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What to Read Next: Kids' Books for National Poetry Month
April is a great time to share poetry with your kids. Since 1996, the Academy of American Poets has chosen this month to celebrate the art form and outstanding American poets and to inspire kids, teens, adults to read and create poetry. You can learn more about it at Poets.org, where you can sign up to receive a poem a day for a whole year -- for free!
Kids get healthy doses of poetry from the start in toddler fare such as Sandra Boynton's colorful, rhyming picture books and through Dr. Seuss' fanciful wordplay. But don't stop there! Short-form poetry can be a great way for reluctant readers to fall in love with words and get hooked on reading. And teens may find they can devour novels in verse quicker than prose fiction, as they grapple with adolescent issues in an entirely different way.
Here are this month's picks of titles old and new, from funny rhymes to an intense novel in free verse:
- For kids age 4 to 6, select a classic collection by the late poet-illustrator Shel Silverstein, such as Falling Up or Where the Sidewalk Ends (just out in a 40th-anniversary hardcover edition). A keen observer, Silverstein offers whimsical, imaginative, comically illustrated takes on everyday situations and conundrums that will resonate with both kids and adults. There's also his rhyming-verse picture book A Giraffe and a Half (now in a 50th-anniversary hardcover edition), the zany, cumulative tale of a boy and his giraffe.
- For middle-grade readers age 7 to 12, check out Karma Wilson's Outside the Box, engagingly illustrated by Diane Goode. The book is dedicated to Silverstein and has the look and feel of one of his collections, with expressive, often funny line drawings enlivening and amplifying short poems that capture kid-size reflections and ponderings. Another collection, poet-illustrator Douglas Florion's Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles, seriously lays on the funny and features more doodle-like and thicker-lined drawings that underscore the comic predicaments people, animals, and monsters have gotten themselves into.
- For teens age 13 to 17, there's The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe, a story told in verse and narrated by a 16-year-old girl who's living with a severely autistic -- and violent -- 13-year-old brother. This could be a good choice for the siblings of autistic kids or other children growing up with differences. Steven's behavior is extreme, but even readers who haven't experienced Daisy's situation will be able to relate to her concerns. And, being in verse, it makes for a quick read.