National Poetry Month has been observed in April since 1996. Schools, libraries, and bookstores celebrate by reading poems, inviting poets to visit, and learning about poetry. The Academy of American Poets has a great deal of information on its website, including a helpful list of ways to celebrate. You can also order this year’s official National Poetry Month poster, designed for the first time by a high school student.
And remember that Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 18. Encourage your students to choose a poem, write it down, carry it in their pocket, and share it with family and friends.
I’d like to share “This Is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams, one of my favorite poems:
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
The books below are excellent examples of poems and novels in verse that have been published in the last year. Enjoy!
PRIMARY POETRY PICTURE BOOKS
Bark in the Park! : Poems for Dog Lovers by Avery Corman (ill. by Hyewon Yum). 9781338118391. Scholastic. 2019. Gr PK-1.
A walk in the park showcases 38 different breeds of dogs as they play with each other and with their owners.
Boom! Bellow! Bleat! : Animal Poems for Two or More Voices by Georgia Heard (ill. by Aaron DeWitt). 9781620915202. Wordson. 2019. Gr P1-3.
These poems explore the sounds that animals make and are designed to be read aloud by multiple readers.
Clackety Track : Poems about Trains by Skila Brown (ill. by Jamey Christoph). 9780763690472. Candlewick Press. 2019. Gr K-3.
This collection of poems covers train travel on new, old, and unusual trains.
Hungry for Science : Poems to Crunch On by Kari-Lynn Winters & Lori Sherritt-Fleming (ill. by Peggy Collins). 9781554553969. Ritzhenry & Whiteside. 2018. Gr 1-3.
These science poems include topics such as life cycles, structures, pollination, forces, seasons, magnetism, and sound.
I’m the Big One Now! : Poems about Growing Up by Marilyn Singer (ill. by Jana Christy). 9781629791692. Wordsong. 2019. Gr PK-3.
Celebrate the milestones of growing up, such as learning to snap one’s fingers, becoming an older sibling, losing a tooth, and more.
Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera (ill. by Lauren Castillo). 9780763690526. Candlestick Press. 2018. Gr 1-3.
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera provides an illustrated verse memoir by that highlights the importance of hope by ending each stanza with the word “imagine.” As a brown-skinned Latinx boy, he valued the words of the English language, and he describes the joy he felt as he discovered new, exciting ways of putting words together.
In the Middle of the Night : Poems from a Wide-Awake House by Laura Purdie Salas (ill. by Angela Matteson). 9781620916308. Wordsong. 2019. Gr PK-3.
Discover what toys, clothing, and other household objects do at night while the family sleeps.
Lion of the Sky : Haiku for All Seasons by Laura Purdie Salas (ill. by Merce Lopez). 9781512498097. Millbrook Press. April 2019. Gr K-3.
English haiku poems are written as riddles related to animals and objects that correspond with a particular season.
Monster School by Kate Coombs (ill. by Lee Gatlin). 9781452129389. Chronicle. 2018. Gr K-3.
Young monsters learn both academic and personal lessons at the Monster School. This collection of poetry celebrates the students who, just like regular boys and girls, are hoping to fit in and find friendship at school.
My First Book of Haiku Poems : A Picture, a Poem and a Dream by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen (ill. by Tracy Gallup). 9784805315156. Tuttle. 2019. Gr K-3.
Classic poems by haiku masters combined with original paintings illustrate our connection with nature.
Pony Poems for Little Pony Lovers by Cari Meister (ill. by Sara Rhys). 9781481498142. Beach Lane Books. 2019. Gr PK-3.
The title says it all!
The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-to Poems by Paul B. Janeczko (ill. by Richard Jones). 9780763681685. Candlewick Press. 2019. Gr 1-4.
This collection of fanciful or instructive poems celebrates nature and teaches children to be grateful and to love nature.
Thinker : My Puppy Poet and Me by Eloise Greenfield (ill. by Ehsan Abdollahi). 9781492677246. Sourcebooks. April 2019. Gr K-3.
Both Jace and his puppy Thinker are poets. When Thinker is allowed to go to school on Pets’ Day, Jace doesn’t want him to talk, afraid they’ll both be called weird. However, that’s easier said than done.
Vivid : Poems & Notes about Color by Julie Paschkis. 9781250122292. Henry Holt. 2018. Gr PK-3.
This nonfiction picture book is filled with poems about the colors of the rainbow., as well as a variety of scientific facts related to color.
The Cure for Cold Feet by Beth Ain. 9780399550843. Random House. 2018. Gr 3-6.
In this novel in verse, middle schooler Izzy writes free verse poems about her middle school woes, which include an annoying boy, lunch tables of popular girls, her mom’s new friend and her dad’s remarrying, her overly dramatic brother, and her woes over a ballroom dance.
The Day the Universe Exploded My Head : Poems to Take You into Space and Back Again by Allan Wolf (ill. by Anna Raff). 9780763680251. Candlewick Press. 2019. Gr 4-7.
This collection contains silly children’s poems about astronomical wonders accompanied by anthropomorphic illustrations.
Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith. 9781771388382. Kids Can Press. 2018. Gr 4-6.
In a collection of free verse poems, Jett recounts his horrible year at a new town and school, and his return to his grandmother’s house on the coast for the summer where he tries to come to terms with everything that happened.
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga. 9780062747808. Balzer+Bray. May 2019. Gr 3-6.
When violence erupts in her seaside home in Syria, young Jude and her mother flee and go to stay with family in America. Though she’s seen American movies, Jude doesn’t feel prepared for the American lifestyle, nor is she prepared for starting a new school with the label of Middle Easterner. But Jude soon meets new friends, enjoys her family, and just might try out for the school musical.
Phrases of the Moon : Lunar Poems by J. Patrick Lewis & Jeri van der Linde. 9781568463117. Creative Editions. 2018. Gr 3-5.
The original poems in this anthology are all about the moon, our feelings about Earth’s satellite, and stories told by people throughout the centuries.
The Poetry of Us : More than 200 Poems That Celebrate the People, Places, and Passions of the United States edited by J. Patrick Lewis. 9781426331855. National Geographic. 2018. Gr 4-6.
This compilation of over 200 new and familiar poems celebrates the people and places of the United States. Organized by geographical region, the poems feature the cultures, traditions, and histories of fifty states.
Sing a Song of Seasons : A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year by Fiona Waters (ill. by Frann Preston-Gannon). 9781536202472. Nosy Crow. 2018. Gr 1-5.
This collection of 366 nature-themed poems are from a vast array of poets. Each day of the calendar year contains one illustrated poem.
MIDDLE SCHOOL POETRY
Birdie by Eileen Spinelli. 9780802855138. Eerdman’s BYR. April 2019. Gr 4-8.
Birdie loves birds, and they help her deal with the death of her firefighter father. She also leans on her mother, grandmother, and friends. But when her mother and grandmother start seeing other men, and her friends start dating, she feels more bereft than ever.
The Colors of the Rain by R.L. Toalson. 9781499807172. Yellow Jacket. 2018. Gr 4-8.
Paulie shares his name with his father, who killed a man and crashed his car. Mama is unable to cope, so Paulie and his sister Charlie must move in with Aunt Bee and start at a new school. However, it is 1972, so desegregation struggles are at their height, and Paulie finds himself picking fights with a black boy at his new school. Family secrets come to light and he must change his view of what it means to be a family.
Knockout by K.A. Holt. 9781452163581. Chronicle. 2018. Gr 5-8.
In this novel in verse, Levi was once a premature baby who suffered from respiratory problems; he recovered, and now in seventh grade, he struggles to demonstrate to his divorced mother and over-protective brother that he is okay. So when his father suggests he take up boxing he falls in love with the sport, but he still must find a way to convince his family to set him free to follow his dream.
Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood. 9781481468831. Simon & Schuster. 2018. Gr 4-7.
In a desperate bid to escape Nazi bombings, ninety British boys and girls board the luxury liner “SS City of Benares,” which is destined for Canada. Five days after departure, the ship is hit with German torpedoes and sinks. Thirteen-year-old Ken escapes to lifeboat twelve and struggles to survive as he waits for rescue. This novel in verse includes historical notes.
The Moon Within by Aida Salazar. 9781338283372. Arthur A. Levine Books. 2019. Gr 4-8.
In this novel in verse, Celi is anxious about her approaching period, and that her mother wants to hold a traditional Mexican moon ceremony to celebrate the occasion, a party she promises she will not attend. Meanwhile, her best friend explores what it means to be gender fluid, which prompts the boy Celi has a crush on to make mean comments, which in turn forces Celi to make some rash decisions.
They Call Me Guero : A Border Kid’s Poems by David Bowles. 9781947627062. Cinco Puntos Press. 2018. Gr 6-8.
Twelve-year-old Mexican American border kid, Güero, reflects on his heritage through poetry, thanks to the prompting of his seventh grade English teacher.
What Is Poetry? : The Essential Guide to Reading & Writing Poems by Michael Rosen. 9781536201581. Candlewick Press. 2019. Gr 5-8.
Rosen uses classic poems by English poetry masters to define poetry, describe what poetry can do, and to explain how to read, write, and appreciate poetry.
HIGH SCHOOL POETRY
500 Words or Less by Juleah Del Rosario. 9781534410442. Simon & Schuster. 2018. Gr 9-12.
In an attempt to salvage her reputation after she cheated on her boyfriend, Nic has offered to write their college admissions essays. As she learns more about her classmates’ inner lives while writing heir essays, she has to search her own experiences-not just the cheating, but also being abandoned by her mother.
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough. 9780735232112. Penguin. 2018. Gr 8-12.
Artemisia is only twelve when her mother dies. She is given a choice—become a nun, or commit to a life of grinding pigment for her father’s paints. She chooses the paint. By seventeen, Artemisia has become one of Italy’s most talented painters—but in Rome in 1610 men take whatever credit they want from women, and Artemisia’s work goes unnoticed. After she is raped, she decides to take her future into her own hands.
Dreams on Fire. 9781538382486. West 44 Books. 2018. Gr 9-12.
Attending a prestigious private prep school is like a dream come true for Shanequa. She tries to keep the truth about her drug addicted mother and incarcerated father a secret from her new classmates, but when the truth comes out, Shanequa’s reaction could change her life forever.
Fifteen and Change by Max Howard. 9781538382608. West 44 Books. 2019. Gr 9-12.
Zeke would love to be invisible since his mother struggles to make ends meet and they live with her no-good boyfriend. When he gets a job at a pizza place to earn some extra money, he meets labor activists who want to give him a voice and a living wage. Zeke has to decide between trying to be invisible or letting his voice be heard.
Light Filters In : Poems by Caroline Kaufman. 9780062844682. Harpercollins. 2018. Gr 7-12.
This collection of poetry is centered around themes related to mental health and personal well-being. The author reflects on her own experiences with love, happiness, depression, and hope.
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan. 9781681193663. Bloomsbury Children’s. 2018. Gr 10-12.
With his older brother on death row awaiting execution in a few weeks, seventeen-year-old Joe Moon is determined to spend as much time with him as he can no matter the cost or other people’s opinion.
The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones. 9780062370310. Harpercollins. 2018. Gr 9-12.
This novel in verse narrated by Lily, who as a little girl fell in love, she thought, with her parents’ friend, Luke, who always promised he would wait for Lily to grow up to marry him. Now fourteen, Lily is horrified to realize Luke has done just that, and she doesn’t know how to escape.
People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins. 9781481442930. Simon & Schuster. 2018. Gr 9-12.
Six teens struggle with their own difficult life situations that have the potential to lead them to violence. One of them will use a gun to kill another. All will face difficult decisions that will affect their futures.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. 9780062662804. Harpercollins. 2018. Gr 8-12.
In this coming-of-age novel-in-verse, Xiomara lives with her twin brother and conservative parents in Harlem. She pours all of her emotions into poems that she writes down in a leather notebook, such as her feelings for a boy at school. When Xiomara is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she decides she must perform her poems but must also keep the secret from her family who would not approve.
The Same Blood by M. Azmitia. 9781538382523. West 44 Books. 2019. Gr 9-12.
Marianella is an active participant in her Puerto Rican heritage whereas her twin sister, Elena, is embarrassed at the traditions. Shortly after their fifteenth birthday, Marianella, losing the battle with her mental health problems, commits suicide. Struggling to cope with life without her sister, Elena finds her own life spiraling out of control, and learns how much she can rely on the deep roots of her family.
Sanctuary Somewhere by Brenna Dimmig. 9781538382844. West 44 Books. 2019. Gr 9-12.
Osmel’s dreams of becoming a meteorologist are shattered when he discovers that he is undocumented. His fears grow when his father is arrested by ICE. Fearful of how others will react, he tells only his school counselor, and tries to deal with his anxiety alone.
Some Girls Bind by Rory James. 9781538382547. West 44 Books. 2019. Gr 9-12.
A young teen binds their chest and wears baggy clothes-and wonders if they will be accepted if they come out as non-binary.
Swing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. 9780310761914. Harpercollins. 2018. Gr 9-12.
Noah, who is white, and his best friend Walt, who is black, are determined to woo the girls of their dreams despite the fact that Sam, Noah’s dream girl, has him firmly in the friend zone. When Noah finds a stash of old love letters that have the words that he’s always wanted to say to Sam, he starts making artwork using lines from the letters. When his art becomes public, and hidden prejudices in the town build to a climax, Noah and Walt have to decide what love, friendship, sacrifice, and the truth mean to them.
Voices : The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott. 9781328987594. HMH. 2019. Gr 8-12.
Medieval poetic forms such as ballades, rondels, sestinas, and villanelles are used to offer a history of Joan of Arc. People and objects around Joan of Arc address themes of identity, innocence, heresy, and redemption.
The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen. 9780399547447. Penguin. 2018. Gr 9-12.
Although best friends as children, Linc and her adopted sister have drifted apart as Holly excels at school, sports, while Linc struggles academically and yearns to be a photographer.