Best Poetry 2023 | SLJ Best Books

With beautiful language and imagery, these eight poems teach children everything from animal facts to how to write a poem, while also allowing readers to sit back and have a good laugh.


Alexander, Kwame & Deanna Nikaido. How to Write a Poem. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Harper-Collins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780063060906.
Gr 3 Up–In this title written as a step-by-step guide, the authors teach the art of poetry by tasking students with exploring nature, questions, and ideas in unique ways. Both a teaching tool for writing poetry as well as an ode to poetry itself.

Ashman, Linda. Champion Chompers, Super Stinkers and Other Poems by Extraordinary Animals. illus. by Aparna Varma. Kids Can. ISBN 9781525303500.
Gr 3-5–Poetry meets nonfiction in this skillfully designed and fun-to-read compendium. The intriguing theme of “astounding feats and features” of animals and the nice flow of text invite reading. This multifaceted package belongs on science shelves.

Dotlich, Rebecca Kai & George Heard. Welcome to the Wonder House. illus. by Deborah Freedman. Astra/Wordsong. ISBN 9781635927627.
Gr 4-6–This collection of 29 brief poems and numerous mixed-media illustrations is arranged into 12 “rooms,” topics that range from curiosity and wishes to science, nature, and ordinary things. Crisp and concise, with internal rhymes and alliteration, these poems beg to be shared and read aloud.

Engle, Margarita. The Sculptors of Light: Poems About Cuban Women Artists. illus. by Cecilia Puglesi. Reycraft. ISBN 9781478879602.
Gr 3-5–Eleven poems of varying forms about Cuban women artists showcase the achievements of their subjects across a variety of disciplines, including handcraft, photography, sculpture, and more. A thoughtful, lovely collection for anyone who has an interest in the breadth of women’s artistic achievements.

Harjo, Joy. Remember. illus. by Michaela Goade. Random House Studio. ISBN 9780593484845.
PreS-Gr 3–U.S. Poet Laureate Harjo (Mvskoke Nation) urges readers to remember they are of the earth, indebted to and intertwined with the natural world. Goade’s (Tlingit) watercolor illustrations incorporate icons of Northwest Coast art. This paean to nature and Indigenous culture belongs in every school and public library.

Harris, Chris. My Head Has a Bellyache: And More Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups. illus. by Andrea Tsurumi. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316592598.
Gr 2-6–This poetry collection includes words of wisdom, absurdist digressions, and laughs galore. In the tradition of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, poems cleverly tackle themes both serious and silly, and are paired with cartoonish black-and-green digital illustrations. An appealingly ridiculous book, recommended for poetry and humor fans.

Schechter, Robert. The Red Ear Blows Its Nose: Poems for Children and Others. illus. by S. Federico. Word Galaxy. ISBN 9781773491349.
Gr 1-5–This volume of playful poetry includes entries that twist up language, sensory poems about the world and our bodies, and several recurring themes. Monochromatic pen-and-ink illustrations are bold and full of movement. A collection sure to appeal to a wide range of poetry lovers.

Thakur, Sophia. Wearing My Mother’s Heart. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536230161.
Gr 9 Up–Free-form and rhyming verse poems make up this collection of reflections on tradition, family, and friendship; perseverance and resilience; and first love, grief, belief, and resolution. This book will resonate with readers who enjoy the poems of Naomi Shihab Nye and Elizabeth Acevedo.

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