Category Archives: Poetry

A Different Pond












A Different Pond
by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui
Capstone Young Readers, 2017
2018 Caldecott Honor Book

A touching story of a Vietnamese refugee and his family surviving in America.  Working two jobs, he also takes his son fishing to ensure they have dinner. Written in brief, poetic snippets, the reader learns of how it felt to have been in the war and how it feels to speak with a heavy accent:

A kid at my school said
my dad’s English sounds like
a thick, dirty river.

But to me his English
sounds like gentle rain.

When the boy wants to help, but feels uncomfortable hooking a minnow, the dad smiles and respects his son’s decision. A poignant glimpse inside a refugee’s family’s experience.  Backmatter provides more details on the family’s entry into America.

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by Matt De La Pena, illustrated by Loren Long
P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018

Award winning Matt De La Pena captures the essence of love shared between people in each verse in his book, Love. And illustrator Loren Long expands and enriches each page with his own scenes showing love, like when a child offer’s his hot dog to an older gentle with crutches or a father and daughter dancing on the roof of their trailer.  The book is chock full of love throughout. In bright, glorious colors and soft, poetic descriptions, readers, without knowing, absorb multiple examples of love on each page. Some scenes are endearing, some are regular, like playing in the streets. Some are unhappy, like when there’s an argument.  Love depicts a wide array of moments of love among family, friends and neighbors.

“Your loved ones will stand there like
puddles beneath their umbrellas, …”

“A love that wakes at dawn and
rides to work on the bus.”

Rendered in poetry and colorful action scenes that often jump off the page, Love will expand a reader’s understanding and vocabulary about love.

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Before She Was Harriet












Before She Was Harriet
by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome
Holiday House, 2017

A brilliantly told story that introduces Harriet Tubman, best known as a Conductor in the  Underground Railroad.  Written in brief, open verse, the story opens with her twilight years, and works its way back to when Harriet worked as a suffragist, when she was “General Tubman”, Union Spy, and the many roles she played in history.

“a wisp of a woman
with the courage
of a lion.”

Illustrated in loose, yet vivid, colors, one can ‘feel’ her story.  The book will fuel a curiosity in readers to want to know more about this American hero.

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The Class

The Class
by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kimberly Gee
Beach Lane Books, 2016

Shared in a lyrical voice, The Class shares how 20 different children prepare for their first day of class.  The illustrations show 20 different homes, 20 different families, 20 different personalities and 20 different responses to school’s first day.  Illustrator Kimberly Gee had to use a spreadsheet to keep everyone in the correct clothes, with consistent personalities and family members.  Nearly every reader will share something in common with some of the kids.  It’s fun to follow one child at a time through the book to see what their experience was like; it’s like a big puzzle. It can easily be used as a primer to teach about emotions they may experience on their upcoming first day, and how they might feel in class with 20 kids all day.

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Take Heart, My Child, A Mother’s Dream

Take Heart, My Child, A Mother’s Dream
by Ainsley Earhardt, illustrated by Jaime Kim
Simon & Schuster, 2016

A beautiful book for a child or even an adult going through tough times and needs inspiration.

Written with a soft, lyrical rhyme, the story is a mother’s words to her daughter.  It opens wide the universe with loving affirmations, insights, encouragement and inspiring images. A gentle story: we float on a butterfly sea, run up to a polka-dot tree, and dream in a moon made of flowers.

“May you strive to be happy
Change your course if you’re not
Embrace the world’s colors
Colors others forgot.”

A comforting story illustrated with inspiring images.

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Flashlight Night










Flashlight Night
by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Fred Koehler
Boyds Mills Press, 2017

A story for those who dare to adventure. The words, done in rhyme, set up the ‘scare’ and the illustrations keep readers turning the pages to see what is next, imagining what it might be like for them.

In this story, a brother, sister and their little brother are outside in their treehouse at night. The older brother uses the light to make everything appear scarier, leaving the rest to the others’ imaginations. The flashlight,

“leads you past old post and rail
alongside a long-forgotten trail
into woods no others dare,
for fear of what is waiting there.”

This story’s action takes place outside the treehouse.  Illustrations show what could be in the shadows, like tigers.  They explore water, underbrush, walls and halls where wolves and lions and skulls and bones might lurk. They travel to foreign shores, where pirates and octopi threaten the trio.

After the scary stories are shared, we see the trio in the tree house and it’s lights out.  In the shadows we see the little brother smiling and the tiger below preparing itself for another adventure. While the story threatens danger, the characters are always safe.

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Little Excavator












Little Excavator
by Anna Dewdney
Viking, 2017

Written in rhyme, big rigs drive through town to a new project they’ll undertake:

Here come the BIG RIGS,
rolling down the street.
Thumpa-thumpa bumpa-bumpa

Little Excavator is brought along, for his special job. The dozer knocks down walls, but when Little Excavator tries, he falls.  Loader lifts trash into a truck, but when Little Excavator tries, he falls.  No matter how hard he tries, he just isn’t big enough to help.  The Big Rig tell him when he grows up he can help.  But for the last part of the project, all the Big Rigs are just too big, and Little Excavator gets to shine.

A fun read, lots of rhyme and onomatopoeias makes this an interactive book where the youngest can ‘read’ all the sounds!

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Grandma’s Tiny House












Grandma’s Tiny House, A Counting Story!
by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Priscilla Burris
Charlesbridge, 2017

This counting story is perfect for large families, where everyone piles into Grandma’s house for the holidays.  Author JaNay Brown-Wood creatively crafted a story starting with one grandma, two turkeys and three neighbors and with scrumptious smells, slapping high-fives, and mini stampedes, she cleverly moves up through “Nine chatting aunties”, “thirteen thrilled nieces” and “fifteen hungry grandkids”.  But, “How will they all eat in this too-tiny place?”  One of the clever grandkids has just the answer!  A fun, family story kids will want to hear again and again, if only to find themselves in the pictures!

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Thelma the Unicorn












Thelma the Unicorn
by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, Inc., 2017

Thelma yearns to be a unicorn, while her friend Otis says she’s perfect the way she is.  When she ties a carrot on her head, an accident sprinkles pink paint and sparkles on her and she looks like a unicorn.  Suddenly all her dreams come true and she is famous.  But when the crowds never leave her alone, so she can just be herself, she rethinks the importance of being a unicorn and what being a unicorn can bring.

Written in rhyme it’s almost sugary sweet, almost a lesson, but not quite on either.  It’s a full rounded story that does deliver a message in and among all Thelma’s excitement and challenges. A fun read.

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My Thumb












My Thumb

by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Rich Deas
Feiwel and Friends, 2016

Written by Newbery Award winning author Karen Hesse, this story covers the many, many ways a young girl loves her thumb—and it’s all in rhyme!  Delightful to the ear it shares positive and affirming words for any young readers who love their thumb.

I love my thumb.  I truly do.
It tastes of pears and carrot stew.
It’s like a hug, an “I love you.”

Of course, loving her thumb as much as she does, she sometimes finds it difficult to do certain things, like run, play music or eat gum.  But she knows she’d feel glum without it and accepts any limitations.  It ends with all the positive attributes the thumb provides her.

This book is perfect for both child who enjoy their thumbs and parents who think thumb-sucking should go away.  It reassures the child that thumbs are good and reminds the parent that the thumb means something to the child and they are not yet ready to depart from that bit of reassurance or nurturing that they receive.

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