusiastic introduction-meant to be read aloud and therefore frequently filled with "very strong rhyme schemes," one might be tempted to say that readers are in for an exquisite visit.

At the Sea Floor Café At the Sea Floor Café
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Leslie Bulion   Illustrator: Leslie Evans  
Peachtree Publishers, $14.95 (Hard Cover)   

Deep in the ocean, a "patient reef shark waits / a cleaner wrasse dances in", and a "fair violet snail" floats "on bubbled mucus gel." These are just some of the marine creatures Leslie Bulion readers meet At the Sea Floor Café. The book consists of 18 poems about sea life (such as the coconut octopus, snapping shrimp, and broody squid), each one accompanied by scientific facts. Light and humorous overall, the collection employs a variety of poetic techniques and forms.

If You Were a Chocolate Mustache If You Were a Chocolate Mustache
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: J. Patrick Lewis   Illustrator: Matthew Cordell  
Boyds Mills Press, $18.95 (Hard Cover)   

Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis has created a collection of silly, kid-centric poems and riddles that will appeal to young readers. If You Were a Chocolate Mustache includes poems such as "Mac Diddy," which focuses on a dog "who writes a bitty blog," while another entry sings the praises of pretzels that "circul8." Matthew Cordell's simple pen and ink line drawings are reminiscent of Shel Silverstein, and in fact, one of Lewis' poems is in tribute to that late great children's writer. This is a good choice for reading aloud, and for exposing children to this particular literary genre.

The Swamps of Sleethe The Swamps of Sleethe
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Jack Prelutsky   Illustrator: Jimmy Pickering  
Random House Children's Books, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

Both officially and unofficially, Jack Prelutsky is well known as the children's Poet Laureate, and for good reason. Prelutsky specializes in whimsical poetry that appeals to kids of all ages, covering wacky subjects such as raining pigs and noodles, growing umbrellaplants, and dealing with a genius dog. However his latest book, The Swamps of Sleethe, takes a somewhat ghoulish approach to his material. The collection focuses on a series of alien planets from outside our solar system - planets that, it’s safe to say, aren't on any NASA timetables.

I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery
Ages: 10 & Up
Author: Cynthia Grady   Illustrator: Michele Wood  
Eerdmans, $17.00 (Hard Cover)   

In unrhymed verse, the poet Cynthia Grady explores the emotions of people who were enslaved in the American south. The ten-line, ten-syllable poems express the horrors of children sold away from mothers, the beatings, the fear experienced by runaway slaves. Other poems also express the calm of sewing, the brief happiness of children fishing, the enjoyment of making music. Beneath each touching poem is a half-page of explanatory history.

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