The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems

Synopsis

American children's poetry began with Native American cradle songs, moved on to a rhymed alphabet, blossomed in the 19th century with "A Visit from St. Nicholas," expanded widely in the 20th century, and continues with vigor into the new millennium. Some of the best of these poems, however,have been neglected or forgotten. This collection, edited by acclaimed children's author and poet Donald Hall, returns to us the forgotten treasures of American children's poetry. Featuring some of the best of children's book illustration-including archival selections from rare and early editionsand pictures from now defunct 19th- and early-20th-century children's magazines-this anthology revives not only the classic poems but also the atmosphere of the periods in which they were written and read. Starting with anonymous Native American verses and a selection from the 1727 New England Primer, "Alphabet," this book spans two centuries of American children's poetry. Immediately recognizable names, including Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, and T. S. Eliot are joined by talentedcontemporary poets like Gwendolyn Brooks, Sandra Cisneros, Janet S. Wong, and others. Perennial favorites-such as "The Three Little Kittens" and "Casey at the Bat"-are mixed in with new classics, such as Shel Silverstein's "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out." Poems aboutholidays appear with verses for recitation, nursery rhymes, poems for laughter, bedtime verses, scary poems, and animal poems. In recognition of America's diverse nature, the selections in this anthology reflect a variety of backgrounds and experiences. From anonymous African-American poets we stepforward through the ages to admire the talents of Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, and Francisco X. Alarcon. Children will love discovering these gems, and both parents and teachers will delight in reading to children from this book.

Excerpt

by Donald Hall

Poetry for our children began with Native American cradle songs, moved on to a rhymed alphabet, bloomed in the 19th century with “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” expanded in the 20th, and continues with vigor into the 21st. Many children’s magazines of the 19th and early 20th centuries required verses for recitation, for laughter, or for sleepiness at bedtime. Some of the best of these poems have gradually disappeared.

Here we mean to bring them back into light. In the larger, unillustrated Oxford Book of Children’s Verse in America, the present editor assembled a history of the genre and chose poems that parents could read aloud to their children. This second selection, with archival illustrations, returns many poems to the scenes of their origin. The editor hopes that adults will read these poems aloud to small children and show them the pictures. He also hopes that when these children start reading, they will continue to take pleasure in this book, speaking aloud the sounds of poetry—and learning poems by heart. Poetry is most poetry when it makes noise. With an old picture beside it, a poem may also preserve a moment of the American past.

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