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Explore Your World With Poetry

Parents' Choice salutes National Poetry Month with the following suggestions guaranteed to tickle and teach. Even the youngest riddlers will be encouraged to explore poetry: from Mother Goose to the moon and everything inbetween. This varied collection offers poetic choices for even the toughest to please.

Here Comes Mother Goose Here Comes Mother Goose
Ages: Infant - 3 yrs.
Author: Iona Opie   Illustrator: Rosemary Wells  
Candlewick Press, $21.99 (Hard Cover)   

A fresh interpretation on the classic, this version of Mother Goose offers charming appeal to early-readers. Illustrations by Rosemary Wells amuse and entertain, while complimenting the classic text.

Falling Up
Ages: All Ages
By: Shel Silverstein  
HarperCollins Childrens Books, $17.95 (Hard Cover)   

Children's favorite Shel Silverstein presents another amusing collection of poems for all ages in "Falling Up." Those who have enjoyed "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "A Light in the Attic" won't want to miss these.

It's Raining Pigs & Noodles It's Raining Pigs & Noodles
Ages: All Ages
Author: Jack Prelutsky   Illustrator: James Stevenson  
HarperCollins Children's Books / Amistad, $17.95 (Hard Cover)   

Read these poems aloud and the reaction is sure to be laugh-aloud fun. Masterful word-play makes for marvelous poems in this collection that will likely be memorized by readers of all ages.

Runny Babbit Runny Babbit
Ages: All Ages
Author: Shel Silverstein  
HarperCollins Childrens Books, $15.99 (Hard Cover)   

In this very "billy sook," Shel Silverstein may have invented a whole new category of poetry: spooner-verse. You may not want to read them back-to-back (for fear of tying tnots in your kongue) but it's almost impossible to resist reading a few at a time out loud to anyone who will listen. The poems, however, pale in comparison to the artwork: exuberant, expressive black-line cartoons that are surely among Silverstein's best work.

Dogku Dogku
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Andrew Clements   Illustrator: Tim Bowers  
Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

Dogku is a clever and sweet little story about a stray dog who finds a loving home. Such plots are a staple of children's literature and entertainment, but what sets this book apart is the method of telling the tale -- each page is written in haiku. Each haiku, written by Andrew Clements, is spare and graceful, capturing the essence of being a dog (or a child, or part of a family) in exactly 17 syllables. There is a helpful author's note at the end of the book, giving a simple and enthusiastic explanation of haiku for the child reader.

Flamingos on the Roof Flamingos on the Roof
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Calef Brown   Illustrator: Calef Brown  
Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, $16.00 (Hard Cover)   

Children in the mood for silly rhymes will get a good laugh out of Flamingos on the Roof, Calef Brown's wacky new collection of poems and paintings. The imaginative Brown covers a wide range of subjects for his poetry, from peas to a "soggy circus" to Poseidon's kelp toupee. The book celebrates language and wordplay with some real tongue-twisters, and the high-energy acrylic illustrations are just as engaging as the text.

Good Sports
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Jack Prelutsky   Illustrator: Chris Raschka  
Random House Children's Books/Knopf, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

With a cheerful poem about almost every sport that children love, the poet captures the pride of success, the disappointment of failure, and the sheer fun of participation. The untitled poems are exuberant without being unrealistic, understanding without being patronizing. They are simply great fun. The illustrations are a stunning foil for the text.

Read a Rhyme, Write a Rhyme Read a Rhyme, Write a Rhyme
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Jack Prelutsky   Illustrator: Meilo So  
Random House Children's Books/Knopf, $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

Anthologist and poet Prelutsky has chosen ten kid-centric topics, carefully selected three poems for each, and added a "poem start" to each double page spread to encourage young readers to become writers as well. It's a grand idea, made even grander by So's lovely bursting-at-the-seams artwork.

My Dog May Be A Genius My Dog May Be A Genius
Ages: 5 - 10 yrs.
Author: Jack Prelutsky   Illustrator: James Stevenson  
HarperCollins Children's Books/ Greenwillow Books, $18.99 (Hard Cover)   

It's hard to resist Jack Prelutsky. Or James Stevenson. In the latest effort from this hilarious duo, the writing and the illustrations are inseparable. Clever creations for the ears (My Hobby Is Unusual, The Spells & Smells Motel) and the eyes (I Am On A Bumpy Road, I Drank A Magic Potion), this delicious collection is a feast certain to be savored read alone or aloud.

Bronzeville Boys and Girls Bronzeville Boys and Girls
Ages: 5 & Up
Author: Gwendolyn Brooks   Illustrator: Faith Ringgold  
HarperCollins Children's Books / Amistad, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

The late Gwendolyn Brooks left behind a distinguished legacy as a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and Illinois Poet Laureate, marking her as a significant figure in both African-American studies and in the world of literature in general. Originally published in 1956 this vivid new picture book about life in Chicago's Bronzeville area during the 1950s introduces today's children to Brooks' clear poetic voice, and teaches a valuable lesson about the universality of childhood experiences.

Danitra Brown, Class Clown
Ages: 7 - 9 yrs.
Author: Nikki Grimes   Illustrator: E. B. Lewis  
HarperCollins Children's Books / Amistad, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

In this book of sequential school poems, Nikki Grimes brings the personalities of two girls to life, and captures the universality of their school experiences. The watercolor pictures by E. B. Lewis are playful when the girls are. When the characters are troubled, Lewis conveys a pensively sympathetic mood through facial expressions and body language.

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.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Frances Schoonmaker   Illustrator: Mike Bryce  
Sterling Publishing , $14.95 (Hard Cover)   

Thirty-four carefully chosen poems introduce children to the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Subtle watercolor paintings accompany each poem. A biography of her life is presented at the beginning of the story.

Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Douglas Florian  
Harcourt Brace & Company, $6.99 (Paperback)

Similar in style to Shel Silverstein, Florian offers a plethora of rhymes riddled with stinky feet, slimy food, monsters, bugs, and dinosaurs - subjects sure to amuse any 8-year old. Pen and ink drawings illustrate the silly poems that adults are sure to enjoy as well.

Animal Poems Animal Poems
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Valerie Worth   Illustrator: Steve Jenkins  
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.00 (Hard Cover)   

Animal themes have been a children's poetry staple since the beginning of the genre, but this particular collection by Valerie Worth is a standout for one simple reason: it's anything but simple. These poems, about creatures as diverse as hummingbirds and whales, are startling in their complexity of thought. Most children's poetry tends toward catchy rhyme and playful word choice - and there's certainly nothing wrong with that approach. But there's something refreshing about a book that sets the bar higher for its readers, that demands we slow down and contemplate the message in the words.

Collected Poems For Children
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Ted Hughes   Illustrator: Raymond Briggs  
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $15.00 (Hard Cover)   

The late Ted Hughes, former Poet Laureate of England, is perhaps best known to American readers as the former husband of Sylvia Plath. Therefore it may come as some surprise to discover this playful collection of over 250 kid-friendly poems. Hughes's subjects are mostly animals, both real and imaginary, ranging from the lowly worm and snail up through nobler mythical creatures. These poems are paired with lovely spare sketches by Raymond Briggs, the award-winning illustrator of such picture books as The Snowman. This is a fine choice for animal lovers and anyone who appreciates the beauty of language.

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.

The Owl and the Pussycat The Owl and the Pussycat
Ages: 10 & Up
Author: Tara Walker   Illustrator: Stephane Jorisch  
Kids Can Press, $9.95 (Hard Cover)   

"The Owl / and the Pussycat / went to sea / in a beautiful pea-green boat..." These lines open Edward Lear's classic children's poem, "The Owl and the Pussycat," happily re-issued as a picture book for a modern audience. While Lear's whimsical tale is familiar to previous generations, this particular version, part of the publishers Visions in Poetry series, is designed specifically for readers who have been raised on television, computers, and contemporary art. This is a gorgeously illustrated book that should appeal to readers young and old.

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