Friday Reads: Poetry for Younger Readers


Poetry is a call to action, and it also is action.— Juan Felipe Herrera

Let’s hear it for the poets! As we continue to celebrate the 27th National Poetry Month, our spotlight turns to poetry for kids and teens (and truly all ages!). Loving music and lyrics as so many do, it’s natural for young people to write and enjoy poetry with its beats and rhymes. The popularity of spoken word, slam, and Instagram poetry is testament to the power of poetry to give voice to feelings and experiences that may be too hard to articulate otherwise. Poetry is a wonderful mental health tool! And here are some beautiful books filled with joyful, imaginative, and cathartic verse:


Remember by Joy HarjoREMEMBER by Joy Harjo, Illustrated by Michaela Goade

US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s iconic poem “Remember,” illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade, invites young readers to pause and reflect on the wonder of the world around them, and to remember the importance of their place in it.



Where I Live by Paul B. JaneczkoWHERE I LIVE: POEMS ABOUT MY HOME, MY STREET, AND MY TOWN edited by Paul B. Janeczko; Illustrated by Hyewon Yum

What is home? Revel in the ineffable sense of belonging in poems gathered by eminent poet and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko. These thirty-four inviting verses are paired with light-filled illustrations by Hyewon Yum evoking the warm details of daily life.  Contributors include: Francisco X. Alarcón * Walter de la Mare * Nikki Giovanni * Nikki Grimes * Langston Hughes * X. J. Kennedy * Lois Lenski * Naomi Shihab Nye * Lin Oliver * Linda Sue Park * * Gary Soto * Charlotte Zolotow


Respect the Mic by RESPECT THE MIC: CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF POETRY FROM A CHICAGOLAND HIGH SCHOOL edited by Peter Kahn, Hanif Abdurraqib, Dan “Sully” Sullivan, Franny Choi, Tyehimba Jess

For Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Spoken Word Club, there is one phrase that reigns supreme: Respect the Mic. It’s been the club’s call to arms since its inception in 1999. This vivid collection of poetry and prose — curated by award-winning and bestselling poets Hanif Abdurraqib, Franny Choi, Peter Kahn, and Dan “Sully” Sullivan — illuminates just that, uplifting the incredible legacy this community has cultivated.


And We Rise by Erica MartinAND WE RISE: THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT IN POEMS by Erica Martin

A powerful, impactful, eye-opening journey that explores the Civil Rights Movement in 1950s-1960s America in spare and evocative verse, with historical photos interspersed throughout.



Hope Is an Arrow by Cory McCarthyHOPE IS AN ARROW: THE STORY OF LEBANESE-AMERICAN POET KHALIL GIBRAN by Cory McCarthy; Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

A lyrical biography of Kahlil Gibran by award-winning writer Cory McCarthy, with glorious illustrations by Caldecott Honoree and two-time Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Ekua Holmes. Before Kahlil Gibran wrote The Prophet he was Gibran Khalil Gibran, an immigrant child from Lebanon with a secret hope to bring people together despite their many differences. More than a hundred years later, his words still fly around the world in many languages, bringing people together.


Call Us What We Carry by Amanda GormanCALL US WHAT WE CARRY: POEMS by Amanda Gorman

The breakout poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, this beautifully designed volume features poems in many inventive styles and structures and shines a light on a moment of reckoning. Call Us What We Carry reveals that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.


This Poem Is a Nest by Irene LathamTHIS POEM IS A NEST by Irene Latham; Illustrated by Johanna Wright

This beautiful poetry collection introduces readers to the art of found poetry as the poet writes a 37-line poem, “Nest,” then finds 160 smaller poems within it.




A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Fred RogersA BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: THE POETRY OF MISTER ROGERS by Fred Rogers; Illustrated by Luke Flowers

For the first time, 75 beloved songs from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and The Children’s Corner are collected in this charmingly illustrated treasury, sure to be cherished by generations of children as well as the millions of adults who grew up with Mister Rogers. From funny to sweet, silly to sincere, the lyrics of Mister Rogers explore such universal topics as feelings, new siblings, everyday life, imagination, and more.


The Day the Universe Exploded My Head by Allan WolfTHE DAY THE UNIVERSE EXPLODED MY HEAD: POEMS TO TAKE YOU INTO SPACE AND BACK AGAIN by Allan Wolf, Anna Raff

Hang on tight for a raucous bounce through the solar system and back — propelled by funny, fanciful, factually sound poems and exuberant illustrations.


Jabberwalking by Juan Felipe HerreraJABBERWALKING written and illustrated by Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Mexican-American Poet Laureate in the USA, is sharing secrets: how to turn your wonder at the world around you into weird, wild, incandescent poetry. Jabberwalkers write and speak for themselves and others no matter where their feet may take them — to Jabberwalk is to be a poet on the move. And there’s no stopping once you’re a Jabberwalker, writing fast, fast, fast, scribble-poem-burbles-on-the-run. Scribble what you see! Scribble what you hear! It’s all out there — vámonos!


That Is My Dream! by Langston HughesTHAT IS MY DREAM! A PICTURE BOOK OF LANGSTON HUGHES’S “DREAM VARIATION” by Langston Hughes; Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

“Dream Variation,” one of Langston Hughes’s most celebrated poems, about the dream of a world free of discrimination and racial prejudice, is now a picture book stunningly illustrated by Daniel Miyares, the acclaimed creator of Float. Follow one African-American boy through the course of his day as the harsh reality of segregation and racial prejudice comes into vivid focus. But the boy dreams of a different life—one full of freedom, hope, and wild possibility, where he can fling his arms wide in the face of the sun.


Please Excuse This Poem by Brett F Lauer and Lynn MelnickPLEASE EXCUSE THIS POEM: 100 NEW POETS FOR THE NEXT GENERATION edited by Brett F Lauer and Lynn Melnick; Introduction by Carolyn Forché

Please Excuse This Poem features one hundred acclaimed younger poets from truly diverse backgrounds and points of view, whose work has appeared everywhere from The New Yorker to Twitter, tackling a startling range of subjects in a startling range of poetic forms. Dealing with the aftermath of war; unpacking the meaning of “the rape joke”; sharing the tender moments at the start of a love affair: these poems tell the world as they see it.


For more on these and other relevant titles visit National Poetry Month

Remember Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day is April 27th. Click here for and ways to celebrate!

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Posted: April 7, 2023