Best Poetry 2021 | SLJ Best Books

For the first time in years, we created a breakout list of poetry titles. These six selections include the latest from powerhouse poets Joyce Sidman, Jack Prelutsky, and Nikki Grimes.



Ak’abal, Humberto. Aquí era el paraíso/Here Was Paradise:
Selección de poemas de Humberto Ak’abal/Selected Poems of Humberto Ak’abal.

illus. by Amelia Lau Carling. Groundwood. ISBN 9781773064956.
Gr 6 Up –The Guatemalan and Mayan poet delves into the past to capture the heart of his childhood home in the Maya K’iche’ village of Momostenango, Guatemala. Love, family, and the power of poetry are all explored in this imagery-laden collection of verses. The earthy illustrations by Guatemalan American artist Lau Carling add to the stirring work and its indelible impact on readers.

Ferrada, María José. Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile.
illus. by María Elena Valdez. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802855671.
Gr 3 Up –Of the 3,197 people determined dead or disappeared during the dictatorial rule of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, 34 were children under the age of 14. Each of these poems, translated from the original Spanish, centers on a child: Soledad, who loves raindrops; Hugo, who wished to be a poet; and more. Soft illustrations emphasize the children’s innocence. This is a poignant tribute to these young victims of political violence.

Grimes, Nikki. Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance.
illus. by various. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781681199443.
Gr 7 Up –Grimes adeptly uses a poetic form known as the golden shovel to honor and shed light on the lives of women poets during the Harlem Renaissance. She presents each poet’s original work, then her own poem in conversation. Each pairing is accompanied by a remarkable illustration by a contemporary Black woman artist.

Prelutsky, Jack. Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast: And Other Tasty Poems.
illus. by Ruth Chan. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. ISBN 9780063019133.
Gr 3-7 –Prelutsky’s latest covers everything from feelings to unusual beasts and monsters. Chan’s expressive black-and-white drawings are just the right touch. Between them, they present a silly, sweet, hilarious, and scrumptious collection with a range of poetic forms. Kids will gobble this up!

Sidman, Joyce. Hello, Earth! Poems to Our Planet.
illus. by Miren Asiain Lora. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802855282.
Gr 3-5 –Newbery Honor–winning poet Sidman was inspired to write this stunning tribute to our planet by Asiain Lora’s majestic (and clever) paintings. The verses are spare but stirring. Topics covered range from plate tectonics and continental drift to the human impact on the planet’s ecosystems. A subtle but perfect way to encourage children to appreciate their home and their responsibility to it.

Whitney, Diana, ed. You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves .
illus. by various. Workman. ISBN 9781523510993.
Gr 6 Up –This compilation of 68 poems features a range of formats (from concrete to sonnet) and entries by creators as diverse as Amanda Gorman, Maya Angelou, and Instagram poet Kate Baer. The selections are organized by feelings and emotions (“Loneliness,” “Longing,” “Rage”) and are illustrated by three phenomenal women artists. This volume is meant to be shared not only among young women who are coming of age but also those who support them.

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