Sheer Perfection, No Objection, Near Confection: Poetry for Kids

Caitlin Quinn, Children's Librarian, Eagle Rock Branch Library,
Collage of poetry books for children

"Sheer perfection, no objection, near confection" —Fred Rogers

What is poetry? Ask any random sampling of children and the answer might be simply, words that rhyme. But a poem can take many forms. My favorite answer to the question “what is poetry?” is provided in the beautifully illustrated children’s picture book, Daniel Finds A Poem:

“If you look and listen, it [poetry] is all around you!”—Micha Archer

In the story, Daniel is eagerly awaiting “Poetry in the Park Day.” The only problem is that he’s not completely sure what defines a poem. His journey to discovery, accompanied by some insightful urban park animals, makes for an accessible and adorable introduction to poetry for children.

“How I rush rush rush! Thoughts flutter and dart like birds. Slow down thoughts, Come quietly with me. There is time to breathe and be.”—Micha Archer

These days, I imagine all of us could benefit from spending some time with the book Breathe and Be. It’s simple refrain is a reminder to do just as the title suggests. The slow, soothing pace of the book’s nature-inspired verses would make a peaceful choice for bedtime or at a time when emotions are running high at home.

My First Book of Haiku Poems is a compilation of original Japanese haiku dating as far back as Japan’s Edo period. Written in Japanese and translated into English, each classic poem is paired with a dream-like watercolor painting. Thought-provoking questions about the poetry are posed, supporting the reader’s development of comprehension skills. Finally, kids are invited to take their own turn at penning a haiku. Can you write a poem in three lines, using only five syllables in the first and third lines, and seven in the second line?

Change-inspiring concepts such as allyship, gratitude, and respect are organized alphabetically in the book Dictionary for a Better World. A poem, a personal anecdote from the authors, and an activity prompt accompany each entry in the dictionary, nudging readers to engage deeper with the concepts. The conversations that this book encourages make it a valuable resource for the entire family. A variety of poetic forms are also introduced, such as the acrostic poem, a type of poem that uses the letters of other words to form a word itself. I enjoyed this one from the book:

Ears open
Mouth closed
To the other person
Helping them know
Yes, they matter.

Part verse, part reference book, Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel is a lot of non-fiction fun for young bird scouts. In it, twelve birds, and close-ups of their feathers, are identified and admired with information about habitats, life-like illustrations, and—of course—poetry. Fabulous, uncommon vocabulary is introduced. Did you know that crows mob or harass and starlings murmurate, move in massive groups in unison?

The Road Not Taken is the first children's book ever made of Robert Frost's famous poem by the same name. In it, a young boy and his dog stroll through Autumn-colored woods. When they come to a fork in the road, a decision must be made, the first of many he will face over the course of his life. Bright and bold illustrations mark milestones in the boy’s life as the poem progresses: as a student, in his career, when he finds love, experiences loss, and, by journey's end, acknowledges that his life was fully lived. You might need a box of tissue handy for this one.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets is a collection of original poems written for young folks in the style of some of the world's most famous poets—Rumi, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Emily Dickenson to name a few. The book is not only inspirational, but educational in that it teaches young readers about poetry as a form of literature and a form of expression. The last six pages of the book feature poets’ biographies and brief discussions of their different writing styles. Out of Wonder is also instructive in that it functions as a guidebook for how to compose poetry. Its bold mixed-media illustrations are also definitely worthy of celebrating. The poem below was written by one of the book’s authors, Kwame Alexander, in a style that pays homage to poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

"How To Write A Poem"


Grab a pencil
some paper

Let loose your heart—
raise your voice.

What if I have many voices?

Let them dance together
twist and turn
like best friends
in a maze
till you find
your way
to that one true word.

(or two).

An ode is a lyrical poem written to praise a person, place, or object. Poet Pablo Neruda once wrote “Ode to My Socks,” and in the spirit of poetry devoted to the common object, Finding Treasure is a children’s picture book of odes to ordinary things; from baseball cards to button collections. The book might just inspire younger readers (or you) to look around the house and try their hand at writing. What is an everyday object especially treasured by you and your family right now? Can you write an ode to it?

I was giggling at the clever title of No More Poems!: A Book In Verse That Just Gets Worse before I even opened its cover. Kids will relate to and appreciate poems about attempts to get out of going to school, bad breath, getting revenge on a sibling, food fiascoes, and “secret karate”, you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is.No More Poems! addresses common childhood concerns with the silliest of humor making it likely that fans of Where The Sidewalk Ends and the Captain Underpants series alike will enjoy this book.

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood is a compilation of 75 songs, written and performed by Fred Rogers on his iconic show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Most touch on tender topics such as the affirmation of self, the importance of friendship, and often celebrate nature. The songs also help encourage listeners to build confidence, regulate emotion, and exercise gratitude. I’ll leave you with the one below.

"Perfect Day"

This day has really been unique
The wind and trees played hide and seek
The sun and clouds danced cheek to cheek
It's been a perfect day

This day has really been so good
The sunshine shone just where it should
We all feel fine, let's knock on wood
It's been a perfect day

Just ask the trees
Sheer perfection
Ask the breeze
No objection
Ask the bees
Near confection
Sheer perfection, no objection, near confection WOW

Suggested Reading

Book cover for Daniel Finds a Poem
Daniel Finds a Poem
Micha Archer

Book cover for Breathe and Be
Breathe and Be
Kate Coombs

Book cover for My First Book of Haiku Poems
My First Book of Haiku Poems
Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen

Book cover for Dictionary for a Better World
Dictionary for a Better World
Irene Latham

Book cover for Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel
Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel
Susan Vande Griek

Book cover for The Road Not Taken
The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost

Book cover for Finding Treasure
Finding Treasure
Michelle Schaub

Book cover for Out of Wonder!
Out of Wonder!
Kwame Alexander

Book cover for No More Poems!
No More Poems!
Rhett Miller

Book cover for A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood
A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood
Fred Rogers