Rhyming Reads for Every Need

By Lee Littlewood

February 16, 2018 5 min read

Prolific poet and Newbery Medal-winning author Kwame Alexander releases a poetry gem, and a few other rhyming tales bring verse to late-winter blues.

"Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets" by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth; illustrated by Ekua Holmes; Candlewick Press; 56 pages; $16.99.

Alexander's middle-grade novel told in verse, "The Crossover," was awarded the 2015 Newbery Medal, and he has penned 21 books for children and educators. Here, the poet laureate of child literacy organization LitWorld celebrates 20 famed poets in a must-have picture book collection. With gorgeous, ethereal mixed-media images from fine artist Ekua Holmes, "Out of Wonder" features poems from those who lived centuries ago and those still alive. Together with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, the authors make sure the poets highlighted are interesting people who wrote museworthy, amazing poetry with which they are in love.

"A poem is a small but powerful thing," Alexander writes. "It has the power to reach inside of you, to ignite something in you, and to change you in ways you never imagined." He presents intriguing verse that's incredibly well-chosen. From "How Billy Collins Writes a Poem" celebrating Billy Collins, to "For Our Children's Children" celebrating Chief Dan George, to "Snapshots" celebrating Nikki Giovanni, to "Hue and Cry" for Gwendolyn Brooks, these poems are impactful and simply cool. Holmes' rich hues make the verses pop, resulting in a significant journey in pages every child should take.

"Imagine that the leaves spinning in the wind/ on the walk to school are alien ships/ and that barking dogs belong to a prince./ At night, when the stars seem close/ reach up and grab some," goes the poem for Billy Collins. Enjoy.

"When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons" by Julie Fogliano; pictures by Julie Morstad; A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press; 56 pages; $18.99.

Arranged like a diary with date entries, this celebration of all things seasonal and natural is sweet and whimsical, with folksy fun illustrations. Beginning with March 20, Julia Fogliano describes spring: "from a snow-covered tree/one bird singing/each tweet poking a tiny hole/through the edge of winter/and landing carefully/balancing gently on the tip of spring." Her ode to all the joys of the outdoors makes floating in a river, pondering wildflowers' names, welcoming a firefly, jumping in leaves and donning a favorite hat in the snow seem magical and serene.

Julie Morstad's almost thumbprint-like characters are wide-eyed, innocent depictions of children and animals. "When Green Becomes Tomatoes" is a simply lovely wonder-filled capture of life and childhood self-expression.

"Old MacDonald's Things That Go" by Jane Clarke; illustrated by Migy Blanco; Nosy Crow/Candlewick Press; 32 pages; $15.99.

"Old MacDonald had a farm. He loved things that go!" starts Jane Clarke's zesty, energetic picture-book rhyme, a moving-things take on the original. With funny, vintage-looking illustrations, and hilarious farm animals zipping about on bikes, in 1950s-era sedans, purple tractors, speed boats and a turquoise crop duster, her rhyming singsong is a hoot and a holler. Going from "With a wee-ooo here, wee-ooo there. Here a wee, there an ooo, everywhere a wee-ooo," to "With a ding-ding here/ and a ding-ding there," and then finally back to the beginning refrain, Clarke's barnyard vehicle read-aloud is a knee-slapping winner.

Funniest is Old MacDonald himself; With big, round eyes and a full silver beard, he's always smiling and zooming about with his rambunctious animals.

"Love Is" by Diane Adams; illustrated by Claire Keane; Chronicle Books; 28 pages; $15.99.

Diane Adams' retro-tinged smaller picture book is the tender, funny and heartwarming story of a little girl (an African-American girl, for those searching for tales starring multicultural kids) and a personable duckling. The girl learns that "Love is holding something fragile,/ tiny wings and downy head," and that "Love is waking up together,/ side by side, and beak to nose." Eventually, though, as the duckling grows and runs amuck in the house, "It's sensing when the time is right/ to lift those wings, to travel on." Though the girl is a bit sad after her duckling leaves the nest, she returns to the park and realizes "love is also watching, waving, wondering if love remembers you, and knowing in a happy instant that love has lasted ... and grown some, too."

A precious book celebrating love, growing and even the importance of taking proper care of animals, "Love Is" is a perfect spring gift book for young children.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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