A Child's Garden of Poetry Movie Poster Image

A Child's Garden of Poetry



Short Emmy winner sure to grow a new crop of poetry lovers.
  • Review Date: November 4, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 27 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Not only will kids learn individual poems from great authors -- Langston Hughes, Li Bai, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and more -- but they'll also hear elementary school kids expressing what they love about poetry, how they listen to poetry to get more than the surface meaning, and even how to count out the syllables in a haiku. One child recites a poem in Chinese, then English. Another uses sign language. A class is shown rehearsing the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.

Positive messages

Even the very young can identify with the great poets and form their own connections with the art form.

Positive role models

This production carefully selects kids from all backgrounds, who all express themselves beautifully on what they love about poetry. Kids are sure to find someone to identify with.

Violence & scariness

One poem talks about the end of the buffalo and the people who saw them.

Sexy stuff

Mentions of romantic love and lovers in poems and in a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, where kids giggle about it.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Emmy winner for children's programming is just fine for the preschool set, but elementary-aged kids will get the most out of it. Not only will kids hear some great poems, but they'll see kids express what they love about them, how they listen to poetry, and even how to count out the syllables of a haiku. The content is very mild. Some poems mention romance and one uses the word "lovers," and another poem laments the loss of the buffalo.

Kids say

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What's the story?

A CHILD'S GARDEN OF POETRY weaves together poems from great writers (Langston Hughes, Li Bai, Matsuo Basho, Robert Frost, and more) and many interviews with children that explore their experience of poetry. Some poems are read by acclaimed actors and musicians, and some are read by the poets themselves, taken from old recordings. Animation accompanies many poems, as do the words posted large on the screen. In one scene, a class learns the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet; in another, singer Natalie Merchant sets the poem "Calico Pie" to jaunty music. One child reads a poem in Chinese, then English. Another uses sign language while a poem is read aloud.

Is it any good?


What a lovely treat. And just like many good poems, this DVD is brief (27 minutes) and dense with meaning, encouraging viewers to go back again and again to get more out of it.


When you look at the packaging touting a laundry list of artists reading the poems, you expect them to steal the show. But thankfully it's the kids who are the stars here, along with the poems themselves. The young interviewees highlight the poems in ways kids will relate to and express themselves beautifully. The animation keeps it simple while still being lovely, and the music Merchant sets to the poem "Calico Pie" is a rollicking reminder that poetry can be as fun as it is meaningful.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about taking the time to enjoy poetry. Do you read it as a family? If not, did this DVD encourage you to incorporate more poetry into evening story time?

  • The featured kids all said something different about poetry. Are you excited to learn more now that you see other kids enjoying and understanding poetry?

  • Which poem did you like the best? Why? Which poem made you stop and think about what it meant?

Movie details

DVD release date:November 8, 2011
Cast:Carrie Fisher, Claire Danes, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director:Amy Schatz
Studio:HBO Home Video
Genre:Family and Kids
Character strengths:Communication
Run time:27 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Parent Written bySummer's Child November 26, 2013

Absolutely Amazing & Beautiful Family Entertainment!

This video is absolutely wonderful! The beautifully artful animations of classic poems read by today's leading actors is a perfect way to get kids interested in and loving poetry. This is also one of our favorite videos to watch as a family, and it's topics and songs have been re-sung and recited in our family long after the video. What an excellent way to make the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes and many more real and accessible to kids! Grandpa and dad have even paused and been drawn into this video, and my son and daughter ask to hear the silly poems over and over - and dance and sing to the songs! The only part I don't love is the excerpts with real children discussing why they love poetry. The kids are from elite NYC schools, and their explanations are a bit over the top. I would have rather had the time used for another animation. However, my kids seem to like the real-kid approach, the kids are great role models, and we have been inspired to try some of the hands-on poetry approaches of these schools by watching these short segments. This was created in part by HBO family, and if you like it, I'd also check out their Classical Baby series - more excellent poems and songs.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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