Children's poetry picks for National Poetry Day

There are so many incredible children’s poetry books and verse novels out there and I am OBSESSED with them. OBSESSED. So I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share my top picks for National Poetry Day! In no particular order:

Poetry collections

  • Everything All At Once by Steven Camden (AKA Polar Bear) - this year’s CLiPPA children’s poetry award winner. I carried it around with me for weeks in the run-up to the awards show. There was something about it. I have never read anything so TRUE if that makes sense. It was just so completely authentic and perfect in its execution. People thought it was a novel and asked if it’s any good. Good? It’s amazing.

  • Rhythm and Poetry by Karl Nova. This Hip-Hop-influenced collection was a CLiPPA winner in 2018. It’s a journey from childhood to adulthood and each piece is accompanied by some thoughts from Karl. Reading this was like being right there with him. So real.

  • Poems Out Loud! anthology from Ladybird Books, illustrated by Laurie Stansfield - a gorgeous, gorgeous collection. I had a sneak peek at the Penguin Presents showcase and haven't stopped thinking about it.

  • Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg. I had to sneak in this absolute classic. So good that many of these poems have stuck in my head from when I was positively tiny. Sometimes you go back to a thing and wonder what it ever did for you. Not this. It’s as good a collection as it always was. Better, in fact!

  • Zim Zam Zoom by James Carter, illustrated by Nicola Colton. Ok, James gets THREE spots here so brace yourself. This one’s a collection of poems - a fun mix and great as an early pick for a young reader (or listener).

  • I am the seed that grew the tree - an anthology from Nosy Crow with artwork by Frann-Preston-Gannon. This collection has something for every day of the year. We picked it up just before National Poetry Day a year ago now and my children adore it. It’s a firm fixture in our bedtime routine.

  • The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. Two words: SPELL SONGS. This is an enchanting book and an important one in a world where we risk losing touch with nature. Is it a collection? I don’t know what to call it. It’s in a category of its own. You’ll love the feel of it and the magic inside.

(I don’t have a picture up in the collage but I’m slipping in Rachel Rooney’s A Kid in My Class - another CLiPPA 2019 shortlisted collection. You’re bound to find someone you recognise in this one and there’s one poem that really brought a tear to my eye. Tell me if you find it!)

Picture Books

  • Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron. I was late to this party and only recently discovered this one. The rhythm is just right. And the VOICE. For me, with this one, it’s all about the voice. You forget Rosen entirely. And gosh, I could relate to this child. SO MUCH.

  • How to read a book by Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet. This lyrical picture book is bursting with colour and is all about a love of reading.

  • The Night Box by Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay. Louise’s command over language and rhythm is really something and Ashling’s illustrations give the book such a soft and dream-like quality. A real treat for the senses, this one.

  • If all the world were by Joseph Coelho and Allison Collpoys. Another lyrical picture book - this one’s about the loss of a loved one and the grandparent-grandchild relationship. I cried actual tears reading this. It’s so tender and strikes right at the heart.

  • Once Upon a Raindrop: The Story of Water by James Carter, illustrated by Nomoco. The artwork in this one is just beautiful. It has such a light and fluid and wondrous feel to it, perfect for a book about rain and water. The poetry itself is, of course, just wonderful.

  • Once Upon a Star: The Story of Our Sun by James Carter, illustrated by Mar Hernandez. I love how the publisher has paired James with different illustrators for every book in the series. Every single one is a joy to leaf through. This is the first one we got hold of and it’s about the origins of the universe - a big idea captured with glorious simplicity.

Verse novels

  • Rebound by Kwame Alexander. Kwame gets two spots on my list. I only discovered him because of this year’s CLiPPA shortlist and I am so glad I did. This coming-of-age verse novel packs a real punch. At turns funny and sad, it’s a book about family and being true to yourself.

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo - Carnegie medal winner 2019. I was rooting for this brilliant book. It was my very, very first verse novel and I was hooked from page 1. A powerful, game changing book.

  • Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi - this was a CLiPPA 2019 runner-up and it’s the youngest verse novel I’ve come across. A real treat from the wonderful Tiny Owl. I still remember the primary school children who performed a poem out of the book at the CLiPPA awards. They were fantastic!

Those are my favourites! If you haven’t read them yet, go find them at your library or at your local bookstore. I promise you they’ll be worth it! And if you have any anthologies, lyrical picture books, picture book poems, or verse novels that you adore, please flag them in the comments! I’m always on the look out for more! Verse novels especially as that’s a whole new world for me and one I’m falling in love with! Next on my list are:

  • For Every One by Jason Reynolds

  • Gloves Off by Louisa Reid

  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

  • The Firefly Letters OR The Poet Slave of Cuba by MS Margarita Engle

How about you? What are you reading?