Thursday, March 20, 2008

Read-Aloud Books: Suggestions for April '08

*In 2007, the average American teenager spent nearly 26 hours a week watching TV, playing video games, and/or using the computer - and 2 hours reading.*

April is National Poetry Month. Poetry is meant to be read aloud! Many poems are fun to hear, even if the listener may not entirely "understand" them. Quite a few picture books are written in verse, and some "story poems" are available in beautiful illustrated editions. Here are some books and poems to share with your children:

Picture books:
  • A House is a House for Me, by Hoberman: I always loved reading this to my children - a playful romp through different kinds of "houses", both for animals and for people, with fun illustrations, and all told in rhythmic verse.
  • Each Peach Pear Plum, by Ahlberg: Another fun picture book in rhyme, this one plays with characters from different nursery rhymes or fairy tales.
  • Mother Goose - available in various editions, but get at least one! Lots of other books refer to nursery rhymes, and it's surprising how many kids these days don't know them.
  • The Random House Book of Poetry for Children, edited by Prelutsky, illustrated by Lobel - a good anthology with pictures, with selections for reading to children three or four and up, a mix of traditional and more recent poems, arranged by topic.
  • The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury, edited by Prelutsky, illustrated by So - another anthology, this one containing more modern, lesser-known poems, mostly playful. It includes a CD of the poems read aloud.
  • The Golden Treasury of Poetry, edited by Untermeyer - many old classics not included in newer anthologies. This book is out of print, but check your library or - it includes one of my favorite of the lesser-known poems for children, which begins something like this:
"Zoon, zoon, cuddle and croon, over the crinkling sea,
the moon-man flings him a silvered net fashioned of moonbeams three,
And the waves roll in, and the waves roll out, and the nodding night wind blows,
But why the moon-man fishes the sea, only the moon-man knows..."

  • A Child's Garden of Verses, by Stevenson - Robert Louis Stevenson's classic children's poems are available in a variety of illustrated editions.
  • When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six, by A.A. Milne - These two are collections of poems by the author of Winnie-the-Pooh, and one of them includes another of my old favorites, "The Doctor and the Dormouse", which children will enjoy for the sounds of the words, and adults will enjoy for the sly pokes at the pompous doctor. It begins like this:
"There once was a Dormouse who lived in a bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red),
And all the day long he'd a wonderful view
Of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue)."
  • Hiawatha, by Longfellow, illustrated by Jeffers, or Hiawatha's Childhood, by Longfellow, illustrated by LeCain - either of these are beautifully illustrated editions of the melodic old story-poem.
  • Paul Revere's Ride, by Longfellow, illustrated by Rand, or The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, illustrated by Bing - again, illustrated versions of the poem - enough pictures for pre-K, enough story for older kids. You might want to discuss with older kids the fact that it isn't intended to be an exact historical account.

For elementary age and up:

  • A Child's Introduction to Poetry: Listen While You Learn About the Magic Words That Have Moved Mountains, Won Battles, and Made Us Laugh and Cry, edited by Driscoll & Hamilton - this one is not just an anthology, but includes explanations of different forms of poetry along with examples, and a CD of the poems. For upper elementary to middle school.
  • The Poetry for Young People series has illustrated volumes on individual poets (Carl Sandburg, Maya Angelou, William Blake, and many more) and on topics (The Seasons), with poems chosen as appropriate for children.
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Silverstein - funny poems well-loved by many elementary-age kids.
  • Time for Poetry, by Arbuthnot - a thicker, longer anthology with fewer illustrations, this is another older, out-of-print book, but easily available quite inexpensively on-line. It has lots and lots of poems arranged by topic - all older poems, since it was published in 1959.
  • "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" by Service

For Teen Listeners
  • "The Raven" by Poe, "The Highwayman" by Noyes, and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Coleridge are longer narrative poems that often appeal to teenagers.
  • April is the tragic anniversary of Lincoln's assassination. Read Walt Whitman's poems "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" and "O Captain, My Captain" to begin to glimpse the country's grief.
  • Poem a Day, edited by McCosker & Albery, is an anthology of mostly older, mostly short poems that the editors suggest would be good poems to memorize (though anyone who can memorize one a day has a better memory than I!). It might make sense to read one a day, and then choose one each week or month to try to memorize.
  • A Book of Luminous Things, edited by Milosz, is an anthology of mostly modern, mostly short, poems from all over the world, many translated from other languages, that are likely not to be familiar to most readers.

If you want to tackle a classic -
  • Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, by Seamus Heaney , or The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation, by Robert Pinsky- neither of these are easy, but they are more accessible that some of the earlier translations.