News From the Natural World: Poetry Friday Edition

Welcome to the Poetry Friday edition of News From the Natural World, my National Poetry Month project. Be sure to visit my friend and critique group partner, Molly Hogan, at Nix the Comfort Zone for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Today’s poem was inspired by the photo below, taken on March 20th, just after our quarantine began. I was quite surprised to see this at the end of a driveway I pass by when I go out for a walk. I still have no idea why it was there, but I knew immediately that I had to write about it. However, finding the right form wasn’t easy.

Yesterday, poet, teacher, and mentor extraordinaire, Georgia Heard, posted this video on Facebook. The poem she shares, “Where Do I Find Poetry,” is one of my favorites. As soon as she started reading it, my mind went back to this red chair and I knew I’d found a way in. A greeting card by British artist Rachel Grant provided me with the first line. Thank you to the owner of the red chair, Georgia, and Rachel, for helping me with this poem.

The Red Chair

It begins here,
in a red chair
at the edge of a field
still wearing its stubbly
brown winter coat.

Sit. Be patient…
Watch the last bits of snow
dissolve into the quickening earth.
See grass slowly turn green
and vermilion tips of peonies
poke their heads up through
the softening ground.

Stay a while.
Soon robins will be cruising the field
searching for fat pink worms
and tufts of dried grass to line their nests. 

Feel March winds ease
into warm April breezes
that coax daffodils and dandelions
to shine like a thousand suns
under spring’s clear blue sky,
and seep into
your winter-weary soul.

It begins here.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Previous “News From the Natural World” poems:

April 16: Dear Venus
April 15: Listen
April 14: Ode to a Tide Pool
April 11: What Does A Bird’s Egg Know?
April 10: Clusters of Clover
April 9: Song of the Pink Moon
April 8: Jewel of the Jungle
April 5: Phantom of the Forest
April 4: To Build a Nest
April 3: Apple Cake
April 2: Specimen
April 1: Forest Snail

Poetry Friday: Finding Beauty

It’s the first Friday of the month, so it’s time for another Sunday Night Swaggers challenge. This month, Molly Hogan challenged us to “find beauty in the ugly” by reinventing “the world around you (or one aspect of it) by shifting your lens to see the beauty in what at first seems to be ugly or unnoteworthy.”

I had a few ideas, but hadn’t gotten far with any of them before I went to NCTE in Baltimore a few weeks ago. There, I attended Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ralph Fletcher, and Lester Laminack‘s session, “Seeing the World Like a Poet.” During her part of the presentation, Georgia explained that the job of the poet is to take “the film of ordinary off of everyday objects.”

These words were in my mind the next morning while I was waiting in line to check my coat. My eyes were drawn to a building across the street that was glowing in the bright morning sun. Then, as I turned to give my coat to the attendant, I noticed this:

At first glance, this jumble of hangars is decidedly everyday and unnoteworthy. But take a closer look…

A Wedge of Hangers

Like pinioned swans,
captives on a pond,
a wedge of hangers
wait, silent and still.

Soon each will rise,
basking in the embrace
of coats, grateful
for the support
of their plastic wings.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

During the same session, Ralph Fletcher shared that “photography uncovers surprises” and that we should “follow where they lead.” As I was writing this poem, I was surprised to learn that a wedge is in fact a collective noun for swans. So even though these hangers aren’t exactly wedge-shaped, I think wedge is the perfect word to describe a group of hangers.

Please be sure to visit my fellow swaggers to see where they found beauty this month:

Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone 
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Then be sure to visit Tanita at fiction, instead of lies for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

PB 10 for 10: Follow Your Heart

“Never lose your curiosity about everything
in the universe–
it can take you to places you never
thought possible!”

~ Sue Hendrickson ~

Thank you to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for creating and curating this celebration of picture books. Please be sure to visit Cathy’s blog, Reflect and Refine to read all the lists contributed to this labor of love. It is teachers like them, and others in this community, who will keep the gift of stories alive for years to come.

Coming up with a theme for this year’s PB 10 for 10 celebration was difficult. There were several new picture books that I loved, but at first I didn’t see an obvious connection between them. As I read and reread, though, patterns began to emerge. A path presented itself, and I followed. Each book I’ve chosen to share this year involves a journey or exploration. Some of these journeys cross the globe, others plumb the soul, some do both. All enlarge our imagination.

My Heart Is a Compass, written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero (Little, Brown, 2018), was my starting point this year. I have always loved maps, so this book appealed to me immediately. Maps show us the way, help us know we’re not alone and we don’t always have to rely on our own wits to help us find the path. In one way or another, these books may help readers find their way–even if it’s encouragement that sometimes we have to create our own paths and that’s okay, maybe even essential. They also help us understand that wherever we are on our path, someone else has been in a similar spot before, maybe are in a similar spot right now. How we respond and react to the spot we’re in is what matters. Getting love and giving love makes the journey so much easier.

Rose is on a quest: “Her heart was set on discovering something that had never been found…” Marcero’s rich language and evocative illustrations carry us along on this journey. Rose’s flights of imagination are distinguished from “real life” by use of a gorgeous blue that reminds me of cyanotypes. Her maps are worth poring over; a scientifically correct sky map is also filled with fancy–including “big dreams,” “empty thoughts,” and “first lines of poems” as well as a “brainstorm.” Close observers will recognize features of Rose’s journey covering the floor of her room before she embarks on her travels. This book will inspire readers to explore their own inner worlds. It is also a perfect choice to pair with Georgia Heard’s Heart Maps, (Heinemann, 2017).

How to Read a Book, by Kwame Alexander with illustrations by Melissa Sweet (Harper, 2019) is a love letter to the joys of reading. Alexander encourages readers not to rush: “Your eyes need time to taste. Your soul needs room to bloom.” This is advice we all should heed. Sweet’s illustrations of “watercolor, gouache, mixed media, handmade and vintage papers, found objects including old book covers, and a paint can lid” (and at least one map) add layers of meaning and wonder that will keep readers coming back to this book again and again. A Teacher’s Guide is available here.


Poetree, by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani (New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019) stars a dreamer and poet named Sylvia. The book begins with Sylvia writing a poem about spring. She “…tied her poem to a birch tree…hoping that it didn’t count as littering if it made the world more splendid.” Poetry brings two children together and helps them move past the misunderstanding at the center of the story. Reynolds sneaks in sly humor adult readers will appreciate: characters are named Sylvia and Walt, a dog named Shel, and a teacher, Ms. Oliver. There is also a nod to Joyce Kilmer: “I never thought that I would see/such lovely poems from a tree…” Maydani’s graphite pencil and watercolor illustrations of soft greens and yellows (is that Amy Krouse Rosenthal‘s yellow umbrella?) add to the overall gentleness and love of this book.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar; (Harper, 2019) is a lovely biography of Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian in New York City. When Belpré first traveled to New York, “words travel[ed] with her” and libraries were “ripe for planting seed of the cuentos she carrie[d].” This metaphor of a garden of stories is carried throughout the book and is echoed in Escobars gorgeous digital illustrations. The words she brought from Puerto Rico took root and “grew shoots into the open air of possibility, (emphasis mine) have become a lush landscape…” Her legacy is honored through the Pura Belpré Award. A select bibliography is included, as well as suggestions for further reading and a brief description of Pura Belpre’s own stories. A teaching guide is available here


The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (New York: Blazer + Bray, 2019) is, like its subject, an unconventional biography. Barnett gets to the heart of the matter quickly, though: “The important thing about Margaret Wise Brown is that she wrote books.” (p. 2) The truth is that Margaret Wise Brown had something to say and she didn’t let anyone stop her from saying it. The information Barnett includes underscores the fact that writers are real people. He includes possible origins of her stories: ”When Margaret Wise Brown was six or seven and she lived in a house next to the woods, she kept many pets.” (p. 7) Barnett asks thought-provoking questions, including “Isn’t it important that children’s books contain the things children think of and the things children do, even if those things seem strange?” These expand the range of who will appreciate this book. He also highlights important truths: “…in real lives and good stories the patterns are hard to see, because the truth is never made of straight lines” and “She believed children deserve important books.” (emphasis mine). Jacoby “used watercolor, Nupastel, and Photoshop magic to create the illustrations for this book” that give them a dreaminess we want to step into. Read and interview with Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby about the creation of this book here.

Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art, by Hudson Talbott (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2018) takes us on another journey of discovery. Like many immigrants, when Thomas Cole and his family arrived in the US in 1818, they didn’t have much. Through hard work and sacrifice, Thomas discovered that “he had something to say and he was on his way to find it.” This book not only provides a brief introduction to the birth of the Hudson River School of painting, it helps children understand we all have something to say. Finding out what that something is and how best to express it is the journey of our life, it’s what gives our life meaning. Over the course of his life, Cole realized “he simply wanted to show what it meant to be human.”


In The Word Collector (Orchard Books, 2018), Peter H. Reynolds extolls the joy and power of words. We learn about Jerome and his passion for words: “Words he heard…words he saw…words he read.” Jerome uses his words in poems and songs, and ultimately, shares all his words. After all, isn’t that words are for? This book will inspire word collectors of all ages. Resources are available here.


When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex, by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Diana Sudyka. (New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019) This biography is a celebration of curiosity, exploration of the natural world, and following your dreams. “Sue Hendrickson was born to find things.” Buzzeo tells the story of how Sue’s whole life lead to the moment in 1990 when she discovered “the world’s largest, most complete, best preserved, Tyrannosaurus rex fossil discovered so far.” Named in honor of her discoverer, “Sue” is now on display in Chicago’s Field Museum. A Teacher’s Guide is available here.


What is Given from the Heart, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison (New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2019) is the “final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack.” James Otis and his mother have had “a rough few months.” When a neighbor’s home is destroyed by fire, James Otis’s church rallies to help them. But he can’t imagine how he and his mother can help when they “aine got nothing ourselves.” After much searching and consideration, James Otis finds exactly the right gift for his neighbor. Harrison’s mixed media illustrations add depth to the emotions of James Otis, his mother, and their neighbors.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac. (Charlesbridge, 2018) This book honors the Cherokee Nation’s tradition of otsaliheliga, an expression of gratitude that “is a reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on struggles–daily, throughout the year, and across the seasons.” A loving depiction of Cherokee culture, this is exactly the book we need right now: a reminder to be grateful for our family, our friends, and the many gifts of the earth.  

I am grateful for these books, their creators and the publishers who bring them into the world and make it a more beautiful place.

Note: I am editing my original post to include concerns about Home Is a Window. My original post included this paragraph about this book:

Home is a Window, by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard with illustrations by Chris Sasaki (New York: Near Porter Books/Holiday House, 2019) is an ode to the comfort of what is familiar: a favorite blanket or chair, a daily routine, a color. It also celebrates the fact that home isn’t necessarily a physical place; rather, it’s a feeling you have because of “the people gathered near.” This creative, comforting book is a perfect launching point for students to create their own definitions of home.

Cathy Mere also included this book on her list, but removed it after a reader raised “some concerns over the images in the text.” Cathy shared this link to CrazyQuiltEdi explaining her concerns about the images of several characters. 

My previous #PB 10 for 10 posts:

2017: Celebrating Nature
2016: Feeding Our Imaginations
2015: Poetry Picture Books
2014: Friendship Favorites
2013: Jane Yolen Picture Books
2012: Wordless Picture Books


Poetry Friday: A Poetry-Filled Weekend

Last weekend, I kept pinching myself to make sure I was awake and not in a blissful poetry dream. I was indeed awake and sitting at a table with Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Janet Wong, and several other amazing poets. Oh, did I mention this table was at Poet’s House in New York City? And that there was a stunning view of the Hudson River right outside the window? It’s all true, but I still have to keep pinching myself.

I can’t begin to share all the wisdom and advice that Rebecca, Georgia, and Janet shared, but here are a few pointers I found helpful and inspiring:

  • Let the image be your guide
  • Your memory is a poet-in-residence in your mind
  • Find wonder in everything you look at
  • Write about what takes your breath away

We drafted many poems. Most of mine aren’t ready to share, but this almost-haiku, inspired by the empty playground in Rockefeller Park, makes me happy.

on a rain-splashed day
puddles tromp through the playground
for their turn on the slide

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Please be sure to visit Elizabeth Steinglass for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: “To You”


In her “Note from the Author” at the beginning of This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort (Candlewick, 2002), Georgia Heard writes:

“During any difficult time, we all need a place where, as Faiz Ahmed Faiz writes in his poem “Song,” ‘the heart [can] rest.'”

No matter where one falls on the political spectrum, no one can deny this is a “difficult time.” This poem, by Karla Kuskin, gives my heart a place to rest.

“To You”

I think I could walk
through the simmering sand
if I held your hand.
I think I could swim
the skin shivering sea
if you would accompany me.
And run on ragged, windy heights,
climb rugged rocks
and walk on air:

I think I could do anything at all,
if you were there.

by Josh Boot via
by Josh Boot via

Please be sure to visit Violet Nesdoly at Violet Nesdoly/Poems for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: “Poetica Friends”


It’s been quite a challenge to re-enter the real world after spending four glorious days at the Highlights Foundation last week. I had to pinch myself more than once to make sure I was really there, learning about “The Craft and Heart of Writing Poetry for Children” from Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard. I’ve loved the work of these two wise and witty poets for years, so being at this workshop was a real thrill.


My time at Highlights was made even more special because I got to spend time with fellow Slicer Linda Baie. (Read her thoughts about the workshop here.) Poetry Friday pals Robyn Hood Black, Buffy Silverman, Linda Kulp Trout, and Charles Waters were also there, and it was wonderful to meet so many other talented and passionate poets from around the world.

We were immersed in poetry day and night. Everyone shared their own original poetry as well as poems by favorite poets, including several classics by Georgia & Rebecca. Lee Bennett Hopkins visited with us via Skype, sharing his insights and preferences about poetry. “I want children to read poetry that shows them the beauty of the world,” he explained.

WordSong editor extraordinaire, Rebecca Davis, joined us to answer our questions about publishing poetry and to give us a sneak peak at Georgia’s collection of animal poems for two (or more) voices, that will be published in a few years. We were also treated to a preview of  Rebecca’s (Dotlich, edited by Davis) new book with Jane Yolen, Grumbles From the Town. (More about this on Friday.)

And, of course, we wrote poetry. Rebecca and Georgia led us through a variety of exercises each day. My favorite was “The Art of Observational Poetry.” During this exercise, we carefully examined a small stone, first listing our scientific observations about color, shape, texture, and so on. Then we turned those observations into something more poetic. As Georgia explained, “looking carefully and translating your observations into language is the work of a poet.”  Suddenly, my small stone was an asteroid, cratered and misshapen, tumbling through the universe, until the hand of a child plucks it out of its orbit and clutches it close.

It’s not a poem yet, but it has possibilities. Thanks to my new “poetica friends,” I am inspired to “follow the thread” of these words and find the door into their poem.


Thank you to StaceyDanaBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lisa for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Playing with Haiku


“Attentiveness is your main tool in life.”
~ Jim Harrison ~

There is a kaleidoscope sitting on my desk this afternoon. When I saw it in the store, it reminded   me of one my grandmother had at her house when I was little. So I bought it. I also thought my nephews would have fun with it when they visit.

When I got it home, I held it up to the light to watch the colorful patterns unfold. The plastic beads reminded me of snowflakes, but because they’re colorful, they also reminded me of flowers. This seemed like the spark of a poem to me.

I wrote several drafts, but wasn’t happy with them. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I read a few poems or flip through books about writing to clarify my thoughts. In her book Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way (Heinemann, 1995), Georgia Heard writes “the beauty of haiku is its brevity; it teaches you to use words more clearly and truthfully.

Here is my attempt to “spin [my] observations…as quickly and accurately as possible.”

Colorful snowflakes
blossom like flowers inside
my kaleidoscope.

This does capture my impression pretty accurately. Haiku isn’t my favorite form, but once I start thinking about them, they pop into my head. Here are a few more:

White birds swoop and swerve
over the river at dawn,
eyes peeled for a meal.

Warmed by bright sunshine
lilac buds grow fat and green,
chasing gray away.

By photo taken by H. Pellikka (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By photo taken by H. Pellikka (Own work) [GFDL (, CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
I originally wrote this final haiku two years ago, but I wanted to share it again:

Slices of life:
Pieces of hearts on the page.
Stories connect us.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Being a Witness to the World


There is a pond in the woods behind our house where we spent many hours exploring when my boys were growing up. They fished there in the summer and we skated in winter, but I hardly ever go back there anymore.

Sunday was a beautiful winter day here in Connecticut. There wasn’t any wind and the sky was a clear, brilliant blue, so I decided to walk down the hill to say hello to the pond. I quickly discovered that my plan wouldn’t be an easy one to carry out. The path was quite overgrown with pricker bushes that kept catching on my coat and hat. I forged ahead, but came around a bend and saw that a tree had fallen across the trail. Vines had grown up over it, making it look like a trellis or bower guarding a secret garden, a garden that I wasn’t going to be able to enter.

As I trudged back up the hill, I realized the overgrown path was like my writing brain. It’s been mostly ignored and untended for the past six months. Every time I sit down to write I feel like I have to fight my way through an overgrown thicket of brambles.

Over the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve been writing more and more and I’ve noticed that I can actually feel my brain become more flexible and limber when I sit down to write. I’m definitely more responsive to the world around me.

This got me thinking about our students, and what happens when they don’t have opportunities to write every day, or chances to sit and contemplate an idea or an image. In her book Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way (Heinemann, 1995), Georgia Heard recommends writing “ten observational sketches” every day for a week, writing everything you notice and hear. “The more accurately you can observe your world and capture it in words,” Heard writes, “the more concrete your writing will become.” It might be a challenge to get kids to write ten sketches each day, but three or four seems reasonable. Think of the writing stamina they would build!

I’m looking forward to spring and getting that path cleared so I can go check on the pond. After all, as Georgia Heard also so wisely points out, “It is a writer’s job to act as witness to the world, to remind us all to stay awake.”

Brian and Michael at the edge of the pond.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

A Slice of Wonder


Not long ago, I saw this picture on Facebook:


As a kid, I spent hours poring over our encyclopedias, soaking up all sorts of information. When I became a teacher, I wanted to foster that same sense of curiosity in my students. My first classroom had a wall of windows that looked out over the lawn and playing fields. I taped a construction paper frame to one of the windows and labeled it our “Observation Station.” I made little notebooks for the kids to write down what they saw and what they were curious about.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 11.48.33 PM

On today’s Internet, the entire world is just one or two clicks away. Wonderopolis, in case you’re not familiar with this amazing resource, focuses on answering a single question each day. Recent questions include “Do snakes have ears?” and “What do bees do in winter?” If this website had been around when I was a classroom teacher, it would have had front and center billing in my classroom. As it is, I’ve promoted it and encouraged the teachers I work with to incorporate it into their day as often as possible. At NCTE, a stellar panel shared their thoughts about wonder and curiosity at the Wonderopolis Breakfast. Georgia Heard, Barbara Philips, Paul Hankins, Joellen McCarthy, and Kristin Ziemke wowed us with the depth of their thinking and insights about encouraging wonder in our students.

Georgia Heard began by telling us that “school should be a scavenger hunt” and that we should be “in awe of the universe.”

Paul Hankins left everyone speechless with his thinking about wonder. He thought of W as a compass, pointing to “our true north.” Rotating the letter 90 degrees to the left reveals a B, which stands for our beliefs. Flip the B, and, with some creative visualizing, you have a C, which reminds us of the need to create opportunities in our learning environments where kids can wonder, ask questions, collaborate. Finally, one last rotation reveals an M, which stands for the “mountains of meaning” our students will build in the our rich classrooms. Paul also urged us to have “uncommon courage” to build the habits of mind in our students that foster wonder and to become “classroom concierges.” Find out where your kids want to go and facilitate their journey.

The brilliance was flying and I honestly couldn’t keep up with all the smart thinking that was being shared. Here are a few examples:

Wonderopolis is as mobile as the human mind.

“We need to encourage our kids to go beyond the quick answer to find the connections and patterns that lead to the deeper answer.” Kristin Ziemke

Wonder journals are a place for questions, observations, sketches. They should travel back and forth between home and school.

“Wonder leads to finding the information, not finding the answer. New discoveries lead to new questions…” Kristin Ziemke

If you’re curious and want to know more, you can follow Wonderopolis and all the panelists on Twitter. JoEllen McCarthy regularly posts a text/Wonder pairing. Look for her #WOTDP hashtag. 

Georgia Heard & Jennifer McDonough’s book A Place for Wonder (Stenhouse, 2009) is another fabulous resource. It’s full of suggestions on how to invite children’s questions and observations into our classrooms by encouraging their curiosity and wonder.

Kristine Ziemke’s new book, co-authored with Katie MuhtarisAmplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom (Heinemann, 2015) was just published in October. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it’s at the top of my TBR stack!

The world has changed in immeasurable ways since I first cracked opened those encyclopedias more than fifty years ago. But the capacity for children to ask questions and be curious has not. Thank you, Wonderopolis, Georgia, Barbara, Paul, JoEllen, and Kristin, for sharing your ideas about nurturing our students and their ever-present sense of wonder.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Picture Book 10 for 10: Poetry Picture Books

pb 10 for 10 015

Children’s first reading experiences are usually through picture books, and for this reason, people have fond memories of them and are passionate about their favorites. Because of the role picture books play in introducing the magic of reading to children, they are worth celebrating. 

Picture Book 10 for 10 is the brainchild of Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robeck of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. During this annual event, now in its sixth year, teachers, librarians, and book lovers create lists of 10 essential picture books. Cathy and Mandy collect and share these lists, and everyone is richer because of their efforts. Be sure to visit their blogs to see their lists, and check out dozens of Picture Book 10 for 10 lists here. Thank you, Cathy and Mandy, for organizing this celebration of picture book love. 

Many children are introduced to picture books through collections of nursery rhymes. The rhythm of poetry is soothing and the rhymes give kids the foundation they need to become independent readers. But most importantly, reading nursery rhymes and poetry to children is fun.

Creating this list was quite a challenge, as there are many, many beautiful poetry picture books available these days. For any one of the poets listed below, there are one or two or ten other books that are just as worthy of inclusion on this list.

1.  Bookspeak: Poems about Books, by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon (Clarion Books, 2011)


What could be better than a collection of poems celebrating books? Laura Purdie Salas gives voice to all parts of books, including the cover, index, and the end. You can watch the trailer for Bookspeak, listen to Laura read two poems, and read the teacher’s guide here.

2. Red Sings From the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009)


Joyce Sidman is one of my favorite poets, and I love Pamela Zagarenski’s whimsical style, so this book was a shoe-in for this list. I have written about it before here.

3. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Candlewick Press, 2014)


This award-winning anthology, illustrated with whimsical perfection by Melissa Sweet, includes poems celebrating each season and is not to be missed.  Julie Roach, writing in School Library Journal described Sweet’s illustrations this way: “Colors and shapes with willowy details expertly blur or bring bits of the images into focus to create a magical sense of place, time, and beauty.”

4. A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme, by J. Patrick Lewis, pictures by Alison Jay (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2002)


Lewis brings his signature blend of humor and interesting facts to the world of geography in this collection. Allison Jay’s muted colors and craquelure,“a cracking or network of fine cracks in the paint, enamel, or varnish of a painting,” illustrations evoke maps from the age of exploration.

5.  Forest Has a Song, by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley (Clarion Books, 2013)


Amy Ludwig VanDerwater turns her keen poet’s eye to the forest landscape throughout the year. Gourley’s delicate watercolors are the perfect complement to VanDerwater’s evocative poems.

6. On the Wing: Bird Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian (Harcourt, 1996)


Douglas Florian’s sophisticated humor and word play make his poetry perfect choices for any elementary classroom. Find out more about Florian and his other poetry collections here.

7. What’s for Dinner? Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World, by Katherine B. Hauth, illustrated by David Clark (Charlesbridge, 2011)


This NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book is chock-full of hilarious poems about the very serious subject of how animals capture their prey. Hauth includes factual information about each animal, as well as a list of suggested reading. David Clark’s cartoon-like illustrations add to the humor.

8.  Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems, by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple (WordSong, 2012)


Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors of all time. In fact, my 2013 Picture Book 10 for 10 post was devoted to her work. Yolen has published many volumes of poetry, but her collaborations with her photographer son, Jason Stemple, are my favorites. Stemple’s photographs are full of incredible details, and Yolen’s poetry captures the “beauty and mystery” of “these tiny living beings.” (From Yolen’s author’s note.)

9.  Turtle in July, by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Macmillan, 1989)


Marilyn Singer is the 2015 winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children and has long been one of my favorite poets. You can read a previous post about Marilyn’s poetry here. This collection, filled with Jerry Pinkney’s stunning illustrations, is a must-have for any elementary classroom.

10. Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky, by Georgia Heard, drawings by Jennifer Owings Dewey (WordSong, 1992)


 Georgia Heard has written that “poets find poems in hundreds of different places” (Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School, Heinemann: 1999), and in this wonderful collection, which has long been a staple in my classroom, she has found poems throughout the animal kingdom. Dewey’s detailed, realistic drawings add to the beauty of this book.

My previous Picture Book 10 for 10 lists:

2014: Friendship Favorites
2013: Jane Yolen Picture Books
2012: Wordless Picture Books