There’s April in Paris. April is also School Library Month, National Autism Awareness Month, the start of a brand-new Major League Baseball season, and according to T. S. Eliot, it’s the cruelest month around. But what really gets us stoked is that April is National Poetry Month. (The Academy of American Poets launched it in 1996.)
To help celebrate this month’s versified event, we asked some of the bards whom we most admire to weigh-in on their five favorite collections for kids. We’ll be posting at least one new list each week of the month. And there’s no better way to kick off the series than with our nation’s current children’s poet laureate, J. Patrick Lewis. Here are Pat’s picks:
X. J. Kennedy and Dorothy Kennedy, eds. Talking Like the Rain: A Read-to-Me Book of Poems. Little, Brown. 1992 (pap. 2010). With impeccable selections by the Kennedys and delightful illustrations by Jane Dyer, this lavish anthology of children’s poems deserves pride of place in every elementary classroom and on every child’s bookshelf.
Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, eds. The Rattle Bag. Faber and Faber. 1982. For its most welcome verse surprises on virtually every page—most of them unknown on this side of the pond—The Rattle Bag remains the very best collection of poems for older children and young adults. And it is chugging along even after 30 years.
Jack Prelutsky, ed. The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. Random. 1983. A newer and shorter Prelutsky/Random House anthology, The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury, 1999, is fine in its own right, but it does not surpass this bedrock miscellany of 572 “poems for today’s child,” evoked in Arnold Lobel’s signature illustrations.
Paul B. Janeczko, ed. Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets. Candlewick. 2002. This unusual collection features children’s poems alongside commentary by the poets themselves. If you ever wondered what advice poets might have for beginning writers, Seeing the Blue Between is an invaluable primer.
Lee Bennett Hopkins, ed. Ring Out Wild Bells: Poems about Holidays and Seasons, Harcourt. 1992. No one should be asked to choose the “best” anthology by the indefatigable Hopkins, but Ring Out Wild Bells may be primus inter pares. Holiday poems—classics and some that bid fair to become classics—fill the pages of this excellent garland to the seasons.