A Last Minute Fix for National Poetry Month

by Amy Kraft on April 30, 2013

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Leave it to me to finally post about Nation Poetry Month just minutes before it ends. I know you’ve spent every April day lounging around reading poetry to one another, but if there’s a chance that you aren’t all poetry-ed out, here are some books for your enjoyment.

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I’d heard of Jack Prelutsky for a number of years, but am embarrassed to say that I never read his work until HarperCollins recently loaded me up with three of his books. Growing up, I was a Shel Silverstein fanatic, and Jack Prelutsky triggers all the same pleasure centers in my brain. His poetry is goofy and clever and clearly has broad kid appeal. Two of his collections, The New Kid on the Block and A Pizza the Size of the Sun remind me of the long afternoons I spent reading Where the Sidewalk Ends. These are books that you can pop open to any random page and have a laugh. For example:

Do Not Approach an Emu

Do not approach an emu,

the bird does not esteem you.

It wields a quick and wicked kick

that’s guaranteed to cream you.

Stardines Swim High Across the Sky: and Other Poems is a lovely picture book where Jack Prelutsky’s poems are accompanied by gorgeous photo illustrations by Carin Berger. The book is like a cabinet of curiosities to peruse, telling tales of creatures like Plandas and Jollyfish and Slobsters and Braindeer.

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A poetry compilation for animal lovers is the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry, edited by U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. It’s a gigantic coffee table book filled with luscious animal photography — I’m such a sucker for that stuff — that’s paired with poems from tons of well known names, including Robert Frost, (my fave) Calef Brown, Jane Holen, What Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and yes, Jack Prelutsky.

Sea Jelly by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

It’s not made of jelly; it isn’t a fish.

Mostly it drifts, but can move with a swish.

It doesn’t have lungs or a brain; most can’t see.

It captures its dinner tentacularly.

Named after a Gorgon who turned men to stone,

It’s best if you leave this Medusa alone.

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OK, people, I can’t believe I’m saying this either, but Jeff Foxworthy has written a book of poetry that’s actually kinda cute. Everything in Dirt on My Shirt should be read in Jeff Foxworthy’s voice for maximum effect:

Snakes Alive!

I looked out the window and saw a snake

Crawling around in the yard

My dad tried to find it, but it got away

I don’t think he looked very hard.

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A Poem as Big as New York City: Little Kids Write About the Big Apple is less a book of poetry than a beautiful collaborative art project that just happened to take a book-shaped form. This project from the Teachers and Writers Collaborative sewed together hundreds of lines of poetry written by NYC students into a tapestry of a poem that captures what it’s like to live in a place with so many sounds and sights and voices. Here’s an excerpt (but close your eyes and picture it with stunning collage-style art of the city:

Where I’m from,

there is a poem that jumps

inside a yellow cab–

ZOOM! WHOOSH!

All around New York City!

On top of the taxi is a flashing message for all to see:

People of the city, dream BIG,

dream BIGGER than a poem

that splats itself in bubble gum

across the trains

and break dances

to the pitter-patter of drums

and the bongo beats below

coming from the subway!

This books makes me want to give my city a hug. I love student work, and to see it brought together so artfully and creatively is a treat to share with my little New Yorkers.

OK, so I missed April. It turns out you can read poetry in other months, too, and I recommend doing so.

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