Some of the Best Poetry Books for Kids

This list of poetry for children is filled, I hope, with genuinely funny and sweet books. Some of them are hysterically funny even for adults: Michael Rosen is a brilliant poet with a knack for wordplay and sound, for instance, and Bob Raczka’s poems are so fiendishly clever that you and your kids might cackle with delight. Meanwhile, Eloise Greenfield’s and Robert Macfarlane’s poems are filled with magic, about childhood and its delights and about nature, respectively. When you’re ready to explore beyond nursery rhymes, here are some wonderful books to turn to (again and again).

Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy, Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake [Amazon] — This Michael Rosen collection is packed with hysterically funny poetry. “Don’t” hilariously explores kids’ feelings about always being told not to do things, and “Bathroom Fiddler” is perfect for any kid who dawdles (and parents of those children, too). Other poems play with words and sounds so masterfully that kids will recite the poems to themselves for a long time. As with any Rosen collection, some of the poems are more serious or thoughtful — in any good mix, there’s variety — but nearly all of them are terrific.

Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems, Eloise Greenfield and Diane and Leo Dillon [Amazon | Bookshop] — A beautiful, small, and perfectly short book of children’s poetry from Black poet Eloise Greenfield. Some of these poems are sweetly funny (“Fun” and “Moochie”), one touches on slavery (“Harriet Tubman”), some are joyous (“Honey, I Love”), and some are just profoundly lovely (“Love Don’t Mean”). The wonderful title poem is also now a stand-alone children’s book [Amazon | Bookshop].

Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech, Ted Kooser, Connie Wanek, and Richard Jones [Amazon | Bookshop] — While Michael Rosen’s poems are firework crowd-pleasers, the sorts of poems that make you roll in the aisle, these poems are a bit more subtle, clever and beautiful and awe-inspiring instead of clever and flat-out hilarious. But yes: there are still a couple of laughs. And yes: these poems are definitely entertaining! Some are delightfully philosophical, like “Meteor Shower,” which compares the universe to a ball being batted around by a playful cat, or “The World Without Me,” which imagines a second world – and an alternate reality – in the reflection of a puddle. And some are so off-the-wall clever that they’ll make you laugh (“June Afternoon” and “Cow Pie” and perhaps “Barn,” too). But either way, there’s hardly a dud in this book. Each one is a poem you could teach, a poem that could spark your imagination and give you a peek into the possibilities poetry opens up. In other words, each one is a conversation starter. (Although it’s a picture book, children 8 or 9 and up will get the most from this one.)

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems, Bob Raczka [Amazon | Bookshop] — These “concrete poems,” or poems written in the shape of their subjects, are extraordinarily clever and funny. You don’t need any illustrations with graphic design as good as this, poems this thrilling.

If Not for the Cat, Jack Prelutsky and Ted Rand [Amazon | Bookshop] — Probably one of the finest books of haiku for children. Few books of haiku for kids are riotously fun, but this one is enjoyable and entertaining. The haiku are from animals’ perspectives, each accompanied by a large, beautiful illustration. Some are serious or contemplative, but others are witty. It’s easy to get into character when reading these, and younger children especially will love identifying each animal. 

A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young, Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell [Amazon | Bookshop] — If you don’t know where to start with poetry for young children, start here. Many of these excellent and truly entertaining poems focus on silly words and sounds — perfect for very young toddlers and funny enough even for kids in kindergarten and early elementary, too.

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: 50 Inspiring Poems with a Beat, Nikki Giovanni (ed.) [Amazon | Bookshop] — Poet Nikki Giovanni’s selections here are great, and the book comes with a CD, featuring musical excerpts (like from The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First”) and poems from poets like Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Langston Hughes, read by the authors themselves.

The Lost Words, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris [Amazon | Bookshop] — Master nature writer Macfarlane’s poems transcend age classifications. These are poems for children, and these are poems for grown-ups, too. The book is oversized and almost heartbreakingly beautiful by any measure. Macfarlane’s poems about animals and nature are clever and a joy to read, and Morris’s watercolor illustrations are breathtaking. If you love this one, check out the sequel, this time in a very small package: The Lost Spells [Amazon | Bookshop]. And also its companion CD, The Lost Words: Spell Songs.

Dear Ugly Sisters and Other Poems, Laura Mucha [Amazon | Bookshop] — A solid book of poetry with many funny poems and plenty of wordplay. If you purchase the book, you can also download an audiobook of Mucha reading her poems.

Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word, Bob Raczka and Nancy Doniger [Amazon | Bookshop] — Another extremely clever book from Raczka, this time with poems written using only the letters from their titles. It’s a challenging exercise, but these poems are fantastic and extremely funny.

Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me, Eloise Greenfield and Ehsan Abdollahi [Amazon | Bookshop] — This lovely book tells the story of Thinker, a dog poet, through a series of poems narrated by him and his owner, Jace. The tale is simple and sweet: Thinker wants to be a poet, but Jace doesn’t want him to recite poetry in front of people. He also wants to go to school with Jace, but Jace can’t take Thinker to school, either. On Pets’ Day, he’ll finally be allowed to go, but can he resist reciting poetry? He wonders, “No poems. No talk. / But I am sad. / Who am I, if I’m / not myself? / Who am I?” Preschoolers won’t have trouble understanding this book, and there’s enough cuteness and humor for elementary-aged kids to love it, too. The book ends joyfully, with Thinker rapping on his way home.

Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood, Patricia C. McKissack and Brian Pinkney [Amazon | Bookshop] — A truly great collection of poetry made, performed, and/or loved by African American children: hand clap and playground games, songs originating from slavery, parables, gospel music, and more. McKissack has thoughtfully annotated the whole collection, so it’s full of historical information and personal recollections, too. It’s just packed with fun, wonderful things.

Bananas in My Ears, Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake [Amazon | Bookshop] — For preschoolers and up, another one of Rosen’s superb collections, brilliantly illustrated by Quentin Blake. Children might well crack up and request to hear these poems again and again and again. They’re a pleasure to read.

This site uses affiliate links, and I might earn a small commission if you click through to purchase these books. I only recommend books I have used and love.

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