We’re winding down National Poetry Month, but I still have a few poetical gems to share with my friends – and because of the season of my current state of life, they all revolve around kiddos. As I mentioned when I shared my Diverse KidLit pick for the month, Sail Away: Poems by Langston Hughes, I have been trying to introduce my kids to more poetry recently. As a picky poetry reader myself, I have been delighted to find that there are many options beyond Mother Goose. Of course, there are classic children’s poems, but there are so many fantastic modern poets producing wonderful introductions to poetry for the youngest readers. But today, we’re just going to talk classics – and I think I have a fairly comprehensive list to share with you (but if I’m leaving any out, do share!).
No discussion of children’s poetry can begin without a nod to Mother Goose. She’s widely considered to be the gold standard, after all. Of course, as Peanut pointed out, Mother Goose is a little… terrifying. I was shocked to discover how many of the poems my mom had, let’s say, edited when she read them to me. But my favorite, Girls and Boys, is a delight:
Girls and boys, come out to play
The moon doth shine as bright as day
Leave your supper and leave your sleep
And come with your playfellows into the street
Come with a whoop or come with a call
Come with goodwill or not at all
Up the ladder and down the wall
A halfpenny roll will serve us all
You find milk and I’ll find flour
And we’ll have a pudding in half an hour
If you fancy something with a similar feel to Mother Goose, but more rabbits, you might want to delve into Beatrix Potter’s nursery rhymes. Set in the same world as her famous tales of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddleduck, and all of their friends, the nursery rhymes are a little gentler than the longer stories – better for younger children who might be a little frightened by tales of badgers kidnapping baby bunnies and sadistic farmers trying to trap young animals.
Apply Dpply, a little
Goes to the cupboard in
In somebody’s cupboard
There’s everything nice,
Cake, cheese, jam, biscuits,
All charming for mice!
Apply Dapply has little
And Apply Dapply is so fond
A more recent discovery in our house – Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. I’d heard of it from time to time and occasionally made half-hearted efforts to seek out a version I liked, but Stevenson wasn’t really on my radar. But a few weeks ago, while Nugget and I were exploring the children’s section at our local Barnes & Noble, we came upon this lovely edition and snapped it up. The poems are full of adventure and sweetness and we’ve been enjoying dipping into them here and there.
How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture storybooks?
(I mean, does that not sound like a perfect Saturday?)
Then there’s a more modern classic, but I can’t leave out one of my childhood favorites – Shel Silverstein. Is there any reader who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, who didn’t have a copy of either A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, or both? I had Where the Sidewalk Ends and I spent hours pouring over it. I loved Peanut Butter Sandwich… but not as much as I loved…
Ricky was “L” but he’s home with the flu.
Lizzie, our “O,” had some homework to do.
Mitchell, “E,” prob’ly got lost on the way.
So I’m all of love that could make it today.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite – A.A. Milne. (I’m currently dipping into The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh and craving a trip to Ashdown Forest.) I suppose it seems funny that I love both ee cummings and A.A. Milne, because cummings famously couldn’t stand Milne or his nursery poems – ha! I contain multitudes. But Pooh has been dear to my heart since before memory, and I will always adore that sweet bear and his lovely friends. (And yes, I did consider naming Nugget “Christopher Robin,” thank you for asking.)
Like Dates and Pounds-and-ounces and the names of funny Kings,
And the answer’s always Sixpence or A Hundred Inches Long.
And I know they’ll think me silly if I get the answer wrong.
So Pooh and I go whispering, and Pooh looks very bright,
And says, “Well, I say sixpence, but I don’t suppose I’m right.”
And then it doesn’t matter what the answer ought to be,
‘Cos if he’s right, I’m Right, and if he’s wrong, it isn’t Me.