A Treasury of Read-Alouds: Poetry for Children

Written by

Jim Trelease
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Year

2005
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And the Green Grass Grew All Around: Folk Poetry from Everyone
by Alvin Schwartz / Illustrated by Sue Truesdell
HarperCollins, 1992 / K-4 / 148 pages
From a top folklorist comes this delightful collection of more than 250 poems, limericks, chants, jump-rope rhymes, taunts, riddles, and much more--all part of the great American folklore tradition. Truesdell's riotous illustrations add the perfect touch to a book that you'll find your children trying to memorize just for the fun of it.

Casey at the Bat
by Ernest L. Thayer / Illustrated by Barry Moser
Godine, 1988 / Grade 4 and up / 32 pages
This description of a small-town baseball game and local hero is one of the most famous pieces in America's literary quilt, and this centennial edition from Godine includes Barry Moser's illustrations based on the uniforms and settings of the original period. "Casey" is as topical today as it was in 1888. Younger children may prefer the illustrations by Wallace Tripp in the Putnam edition. For a biographical profile of Thayer and the history of the poem, as well as a copy of the lesser-known "Casey's Revenge" by Grantland Rice, see Read All About It!.

The Cremation of Sam McGee
by Robert W. Service / Illustrated by Ted Harrison
Greenwillow, 1987 / Grade 4 and up / 30 pages
Once one of the most memorized poems in North America, it is wonderful humor and remains the best description of the sun's spell over the men who toil in the north. After seeing this edition, it be hard to ever again hear the words without seeing Harrison's brilliant artwork. Also by the author and illustrator: The Shooting of Dan McGrew. Two excellent collections of Service poetry: Best Tales of the Yukon (Running Press) and Collected Poems of Robert Service (Dodd). For a biographical profile of the poet, see Read All About It!. Related books: The Bite of the Gold Bug: A Story of the Alaskan Gold Rush by Barthe DeClements, is excellent for Grade 1-3 students; Call of the Wild; Gold: The True Story of Why People Search for It, Mine It, Trade Steal It, Mint It, Hoard It, Fight and Kill For It, excellent nonfiction by Milton Meltzer; and Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat.

Honey, I Love
by Eloise Greenfield / Illustrated by Diane and Leo Dillon
HarperCollins, 1976 / Preschool-3 / 42 pages
Here are 16 short poems about the things and people children love: friends, cousins, older brothers, keepsakes, mother's clothes, music, and jump ropes. Set against an urban background, the poems elicit both, joyous and bittersweet feelings.

A House Is a House for Me
by Mary Ann Hoberman / Illustrated by Betty Fraser
Viking, 1978 / Preschool-4 / 44 pages
On the surface this book is a rhyming picture book about the variety of dwelling places people, animals, and insects call home. Below the surface it is an ingeniously entertaining study of metaphor: "cartons are houses for crackers" "a rose is a house for a smell," "a throat is a house for a hum." Also by the author: Fathers, Mothers, Sister, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems.

The House That Crack Built
by Clark Taylor
Chronicle, 1992 / Grade 4 and up / 30 pages
Patterned after the famous children's chant (The House That Jack Built, by Rodney Peppe, this is the tragic modern version, itemizing the communal pain and suffering that spring from the drug trade.

The Ice Cream Store
by Dennis Lee / Illustrated by David McPhail
Scholastic, 1991 / Preschool-2 / 56 pages
Dennis Lee is regarded as the Shel Silverstein of Canada. This collection is filled with the colorful, zany, weird and tender characters that make his poems for primary kids just right. The illustrations here by David McPhail are delicious icing on the cake.

If I Were In Charge of the World and Other Worries
by Judith Viorst
Atheneum, 1981 / Grade 3 and up / 56 pages
If the meter or rhyme in these 41 poems is occasionally imperfect, it is easily overlooked in light of their pulse and timing. In prescribing these short verses "for children and their parents," this contemporary American humorist offers a two-point perspective: Children reading these poems will giggle, then recognize themselves, their friends and enemies, and think, "That's really the way it is!" Parents will recognize in the poems the child they used to be.

If You're Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand: Poems About School
by Kalli Dakos / Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Simon & Schuster, 1990 / Grades 1-8 / 64 pages
I know of no single book that so captures the pulse of elementary school the way this poetry collection does. And no wonder! Dakos is a classroom teacher; she's been down in the trenches with all the silliness, sadness, and happiness. Can't you tell just from the title? Also by the author: Don't Read This Book Whatever You Do! More Poems About School.

Kids Pick the Funniest Poems
compiled by Bruce Lansky / Illustrated by Stephen Carpenter
Meadowbrook, 1991 / Grades K-8 / 105 pages
Here are the 75 funniest poems as chosen by 300 schoolchildren from a broad cross section of poets.

The Little Dog Laughed and Other Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose
illustrated by Lucy Cousins
Dutton, 1989 / Infants - preschool / 64 pages
Brightly illustrated in primary colors with boldly outlined images (of multi-ethnic characters), this collection of sixty-four Mother Goose rhymes is especially easy for infants and toddlers to view. Other Mother Goose collections include: Ring-A-Round-A-Rosy, by Priscilla Lamont; Michael Foreman's Mother Goose; The New Adventures of Mother Goose: Gentle Rhymes for Happy Times, by Bruce Lansky; Nick Butterworth's Book of Nursery Rhymes; Nicola Bayley's Book of Nursery Rhymes; The Random House Book of Mother Goose and Whiskers and Rhymes, both illustrated by Arnold Lobel; and Tomie dePaola's Mother Goose.

Never Take a Pig to Lunch and Other Poems About the Fun of Eating
selected and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcot
Orchard, 1994 / grades K-4 / 62 pages
In this collection of silly or hilarious poems about food, the compiler has divided the 60 selections into four fun categories: (1) eating silly things; (2) eating foods we like; (3) eating too much; and (4) manners at the table. Included are most of the best children's poets of today and yesterday. Related books about food: Burgoo Stew by Susan Patron; But No Candy, by Gloria Houston; Cranberry Thanksgiving, by Wende and Harry Devlin; Dinner at the Panda Palace, by Stephanie Calmenson; If You Give a Mouse a Cookie; Frank and Ernest, by Alexandra Day; Gregory the Terrible Eater, by Mitchell Sharmat; The Hokey-Pokey Man, by Steven Kroll; How Pizza Came to Queens, by Dayal Kaur Khalsa; The Hungry Thing Returns, by Jan Slepian and Ann Seidler; Jeremy Isn't Hungry, by Barbara Williams; Little Salt Lick and the Sun King, by Jennifer Armstrong; The Midnight Eaters, by Amy Hest; Monkey Soup, by Louis Sachar; Olson's Meat Pies, by Peter Cohn and Olof Landstrom; Pancakes for Breakfast, by Tomie dePaola; Pumpkin Time, by Jan Andrews; The Sleeping Bread, by Stefan Czemecki and Timothy Rhodes; Stone Soup, retold by John Warren Stewig; Thanksgiving at the Tappletons, by Eileen Spinelli; and Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen, by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan.

The New Kid on the Block
by Jack Prelutsky / Illustrated by James Stevenson
Greenwillow, 1984 / Grades K-4 / 160 pages
One of today's most prolific poets for children, Prelutsky has collected more than 100 of his most outrageous and comical characters, attempting nothing more than to amuse and please children--which he does with a poem about the taken-for-granted blessings of having your nose on your face instead of in your ear, and the one about Sneaky Sue who started playing hide-and-seek a month ago and still can't be found.

The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
selected by Jack Prelutsky / Illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Random House, 1983 / Grades K-5 / 248 pages
One of the best children's poetry anthologies ever. Poet Jack Prelutsky recognizes here that the common language of all children is laughter and wonder. The 572 selected poems (from traditional as well as contemporary poets) are short--but long on laughter, imagery, and rhyme, and grouped around fourteen categories that include food, goblins, nonsense, home, children, animals, and seasons.

Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young
collected by Jack Prelutsky / Illustrated by Marc Brown
Knopf, 1986 / Toddlers-K / 88 pages
Here are more than 200 little poems (with full-color illustrations) for little people with little attention spans, to help both to grow. Related books: A Cup of Stratton, collected by Jill Bennett; and Whiskers and Rhymes, by Arnold Lobel.

Side by Side: Poems to Read Together
collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins / Illustrated by Hilary Knight
Simon & Schuster, 1988 / Preschool-2 / 80 pages
Teacher, poet, and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins assembles traditional and contemporary poets to be read aloud to young children. Covering the seasons, holidays, animals, and lullabies, the 57 poems also include several of the classic narrative poems for young children like "Poor Old Lady," "The House That Jack Built," and "A Visit from St Nicholas." With Hilary Knight's double-page artwork, it is a superb book.

Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child's Book of Poems
selected by Beatrice Schenk deRegniers, Eva Moore, Mary M. White, and Jan Carr
Scholastic, 1988 / Grades K-5 / 160 pages
What distinguishes this volume from other excellent poetry collections is that each of the nine sections has been assigned to a different, Caldecott Award-winning illustrator, including Maurice Sendak, Trina Schart Hyman, and Arnold Lobel. Thus both the sounds and sights in this book make it outstanding.

Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein
HarperCollins, 1974 / Grades K-8 / 166 pages
Without question, this is the best-loved collection of poetry for children, selling more than two million hardcover copies in twenty years. When it comes to knowing children's appetites, Silverstein is pure genius. The titles alone are enough to bring children to rapt attention: "Band-aids"; "Boa Constrictor"; "Crocodile's Toothache"; "The Dirtiest Man in the World"; "If I Had a Brontosaurus"; "Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich." Here are 130 poems that will either touch children's hearts or tickle their funny bones. Silverstein's second collection of poems, A Light in the Attic, was the second children's book to make The New York Times bestseller list, where it remained for 186 weeks. Also by the author: The Giving Tree; Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back; and Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?