22 Works of Prized Poetry: NCTE's 2024 Notable Books of Poetry and Verse Novels for Kids

Fifteen outstanding books of poetry and seven novels in verse have been recognized as 2024 Notable Books. Selections include a range of formats—lively nonfiction, fantasy, and moving verse novels—written by familiar poets and debut authors.

Art from How to Write a Poem by Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido. Illustration by Melissa Sweet.
Courtesy of HarperCollins Children’s Books


In 1977, the NCTE Excellence in Children’s Poetry Award Committee was created to recognize the work of outstanding poets who write for children. Since then, in addition to naming an outstanding poet every two years, the committee generates annual notable lists of poetry and novels in verse.

This year, members of the committee are pleased to recognize fifteen outstanding books of poetry and seven novels in verse as 2024 Notable Books. Each of the books was published in 2023. Read and evaluated by every committee member, these selections are notable for their use of language, poetic devices, and application to children ages three to thirteen. The form or structure of the poems was evaluated to ensure that the mood and subject matter were accurately represented.

This year’s selections include a range of formats—lively nonfiction, fantasy, serious topics, reflective verse, and moving verse novels—written by familiar poets and debut authors. For past lists and other notable poetry resources, visit NCTE.

Notable Poetry Books

ALEXANDER, Kwame. An American Story. illus. by Dare Coulter. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316473125.
Alexander crafts a story about a teacher trying to help her students understand slavery from its African roots to America. Coulter's mixed-media illustrations portray the struggles of slaves transported working under harsh conditions in America. Alexander asks, “How do you tell an American story?" It's a story of struggle, of strength, of horror. It's a story of hope, a story of survival that must be told. He wonders, “How do you tell that story?/ About copper dreams/ wrapped in iron chains./ About working hard/ for long hours/ from can see/ to can’t./ For free.” Alexander’s message is contained in the student’s words to her teacher: “But, don’t you tell us to always speak the truth, Ms. Simmons, even when it’s hard?” An American Story can be part of a unit of study beyond the third grade.

ALEXANDER, Kwame & Deanna Nikaido. How to Write a Poemillus. by Melissa Sweet. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780063060906.
This creative picture book celebrates poetry and encourages young children to look at the world around them and write a poem. “Close your eyes, open the window/ of your mind, and climb out, like a seedling reaching for tomorrow.” Later on, “dive deep into the silent sea/ of your imagination/ to discover a cotton candy cavalcade of sounds/ words raining everywhere.” Sweet’s hand-lettered words glide across each page, enhancing the collage illustrations made from watercolor, gouache, mixed-media, handmade and vintage papers, and beach pebbles. This is the perfect title to read aloud a couple of times and invite children to do exactly what the poem says: ask a question, close your eyes, open your mind, imagine, dream, write from your heart, and let the words slide down into your pencil. Full of rich poetic language, this book should be in every classroom and library. 

BRAMER, Shannon. Robot, Unicorn, Queen: Poems for You and Me. illus. by Irene Luxbacher. Groundwood. ISBN 9781773066585.
Both playful and meditative, the poems on these pages invite readers to savor imagination, creativity, and childhood experiences that are universal. Each poem, mixed with the ordinary and the magical, invites readers to dream, pretend, delight, and discover the makings of joy and sorrow in childhood. A refreshing shift from the obligatory themed collection, page turn by page turn leads readers from poem to unrelated poem: starlings to robots; rain to guitars; broken treasure to Queen the cat; a sprinkler to a sandwich, to a simple moment of youthful freedom while riding a bike. Full of play and discovery, a child listens to a toad, practices piano, plays in the mud, and learns about trees, cars, birds, and stories through the joy of wonder and words. Beautifully illustrated with a dreamy, edgy style that has a collage feel as each page pops readers into the next, with anticipation.  

ELLIOTT, David. At the Polesillus. by Ellen Rooney. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536205992.
Elliott takes readers to both of the Earth’s poles to celebrate the diversity of animal life that thrives in the cold and desolate polar regions. Readers will gain a sense of wonder as they explore the Arctic and Antarctic land and seascapes, from the tiniest krill, which are “small but monumental,” to the grand emperor penguins, which are the “monarchs of a vast and frozen nation.” Elliott’s lyrical poetry brings the polar regions to life, and Rooney’s illustrations are visually stunning in capturing some of the Earth’s most magnificent creatures. 

FOGLIANO, Julie. All the Beating Hearts. illus. by Cátia Chien. Holiday House/Neal Porter. ISBN 9780823452163.
Each of us has a unique, beating heart that makes us different, but yet, somehow, also the same as the people around us. Fogliano’s contemplative poetry assumes a dreamlike, reflective stance, while Chien’s art illuminates the well-chosen words. Beginning where “each day starts/ with the sun/ and hopefully/ something to eat,”  readers journey through the highs and lows of a child’s day. Fogliano does not shy away from documenting the difficult moments that sometimes arise: “and some days we will curl up/ and wish to be/ any other place,” while the illustration shows an older person progressing from a cane, to a wheelchair, to a bed. The moments undulate from these universally sad memories to joyful ones, such as swimming, reading, and dancing. A memorable celebration of the gifts and unique stories each child brings, this book will be an important read-aloud for the beginning of the school year, or any time when a few quiet moments are needed.  

HARJO, Joy. Rememberillus. by Michaela Goade. Random House Studio. ISBN 9780593484845.
U.S. Poet Laureate Harjo personifies flora and fauna and celestial bodies with a gentle urging to remember the interconnectedness of the world and its inhabitants. The poet builds on the history of interrelatedness of humanity and earth, stemming from the day of one’s birth to adulthood. In the call to "Remember the plants, trees,/ animal life who all have their tribes,/ their families, their histories, too./ Talk to them, listen to them," readers are whisked off on a journey to explore the interconnected relationship of self to the world. Harjo creates such rich relationships within the personification of nature that readers will be pulled right in. Caldecott Medalist Goade weaves in an ancestral sense of place and pride in cultural identity, as well as artform, paying homage to Indigenous language, culture, and native lands. Hope, heart, and human connection are woven throughout this powerful story. 

HO, Joanna. Say My Nameillus. by Khoa Le. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780063205338.
Names express our identities. They carry personal, familial, cultural, and historical connections, alongside hopes and dreams. They give us a sense of who we are, of belonging, of where we are from, and of connection to our ancestors. Ho begins with a lyrical poem: “My name is full of/ tones and rhythms,/ melodies and harmonies,/ chords and cadences./ Each syllable,/ each sound,/ is a building block/ in an architecture/ constructed over oceans/ and across generations./ Say my name.” In the poems that follow, six children of Chinese, Tongan, Persian, Navajo, Mexican, and Ghanaian origins proudly introduce their names, which are interwoven with their ancestral and cultural identities. Le’s gorgeous folk art illustrations delineate the beauty of identities and cultural origins. The glossary provides a pronunciation guide with additional context about each child’s name and culture.  

JANECZKO, Paul B., ed. Where I Live: Poems About My Home, My Street, and My Townillus. by Hyewon Yum. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536200942.
A collection of 34 poems written by renowned poets, including Francisco X. Alarcón, Dave Crawley, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Nikki Grimes, Naomi Shihab Nye, Linda Sue Park, and Janet Wong. From a child’s point of view, the diverse selections, coupled with Yum's intricate colored pencil and watercolor illustrations, capture the beauty of ordinary lives in an apartment, farmhouse, playground, on the street, and in a neighborhood community. As the scenes unfold, a breakfast boss is preparing cereal and boiled eggs for her siblings; a solitary girl reads her latest chapter book on a rooftop at night; and children are playing soccer and drawing with chalk at a playground. Nature’s transformations are elegantly depicted, with trees changing colors through the seasons, a cat sitting on a grocery store window shelf, and winter snow blanketing a park. Everyday life is celebrated through the playful poems and engaging illustrations, eliciting a profound sense of belonging.  

LAROCCA, Rajani. Your One and Only Heart. illus. by Lauren Paige Conrad. Dial. ISBN 9780593326336.
Fourteen paired poems explain contrasting characteristics of the heart in this picture book: singular and cooperative, or simple and complex, as well as electric and muscular. The simple colorful collage illustrations will help young children understand each verse. For example, the poem titled "Your heart is hidden" reads, “Tucked in your chest/ between pillowy lungs/ in a protective cage of ribs./ Your heart is hidden because/ it’s so very/ vital.” The accompanying spread shows a child hiding among some plants. Then another illustration shows an interior view of where the heart is concealed inside our bodies. Another poem describes how our hearts are changeable according to our movements: “Your heart speeds up/ or slows down,/ squeezes more/ or less,/ working like a hidden engine/ or calmly beating/ while you rest.” There are diagrams with additional information, as well as back matter that shares more facts about our amazing hearts. 

LATHAM, Irene. The Museum on the Moon: The Curious Objects on the Lunar Surfaceillus. by Myriam Wares. Moonshower. ISBN 9781638192039.
This beautiful anthology of poems describes the collection of artifacts that remain on the lunar surface as a result of the Apollo moon missions. From astronaut footprints and the American flag to a variety of scientific tools, and even a few golf balls, the moon truly serves as a monument to human ingenuity and the desire to explore our universe. Latham’s exquisite sensory descriptions and Wares’s vivid illustrations help to bring the “Museum on the Moon” to life for space enthusiasts. 

PATEL-SAGE, Krina. Watch Me Bloom: A Bouquet of Haiku Poems for Budding NaturalistsLantana. ISBN 9781913747992.
Aristotle’s observation that, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,” surely inspires Patel-Sage’s Watch Me Bloom, in which 24 flowers pair with appropriate haiku. "Snowdrop" is a poem that observes, “Pushing up through snow,/ these delicate flowers are/ stronger than they look.” This haiku is strengthened by the author’s illustration of a young person in a wheelchair helping another young person build a snowman. The snowdrop flowers being more hearty than they look implies that the young person in the wheelchair is also hearty. “Foxglove” celebrates the flower with the poem “Little bee pockets,/ just right for hide and seek or/ games of peekaboo!” Bold illustrations accent each scene, and “Floral Fun Facts” add completeness to the text. Teachers can build cross-curricular units, combining science, language arts, and more. The book blends haiku with crisp illustrations and interesting facts. 

PEACOCK, Lou, sel. A Whale of a Time: Funny Poems for Each Day of the Year. illus. by Matt Hunt. Nosy Crow. ISBN 9798887770253.
Readers are treated to “a funny poem for each day of the year,” and the hefty book to prove that the collection will last for a full 365 days. In this weighty volume, Peacock selected lighthearted, silly, thoughtful, and, yes, funny poems for every single day of the year. Representing well-known poets, such as T.S. Eliot, Gwendolyn Brooks, Edward Lear, Michael Rosen, and Janet Wong, as well as poets that may be new to young readers, this collection will delight and inspire its audience. Beginning in January with, “The First Book” by Rita Dove, pausing in the spring for J. Patrick Lewis’s “Said the Toad,” and closing the year with Ogden Nash’s “Good Riddance But Now What?” this book also includes a rich collection of back matter including author, poem, and first line indexes. With its vibrant and joyful illustrations that perfectly accompany the poems, it is a perfect gift for young readers. Teachers and librarians will find the poems to be perfectly placed read-alouds to share throughout the year.  

TAYLOR, Sean. The Dream Train: Poems for Bedtime. illus. by Anuska Allepuz. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536228342.
This creative collection of bedtime poetry is warm and witty, gentle and humorous, and filled with exciting trips into and about dreamland. In repeating and rhythmic lines, "Here Comes The Night" hums to the reader: "Here comes the night/ Here come the birds,/ swooping home." Then, "Here comes a boy/ back with his mom" and "Here comes a star/ in the eyes of the boy/ back with his mom." Page by page, we sleepily follow as “ducks like to dream,” and “ducks love a doze,” flipping to the bubbly "We’re Different": "Mechanics know all about engines./ Children know all about games./ Gardeners put out seeds./ Firefighters put out flames./ . . . We’re different, it has to be said./ But one thing is true about all of us/ everyone goes to bed!” Here you will find poems about trains, dreams and flying carpets, rain, knitted blankets, and a cave bear’s snore. These pages are big, thick, and colorful, with gorgeous art that takes readers on a dreamlike and whimsical journey.  

WONG, Jack. When You Can Swim. Scholastic/Orchard. ISBN 9781338830965.
This enchanting poem evokes a profound sense of wonder, joy, confidence, and freedom to discover swimming in nature. The book begins with a caregiver’s promise to a young Asian girl: “When you can swim, first I’ll take you to the ocean.” As the narrative unfolds, a series of diverse characters take readers on captivating journeys of exploration in an ocean, pond, river, and lake. The lyrical prose, accompanied by exquisite pastel and watercolor illustrations, allows readers to view the water worlds through the characters’ eyes. Some are watching treetops while floating on their back, while others experience the thrill of diving off a bridge into the canal. The book culminates with an empowering message: “So swim, little one!” A young Asian girl, standing confidently at the poolside, receives encouragement from her caregiver to take the plunge. In an author’s note, Wong shares his childhood experiences as a person of color who felt uncomfortable swimming at the public pool. He emphasizes that the book is about more than swimming. It is also “about our ideas of the world” and “the freedom for us to choose these ideas for ourselves.”  

WYNTER, Anne. Nell Plants a Tree. illus. by Daniel Miyares. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062865779.
“Before a grip on a branch/ and a fall to the ground/ and a scrape/ and a leap/ and a reach for the top,/ . . .” So begins this poetic picture book detailing one small girl’s planting of a seed, following her as she tends to the growing/grown tree, weaving moments, days, and years of a family that finds quiet places to read, branches to climb, and shady spots to rest. The pages hold lilting, rhythmic phrases: “Before sacks of pecans/ and a crack and a crunch/ and a roll and a press/ and a mix and a pour/ and a peck in the oven,/ a shoo from the kitchen,/ a blue baking timer /that finally dings,” as Nell grows from a young girl to a grandmother, and her tree shelters and connects several generations. Miyares’s gorgeous, timeless illustrations match this melodic text from beginning to end. A joyful, thought-provoking celebration of nature, family, and the passage of time. 


Notable Verse Novels

ARANGO, Andrea Beatriz. Something Like Home. Random. ISBN 9780593566183.
A heartwarming and realistic story of seeking home and finding oneself in the process, with an endearing young protagonist who befriends a lost dog to help her find her way back to her parents. Arango uses verse to craft a moving story about Laura, who is living with her aunt while her parents heal from addiction. Laura feels uprooted and displaced from her family, but when she meets a little lost dog, it feels like fate brings them together. Heartrending scenes are made accessible through the powerful and well-chosen words Arango uses to convey emotion, “And I keep crying Mom into her hair/ Mom into her cheek/ Mom into her neck/ Mom. like I’ve wanted to say for hours/ and days/ and weeks.” This book will reach into the hearts of readers as it pulls them along on Laura’s journey to find home and herself amidst separation and loss.  

EDINGER, Monica & Lesley Younge. Nearer My Freedom: The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano by Himself. Zest. ISBN 9781728464077.
This breathtaking narrative in poetic verse depicts the harrowing life of enslaved seaman, Olaudah Equiano, as told by himself. The author's biographical account was formed into powerful found poetry by educators Edinger and Younge. In each poem, the enslaved life of Equiano is recounted with fervor and nail-biting suspense. The story depicts the evils of enslavement in America and the trade of human cargo, as well as all of the harrowing devastation Equiano endures while vehemently pursuing his freedom at all costs. The author’s recollection is vivid and alive as his words describe the very moment he was captured and kidnapped from his native tribal community on the continent of Africa, and each time he was auctioned and repeatedly sold as the woes of this systemic evil in American history unfolded. The educators craft Equiano’s words with precision and passion, transporting readers back to the docks where human cargo came face-to-face with passing promises of freedom and the continuous pursuit of hope to live as a free man. 

FARUQI, Reem. Call Me Adnan. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780063284944.
Adnan Zakir is obsessed with table tennis, and he doesn’t like to lose. In fact, Adnan dreams of making the Ultimate Table Tennis Championship. Adnan’s family supports his ambition to make it to the championship—particularly his little brother Rizwan, who wants to grow up to play table tennis, just like his older brother. When an unspeakable tragedy takes place, Adnan and his family must come together, cope with loss, and learn to regain hope. Will Adnan be able to pull through, after vowing never to play table tennis again? Faruqui’s novel in verse will captivate middle grade readers who will connect with Adnan, cheer him on, and support him during a time of powerful grief. Faruqui uses action-packed poetry to bring her characters to life and capture how important a simple game of table tennis can be to a young boy and his family. “In table tennis/ a flick of the wrist/ changes direction./ Adding spin/ making the ball move/ here/ there/ everywhere.”  

FRITZ, Joanne Rossmassler. Ruptured. Holiday House. ISBN 9780823452330.
Each summer, Claire’s family visits Crystal Harbor, ME, to eat lobster, go kayaking, visit the aquarium, and take boat rides. During lunch one day, her mom confesses a secret and then collapses on the floor unconscious. Claire’s world falls apart as her mom is rushed into emergency surgery for a ruptured brain aneurysm. Readers learn about memory loss, neuro ICU, physical therapy, and the ups and downs of healing. The secret Claire’s mom shared is eating away at her: “I’m restless./ Directionless./ Like the boats/ bobbing in the water,/ shifting with the slightest current." Lighthouses become a beacon for Claire, shining through the thick fog of darkness: “Lighthouses warn ships away from rocks,/ away from danger in a storm.” Claire realizes, “Light equals hope, the hope that/ Mom could/ live." This tender and heartfelt verse novel will give readers courage and love. 

FUSSNER, Kate. The Song of UsHarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063256941.
Fussner modernizes the ancient story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The main characters in this verse novel are seventh graders Olivia and Eden. Olivia is a serious member of the Poetry Club, a place to “work wonders with my words.” Eden hopes to be a musician. When Eden, the new girl, attends the Poetry Club, it’s "Love at First Sight." Olivia is open about being queer, but Eden has yet to make her own preference public. Therefore, she will be a couple with Olivia, but Olivia must not call her, let her friends know about this relationship, and absolutely not tell anyone that they are together. Jealousy rears its ugly head, but Olivia relies on poetry to attempt to win back Eden. In this novel for the upper middle grades, Fussner provides the perspective of two young adolescent girls struggling with issues that include jealousy, social pressure, commitment, and so much more.  

LAI, ThanhhàWhen Clouds Touch Us. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780063047006.
Lai has gifted readers a sequel to the award-winning verse novel Inside Out and Back Again. This narrative novel enables readers to revisit the scene and aftermath, two years after the family fled Vietnam as refugees following the Vietnam War. “Months later,/ thawed enough to re-ask,/ the answer silently had cemented./ Mother would not have/ shocked herself and us/ for a brief visi/ to a strange land./ We were here to stay.” The act of war devastates the familiarity and stability of life as usual and shreds the fabric of place and prosperity. The harshness of life and eruption of violence forces citizens to scatter like raindrops across the landscape, as millions of refugees seek refuge and solace outside of their native lands. The experience of Hà, the main character, and her family surfaces as they relive the trauma of starting over again, after creating a sense of home and normalcy in a new country as they grapple with customs and language unlike their native home. The poetic verse novel depicts the strength of family and friendship as refugee living unfolds and the hum of hope rises. 

MENDEZ, Jasminne. Aniana del Mar Jumps In. Dial. ISBN 9780593531815.
A worried mami prohibits her daughter from swimming because of a tragedy in her own family. Aniana del Mar likes to swim. However, she can’t let mami, who was present when her brother (hermano) drowned during a hurricane, know. “Mami doesn’t like it/ that I swim underwater/ so far away from her,” even though Aniana’s papi taught Aniana to swim underwater. Mami fears la mar (the sea) "will swallow me up/ the way it swallowed/ her brother,/ her house and/ her village/ during a storm.” Aniana secretly attends swim practice and meets with papi’s help. Aniana’s mami finds out and is furious. When Ariana is struck by juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Mami believes God punishes Ariana for lying. This middle grade book paints a realistic, multicultural picture. Mendez uses haiku, tanka, and concrete poems shared in Spanish and English to illustrate Aniana’s relationship with her mother.

NCTE Excellence in Children’s Poetry Award Committee: Mary-Kate Sableski (chairperson), Willeena Booker, Ryan Colwell, Deanna Day, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Joe Pizzo, Junko Sakoi.

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