Michelle's Real Reads: Children's Nonfiction Book Recommendations

Celebrate National Poetry Month by checking out some of these books!

J Nonfiction

The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky  

Open this book to any page to begin your exploration. Here are poems about things that you may never have thought about before. You'll be introduced to jellyfish stew, a bouncing mouse, a ridiculous dog, and a boneless chicken. 

You'll learn why you shouldn't argue with a shark, eat a dinosaur, or have an alligator for a pet. You'll meet the world's worst singer and the greatest video game player in history. You'll even find an invitation to a dragon's birthday party.... 

This playful collection is a wonderful introduction to the pleasures of poetry and word play from a master of the genre, Jack Prelutsky. 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson 

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child's soul as she searches for her place in the world.

Woodson's eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become. 

This Poem Is a Nest by Irene Latham, art by Johanna Wright

What can you find in a poem about a robin's nest? Irene Latham masterfully discovers "nestlings" or smaller poems about an astonishing variety of subjects--emotions, wild animals, natural landmarks on all seven continents, even planets and constellations. Each poem is a glorious spark of wonder that will prompt readers to look at the world afresh. The book includes an introduction detailing the principles of found poetry and blackout poetry, and a section of tips at the end. The joyous creativity in this volume is certain to inspire budding poets.  

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes 

Out of gratitude for the poet's art form, Newbery Award-winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors' hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen. 

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka

In this splendid and playful volume, acclaimed poetry anthologist Paul B. Janeczko and Caldecott Honor illustrator Chris Raschka present lively examples of twenty-nine poetic forms, demonstrating not only the (sometimes bendable) rules of poetry, but also the spirit that brings these forms so wonderfully to life. Featuring formal poems, some familiar and some never before published, from the likes of Eleanor Farjeon (aubade), X. J. Kennedy (elegy), Ogden Nash (couplet), Liz Rosenberg (pantoum), and William Shakespeare, the sonnet king himself, A Kick in the Head perfectly illustrates Robert Frost's maxim that poetry without rules is like a tennis match without a net. Back matter includes notes on poetic forms.  

 

The new kid on the block

Brown girl dreaming

This poem is a nest

Out of wonder : poems celebrating poets

EJ Nonfiction

 

The Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Merce Lopez

Haiku meet riddles in this wonderful collection from Laura Purdie Salas. The poems celebrate the seasons and describe everything from an earthworm to a baseball to an apple to snow angels, alongside full-color illustrations.  

 

A Hatful of Dragons: And More Than 13.8 Billion Other Funny Poems by Vikram Madan 

This funny poetry book is chockful of unusual characters: panda and pangolin musicians, mail-order eggs that hatch (surprise!) dinosaurs, ten aliens with a garden-gnome pal, a robot uncle, lots and lots of dragons, and a professor who uses his Page Machine to travel to multiple pages within the book. Vikram Madan's ingenious poems take many forms, from limerick to rebus to a fill-in-the-blank poem that offers more than 13.8 billion funny combinations. All feature clever wordplay, impeccable rhythm and rhyme, and riotous punchlines. This is a quirky collection of poems that readers will laugh their way through again and again. 

 

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad 

Seasons change from winter to fall in this book of poetry from the author of And Then It's Spring and If You Want to See A Whale, and charmingly illustrated by Julie Morstad. In Julie Fogliano's skilled hand and illustrated by Julie Morstad's charming pictures, the seasons come to life in this gorgeous and comprehensive book of poetry. 

 

The Carnival of the Animals New Verses by Jack Prelutskey, illustrated by Mary GrandPre 

A great way to introduce children to classical music. America's first Children's Poet Laureate has written all-new verses to accompany the composer Camille Saint-Saens's The Carnival of the Animals, and the illustrator of the Harry Potter books has turned these rollicking rhymes into a picture-book fun fest. Included is a CD of the music and of Jack Prelutsky reading the verses. A note to parents and teachers by Judith Bachleitner, head of the music department at the prestigious Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, suggests ways preschoolers can act out the music-tromp like an elephant, hop like a kangaroo, glide like a swan-or, for older children, be creatively inspired by this joyful work. 

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson 

Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more. 

Lion of the sky : haiku for all seasons

A hatful of dragons : and more than 13.8 billion other funny poems

When green becomes tomatoes

The carnival of the animals

The undefeated