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Culture Children's Books

Whimsical words

Children’s Books

Whimsical words

Four poetry picture books

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems

Paul B. Janeczko, ed.

The poems in this book offer children the chance to stretch their thinking. April Halprin Wayland’s “How to Pay Attention” consists of only four words: “Close this book. Look.” The illustration shows a picture of this book on a chair and a girl standing in an open doorway. “Best Friends” teaches how to turn a piece of grass into a whistle. Serious poems describe how to say thank you in sign language or read braille. Silly ones offer advice on what to do if you’re tired of your hair. The minimalist illustrations let the words do the talking. (Ages 6-9)

I See the Moon: Rhymes for Bedtime

Rosalind Beardshaw, illus.

This anthology includes many familiar bedtime poems like “Star Light, Star Bright” and “Wee Willie Winkie.” Others may be less familiar: I did not know “Bedtime” by Thomas Hood. All of them share a calming rhythm. What sets the collection apart are Beardshaw’s whimsical, mixed-media illustrations, which incorporate silver and gold inks that shine when held in the right light. That means the stars twinkle, the trim on the pirate’s hat glows, flowers glitter, and the moon shines. The illustrations and poems are on the sweet and cozy end of the picture book spectrum. (Ages 2-5)

Clackety Track: Poems about Trains

Skila Brown

In rhythmic verse, Brown introduces children to the wonder of trains: freight trains, bullet trains, zoo trains, underground trains. She includes poems about tracks and plows and other big machines. Sometimes the words form part of the illustrations: In “Shoulder Ballast Cleaner” the simple words follow the conveyor belt and spit out the side. The poem “Sleeper Train” concludes the book: “Hush. Here comes a train. Chuggety, hufflety snuggle down deep, Clackety, trackety counting of sheep, Clinkety, rockety, sleepity sleep. Hush. Here comes a train.” Illustrated in the style of midcentury travel posters. (Ages 5-8)

Predator and Prey

Susannah Buhrman-Deever

Buhrman-Deever wrote many of the poems in this book for two voices: the predator and prey. She offers fascinating details about the natural world in a format that invites collaborative readings. In “Spies,” male and female túngara frogs call back and forth to each other. Also listening to this mating chorus are bats, who use the calls to locate dinner. Sometimes she uses one poem to tell the story of a predator and another poem to tell the prey’s side. Boxes at the bottom give more detail about the strange relationships between various animals. Watercolor and gouache illustrations complement the text. (Ages 6-9)




Clover Robin’s Origami and Poetry: Inspired by Nature (Nosy Crow, 2019) is a large-format book that includes one-stanza excerpts from poems about nature along with simple instructions for origami figures related to the poems. The book includes a QR code so readers can watch related how-to videos. It also includes 50 sheets of patterned origami paper and a note: “If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t give up! Origami takes lots of practice, and your projects will get better and better.”

Ashley Benham Yazdani’s A Green Place to Be (Candlewick, 2019) tells how Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted created New York’s Central Park. It began with a contest, and they almost missed the deadline. The book focuses on both the park’s design and its construction. Pencil-and-watercolor illustrations offer intriguing details that add to the book’s interest. —S.O.