Today I had the opportunity to do one of my favorite things: share a beautiful book with beautiful words to beautiful second graders who in turn did some beautiful writing of their own. In a previous post, I shared some of my non-fiction favorites for young readers along with a rationale of why reading together as a family is important. Today I’m going to share a few more favorites that fall under the umbrella of poetry. Some are poetry books while others are picture books where authors make such rich, intentional, artistic decisions that the line is easily blurred.
1. In November by: Cynthia Rylant
This is the book I shared with second graders earlier today but have also used with fifth graders and adults who are curious enough to read what’s on my coffee table at home. Beautiful, warm, impressionist style paintings invite readers of all ages in while the repeated line, “In November,” serves as an anchor for rich, easily relatable description. Here are a few favorite lines that recommend themselves.
“In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones. WIthout their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still.”
“In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and a pumpkin smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning, can pull everyone from bed in a fog. Food is better in November than any other time of the year.”
“In November, at winter’s gate, the stars are brittle. The sun is a sometime friend. And the world has tucked her children in, with a kiss on their heads, till spring.”
As I mentioned earlier, this is the type of book that also lends itself to more writing. Choose a different month and compose new lines together as a family following the “In _________” style of Cynthia Rylant or create your own In November lines together to create your own litany of gratefulness for the month we’re currently in.
2. Color me a Rhyme by: Jane Yolen
Another beautiful mentor text that inspires children to create poetry of their own. In this text, Yolen uses the color wheel to create nature poems that celebrates every shade and hue.
I want to take a bite
out of that sunset sky,
letting the orange juices
run down my chin,
spitting out the pulp
onto the rocks below.
Three separate books that use the same style–beautiful surreal paintings that melt into one another and a repeated phrase that invite children to do just what the title states, “Imagine…” Beautiful phrases are translated into beautiful images that draw readers of all ages in.
4. Up North at the Cabin by: Marsha Chall
A memoir-like picture book once again anchored by a repeated line, poetic description, and soft, warm, impressionist illustrations that match the nostalgic nature of the text.
“So when I’m far away from summer, when frosted windows cloud the sun, I close my eyes and once again I am up north at the cabin.”
As a teacher, I was always reluctant to share the idea of acrostic poetry. If not approached carefully, I felt that it did nothing more than promote trite, meaningless phrases. These two texts, embrace this style, but show how it can be done meaningfully as a container to foster thoughtful decisions about language.
6. Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky by: Georgia Heard
A book of poetry written for animal lovers of all ages. Read it without showing the picture/saying the name of the animal as a riddle to encourage children to piece together word clues. For example:
_________ wears a mask
as if it’s Halloween
and tiptoes through our yard
while I watch through the screen.
Clank falls the garbage-can lid to the ground,
as if _______ is saying, “Trick or treat!”
But the cans are empty, no food to be found.
_________ walks away on tiny feet.
7. While not found in a specific book, the following from Maya Angelou is a poem I’ve shared and loved with children and adults alike. Read it and perhaps illustrate it together with your children while enjoying the tasty treat she compares loving language to.
I Love the Look of Words
By: Maya Angelou
Popcorn leaps, popping from the floor
of a hot black skillet
and into my mouth.
Black words leap,
snapping from the white
page. Rushing into my eyes. Sliding
into my brain which gobbles them
the way my tongue and teeth
chomp the buttered popcorn.
When I have stopped reading,
ideas from the words stay stuck
in my mind, like the sweet
smell of butter perfuming my
fingers long after the popcorn
I love the book and the look of words
the weight of ideas that popped into my mind.
I love the tracks
of new thinking in my mind.