The Pleasures of Poetry. (Never Too Soon)

Article excerpt

WITTY WORDPLAY, PITHY POEMS, snappy sequels and novels in free verse--poetry assumes all sorts of guises now, with something for every child.

Older children who like penning poems themselves will find wisdom from favorite poets in Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets, compiled by Paul B. Janeczko. Each contributor--the list includes Naomi Shihab Nye, Nikki Grimes and Karla Kuskin--writes a letter, followed by a well-chosen poem.

At the other end of the spectrum, kids who don't want to write poetry will identify with Jack, the narrator in Sharon Creech's verse novel Love That Dog. Graced with a priceless picture of a dog drawn by William Steig, the dust jacket invites even reluctant readers, as does Jack's first verse journal entry for school: "I don't want to / because boys / don't write poetry. / Girls do." But after hearing some poems that speak to him, Jack changes his mind and expresses his sadness about "that dog" through his own verses.

At Manhattan's Bank Street School for Children, verse novels have been successful recently. Children's librarian Lisa Von Drasek read Vera Williams' Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart aloud to children ages eight to ten. Beautifully illustrated, this short verse novel follows the ups and downs of two young sisters who cope with poverty and loneliness while their father is in prison. "One nine-year-old boy, a boy with some emotional problems who had never read a book on his own before, wanted to check it out," says Von Drasek. "He has trouble reading, but between the pictures, the short verses, and all the white space, the book looked accessible to him. …