Usually, Poetry Friday takes me by surprise. I’ve written my own Ode to Mo poem, I’ve praised picture books written as one long poem, and generally I’ve hidden my head in the sand. But not today, because I have found the best poetry book for children ever produced. The book of poetry that I will buy and read and listen to again and again.
Poetry Speaks to Children is a collection of modern and classic poems from a diverse group of poets that includes Ogden Nash, Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, and Roald Dahl. This diversity is what I love love about this collection. “Gas,” by C.K. Williams a poem that uses the word “fart” multiple times is one page away from a poem from Macbeth. A Native American poem taken from a Osage prayer is followed my a poem by Rudyard Kipling. There is something in this book for everyone to enjoy and to relate to. The eclectic collection exposes the reader to many different styles of poetry.
And if that weren’t enough to sell this book, it is accompanied by a CD of the poems read by the poets. Thanks to archival copies, today’s children can hear readings of Robert Frost and Langston Hughes, among others. There are also readings by Nikki Giovanni and J.R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien, I said. Not all of the poems are included on the CD, but enough for an hour’s worth of driving. (Well, when do you listen to CDs?)
And there is still more, because the book involves three illustrators who bring these poems to life. One illustrator may have led to an overly consistent style of art that wouldn’t have reflected the very different kinds of poems. But with three, we get a mix of styles while still keeping a general consistency. It would have been jarring to see radically different art styles, but though the illustrators each bring a unique flavor to the poem, the pictures flow well from one to another.
I have only one complaint. I wish they had not used Carl Sandburg’s “On A Flimmering Floom You Shall Ride,” especially as they used another poem that plays with made-up words, “Jabberwocky,” very soon after it. I can’t imagine why they didn’t use “Fog” instead, which would better represent the poet’s style and would be accessible to children. Now, funny thing, this very poem was Little Willow’s poetry pick for the day. Cool.
I am driving to Virginia Beach tomorrow with my kids, I’m bringing this book, and I’m playing the CD. And we are not leaving that car until one of us comes to appreciate poetry in a new way. With this collection, I’m thinking that this is a pretty safe bet.