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Best poetry books for children

Best poetry books for children
We could tell you that reading and – even better – learning poetry by heart, will do wonders for your child’s memory, vocabulary and writing. We could tell you that reading and reciting poetry is now a key part of the National Curriculum. Or we could simply say that reading a brilliant poem might give your child a great deal of pleasure. Here are some of the best children’s collections out there, chosen by poet Emma Harding.

100 Best Poems for Children edited by Roger McGough, illustrated by Sheila Moxley

(£12.99, Puffin)

Roger McGough has chosen an excitingly varied top 100 from hundreds of poems nominated by children themselves. This collection introduces readers to a whole range of classic and contemporary poems that sit alongside each other, from Dr Seuss to Shakespeare, Christina Rossetti to Michael Rosen.

Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

(£5.99, Puffin)

Fairy tales, but not as you know them… Roald Dahl takes six well-known fairy stories and gives each of them a wicked and witty Roald Dahl twist. Cinderella isn’t about to let herself be married off to any less-than-charming Prince, and no one would mess with this Little Red Riding Hood! Perfect for children who might think they’re too big for fairy tales.

Let's Celebrate! Festival Poems from Around the World edited by Debjani Chatterjee and Brian D’Arcy

(£8.99, Lincoln Children’s Books)

Travel all around the globe with these joyous poems from 24 major world festivals. From Chinese New Year to Diwali, Thanksgiving to Purnima, Hanukkah to Eid, as well as more unusual celebrations such as the Ice Festival and Tomatina, the tomato-throwing festival, there are poems here from a wide range of international writers. With explanations of each of the festivals and colourful Illustrations by Shirin Adl, this is a rich journey of exploration.

Michael Rosen’s A to Z: the best children’s poetry from Agard to Zephaniah edited by Michael Rosen

(£7.99 Puffin)

Former Children’s Laureate and poet Michael Rosen will be familiar to many children, not least because of his ever-popular We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. In this book, he selects an exciting range of poems from an exciting range of poets. There are some poems from Rosen himself, alongside well-known names such as Carol Ann Duffy, Roger McGough, Benjamin Zephaniah and Adrian Mitchell. In the book’s introduction, Rosen encourages his readers to take a poem and 'see what it sounds like when you say it', because poems don't just live in our brains, they live in our bodies.

It’s Not Fine to Sit on a Porcupine by Neal Zetter, illustrated by Rory Walker

(£6.99 Troika)

A collection of madcap, funny poems by leading performance poet Neal Zetter. Subjects range from an angry supermarket trolley to a bored superhero, or a mammoth on the underground. Wittily illustrated by Rory Walker, and perfect for those who like to have a giggle in their verse.

Poems to Perform by Julia Donaldson

(£6.99, Macmillan Children’s Books)

Aimed at younger readers (and performers) Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson has chosen a fizzing selection of poems that work brilliantly when read aloud, or performed to others. Children are also encouraged to perform them with their friends. Ranging from Edward Lear to W H Auden, Eleanor Farjeon to T S Eliot, the anthology moves from classic to contemporary, with poems by Michael Rosen, John Agard and Julia Donaldson herself.  The poems are illustrated with beautiful lino-cuts by Clare Melinsky and in the final section of the book, Julia Donaldson gives tips and ideas on how to perform the poems.

The Rainmaker Danced by John Agard, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura

(£6.99 Hodder)

Award-winning poet John Agard’s exuberant collection is witty, wise and full of music. Young readers will find poems on a range of subjects from aliens to seagulls; there are some thought-provoking poems that touch on themes such as war, or the notion of ‘them’ and ‘us’, but there is lots of fun here too, with poems such as ‘Government Warning’ which announces the establishment of a tickle-free zone.

Out and About: A First Book of Poems by Shirley Hughes

(£7.99, Walker Books)

A delightful collection of poems to read to younger children, written and illustrated by the much loved Shirley Hughes. Katie and her little brother Olly go out and about, enjoying the changing seasons, with all their different weathers – sun, rain, wind and snow. This collection beautifully captures day-to-day experiences that every child will recognise, from seaside outings to jumping in puddles. Written in simple language, these are poems that celebrate the natural world and the pleasures of being outdoors.

In the Land of the Giants by George Szirtes

(£6.99 Salt Publishing)

Winner of the CLPE Poetry Award, George Szirtes’ poems are full of wit, music and absurdity. They include riddles and parables, strange encounters and cautionary tales. This collection also includes a number of translations of children’s poems from Hungary, including works by Sándor Weöres and Zoltán Zelk.

101 Poems for Children chosen by Carol Ann Duffy: A Laureate's Choice

(£6.99 Macmillan Children’s Books)

From familiar classics such as 'The Owl and the Pussycat' by Edward Lear, to more recent poems such as Edwin Morgan's 'The Loch Ness Monster's Song' and 'Balloons' by Sylvia Plath, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has chosen her favourite poems for children. An engaging selection of old and modern, beautifully illustrated by award-winning illustrator Emily Gravett, there are many wonderful poems here to read aloud, or learn by heart.

Poems Out Loud!: First Poems to Read and Perform

(£7.99, Ladybird)

An innovative and contemporary collection – the accompanying CD, with performances from the poets, makes it a brilliant way to introduce young children to poetry for the very first time, and the bright illustrations on every page make it easy to add a poem to your usual bedtime story routine. Including the work of award-winning poets, brand new voices, hip-hop artists and spoken-word performers, this is a fresh, diverse anthology for the twenty-first century, sure to get children laughing, thinking, performing and maybe writing poetry of their own.

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!: An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year

(£25, Nosy Crow)

An illustrated anthology of 366 animal poems from around the world, fully illustrated in vibrant colour. Curated by Fiona Waters, the collection spans 400 years and 22 countries and features classics like Blake's The Tyger but also short rhymes about chimpanzees, fleas, galahs, guppies, polar bears, ants (and anteaters) and many more inhabitants of the animal kingdom.

A Poet for Every Day of the Year edited by Allie Esiri

(£20, Macmillan)

Why not use this wonderful introduction to 366 poets as a way to explore poetry with your child, reading one poem together every night?

Poets of all ages and backgrounds are included for you to discover, each of them presented with a short biography to introduce you to their life and times. From Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Ocean Vuong and William Wordsworth, this chunky anthology is a treasure trove for every day.

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