Stack Overflow: Poetry for Kids

Stack Overflow: 11 Poetic Stories for Kids

Books Columns Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow: Poetry for Kids

Last week I shared a few books of poetry for kids for National Poetry Month, mostly focusing on books that were poetic but not necessarily rhyming verse. This week, I’ve got more rhymes and some books that I’d consider visual poetry!

Old MacDonald Had a Boat

Old MacDonald Had a Boat by Steve Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban

This followup to Old MacDonald Had a Truck (see here) puts Old Mac and Mrs. Mac to work building a boat. (Yeah, the title is kind of a spoiler.) First they have a truck, then a saw, hammer, torch, and so on, with each verse of the rhyme changing the end of the familiar “E-I-E-I-O” to some other rhyme (like “E-I-E-I-TOE!” when Old Mac drops the hammer on his foot). By the end, though, they’ve got a lovely motor boat to take for a spin on the lake, showing that they may be old but they’re still young at heart.

Mighty Mighty Construction Site

Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

You’re probably familiar with Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, which puts all the various big trucks to bed at the end of a long day. Well, it’s time to get up and get ready for the day! Follow along with Cement Mixer, Bulldozer, Excavator, Crane Truck, and Dump Truck as they build a huge skyscraper in rhyming verse. But the job’s a little too big, so they call in five more mighty trucks to assist. Each of them pairs up with one of the others—if your kids are fascinated with construction sites, they’ll love seeing how the various trucks work together to assemble a building.

Goodnight World

Goodnight World by Debi Gliori

This bedtime book zips around the town saying goodnight to everything and everyone in a little rhyme, from trucks and planes to animals in the zoo to mom and dad. There’s not a lot of story, so it’s mostly just a poem to read while you’re getting ready for bed.

Hello Hello

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

Brendan Wenzel’s They All Saw a Cat won a Caldecott Honor in 2016 with its depictions of the same cat seen through many eyes. His latest book is a rhyming verse of a long chain of animals greeting each other by naming interesting and prominent features. From common to endangered, the animals are lined up so that each one shares some features with the next, in a sort of fun game of animal telephone: the chameleon’s long tongue is like the aardvark’s, who shares big ears with the Senegal galago, who has hands and a tail like the proboscis monkey, whose nose mirrors the elephant seal’s. And so it goes. The back of the book includes a note about endangered species, and also includes a list of all the animals pictured in the chain (without which I wouldn’t have known about the Senegal galago, for example!).The words are simple but the illustrations and chain of creatures are gorgeous.

Imagine That!

Imagine That! by Yasmeen Ismail

Little Lila is off in her own world—as her mother tries to get her ready for a trip to visit Grandpa, she sees Lila staring off into space, doing nothing … but Lila is actually wrestling an octopus, or performing in a circus, or racing a chariot. Lila expresses her imagination in little rhymes, and eventually her Grandpa joins her on her flights of fancy. It’s a cute book, with more exuberant illustrations as I’ve come to expect from Yasmeen Ismail.


Llamaphones by Janik Coat

Okay, so these aren’t just rhymes—they’re homophones—and it’s not really a story, but I love these big chunky board books from Janik Coat. As with Hippopposites and RhymocerosLlamaphones pairs words together, all featuring illustrations with the same animal demonstrating the words. In this case, the words are all homophones: wait/weight, piece/peace, flower/flour. Each two-page spread features a pair of homophones, and the (usually) dark green llama is somehow made into an example of the word. There are a few fun features, like rotating clock hands, a flap to lift, and some pages with a little more texture, but it’s mostly flat illustrations. It’s a fun way to teach kids what homophones are, and get them thinking about words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings.

Wee Sister Strange

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illustrated by K. G. Campbell

Wee Sister Strange lives out in the woods, talks to the owls, and rides on the back of a bear … but what is she searching for? As it turns out, she’s looking for a bedtime story … and eventually finds you, listening to the story about her. Besides the wonderfully weird tale of this wild girl and its wrap-around-to-the-beginning ending, I also loved the verse, which often used slant rhyme instead of perfect rhymes, making it a little less sing-songy than some rhyming books. Campbell’s illustrations do a great job of capturing this fearless little girl as she prowls and swims and climbs.

Moon cover

Moon by Britta Teckentrup

Britta Teckentrup has done some fun seek-and-find books like Where’s the Pair? and The Odd One Out, both of which feature little rhyming poems that instruct you about what to find. Moon is not a hidden picture book, but instead has cut-outs in the pages so that as you read the book, the moon gradually waxes and wanes. Various creatures populate the book, going about their nighttime business under the phases of the moon.

Mama, Is It Summer Yet?

Mama, Is It Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure

This book is a non-rhyming poem, a sort of call-and response, as a little boy asks his mom “Mama, is it summer yet?” and she responds by naming the signs that the seasons are changing. The book features McClure’s cut-paper artwork, which is always astounding in its details.

This Story Is for You

This Story Is for You by Greg Pizzoli

“You’re the only one in the world with your eyes, your nose, your fingers, and your smile.” So begins a story that is just for you, a story about friendship and enjoying time together but also appreciating time apart. The text in this book doesn’t rhyme, but it has the feel of a poem with the repeated refrain, and I like the tenderness of the verse.

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Lee White

There’s a man living at the tip-top of a steep hill, but when the wind picks up, things get a little out of hand: “the shutters banged, the boards bend, the table tipped, and the tea spilled…” and so on. Down below, a little girl named Kate hears the man’s cry: “What to do?” And since she can’t stop the wind, she helps the man plant trees and creates a windbreak, which eventually does the job. The story does have some rhyme, but it mostly works with a lot of overlapping repetition that really helps you feel how the wind is just wearing the man down.

The author’s note at the back explains a little more about trees and the wonderful things they do—in addition to serving as windbreaks, making this also a great book for Earth Day coming up later this month. It is a little strange for Kate to head up to the hill to meet some stranger by herself, so … take that with a grain of salt, but I like the overall sentiment about people helping out their neighbors and becoming good friends over time. The illustrations are charming, and show the trees growing, Kate growing up, and the man growing old.

Disclosure: I received review copies of these books.

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