Recently I’ve started introducing my children to poetry. Poetry is generally not my cup of tea – I’m very picky about it, and if I don’t like something, it really sets my teeth on edge. But I want Peanut and Nugget to grow up appreciating good poetry, and I want them to have the skills to understand and enjoy it – skills that I am still developing, myself. Since I started keeping eyes out for good poetry for them, I’ve discovered that there is a lot of wonderful poetry, in some really beautiful books. Some of the poetry I’ve found is specifically geared toward children, but not all of it – some books, like the gorgeous Sail Away, by Langston Hughes, reprint classic poems that may have originally been intended for adults, but that children can enjoy too. And really, what better Diverse KidLit pic for National Poetry Month than an introduction to Hughes, one of the foremost poets of the Harlem Renaissance?
Sail Away includes some of Hughes’ most famous pieces – like The Negro Speaks of Rivers, a poem I’ve loved since I first read it in school.
I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
Then there are poems like April Rain Song, which I’d never read before, but how better to capture the sheer joy of a child stomping in puddles, and how perfect for spring, is this:
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your
head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song
on our roof at night
And I love the rain.
The illustrations are beautiful – colorful, eye-catching, and sure to please both kids and the adults who read these poems to them. There are children of all different races and ages on the pages, and their sweet faces seem almost alive. The illustrations perfectly match the lovely poetry – they really make the book.
Became a bright ball of light
For us to play with.
A yellow curtain
A velvet screen.
I originally saw Sail Away on one of the tables during my kids’ preschool book sale, but I didn’t buy it because I was in a hurry to get to work. When I came back for the book, it was gone – bummer for me, but what a delight for someone else! I filed away the title and made a point of ordering it later, and I’m so glad that I did. The selected poems are wonderful for children, as they capture joy and bliss in experiencing the natural world – but children are not the only ones who will enjoy this gorgeous book. This is one for the parents as well.
If you’d like to read more Langston Hughes poems, many of his works are available on poemhunter.
Are you reading any diverse poets for National Poetry Month?