'Follow Follow' and others open up new uni-verses for kids

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Nurture your child's interest in poetry with one of these great new books of verse, perfect for celebrating National Poetry Month in April:

• Both readers and critics raved several years ago when author Marilyn Singer created "Mirror Mirror," a book filled with "reverso poems" that can be read both up and down and have different meanings in each direction. Now Ms. Singer has done it again with "Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems" (Dial, $16.99, ages 7-12).

Even adults will find much to enjoy in this picture-sized book of poems, featuring sprightly illustrations by Josee Masse. Each poem in "Follow Follow" is focused on a fairy or other classic tale, and each tells the story from two points of view, depending on whether you read it down or up.

For example, in "Ready, Steady, Go!," Ms. Singer retells the Aesop's fable "The Tortoise and the Hare" from both points of view. Reading the poem down, we hear the hare boast in the last two lines: "I've got rabbit feet to/take me to the finish line." Those two lines become the first lines for the tortoise as we read the poem up: "Take me to the finish line!/ I've got rabbit feet to beat."

Budding young poets likely will want to try "reverso poetry" themselves.

• Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy and the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, is the editor of a must-have new book of poetry for children, "Poems to Learn by Heart" (Disney/Hyperion, $19.99, ages 5 up).

Beautifully illustrated with numerous watercolors by Jon Muth, "Poems to Learn by Heart" offers dozens of pieces organized by themes such as friendship, family issues, sports and school, making it easy to find just the right poem for a particular moment. Some are quite brief; others offer more of a memorization challenge.

Ms. Kennedy includes a brief introduction to each section; in her overall introduction to the book, she contends that, with the increasing popularity of "urban poetry slams, open-mic competitions and spoken-word festivals, poetry recitation is making a comeback. Poetry has come out of solitary confinement to become an agent of empowerment and social change."

• Even the youngest children can enjoy poetry, as shown by "Wee Rhymes: Baby's First Poetry Book" (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, ages infant-4). Most of the brief cheerful poems in this book were written by Jane Yolen, and they spotlight the important events, people and things in the life of little ones, from strollers to nap time to teddy bears.

The pencil-and-watercolor illustrations by Jane Dyer brim with gentle humor and expression, presenting a diverse cast of babies, toddlers and their grown-ups as they go about their days.

• Ms. Yolen has teamed up with author Rebecca Kai Dotlich to present a book of poetry that fractures some favorite fairy tales in "Grumbles From the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices With a Twist" (Wordsong, $16.95, ages 7-10).

Some of these characters aren't exactly typical. For example, in "Just One Pea," Ms. Yolen and Ms. Dotlich write from the point of view of the pea stuck under the pile of mattresses in "The Princess and the Pea": "Stuck under the mattress/As sleeping time nears/I miss my dear pod,/My peeps and my peers."

The whimsy of the poetry is underlined in artist Matt Mahurin's intriguing illustrations, which are sometimes humorous and sometimes haunting.

• Three new books of poetry thoughtfully explore civil rights, moving westward and the building of the White House.

In "When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Activists" (Chronicle Books, $16.99, ages 10 up), poet J. Patrick Lewis, the current U.S. children's poet laureate, spotlights well-known people such as Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play major league baseball, as well as lesser-known activists such as Mitsuye Endo, a woman who protested the internment camps for Japanese-Americans in World War II. Mr. Lewis' poems are illustrated by a variety of artists; readers can learn more about the activists through brief biographies at the end of the book.

"In the Land of Milk and Honey" (Amistad/HarperCollins, $16.99, ages 7-10), poet Joyce Carol Thomas tells of a pivotal event of her childhood: her family's move from Oklahoma to California. In his brown-toned illustrations, artist Floyd Cooper gives readers a real sense of the wonder and excitement Ms. Thomas felt as she traveled west and first set eyes on her new home.

Mr. Cooper's illustrations also animate the stirring text of "Brick by Brick" (Amistad/HarperCollins, $17.99, ages 7-10). Here, award-winning poet Charles R. Smith Jr. highlights the slaves who helped build the White House.

Several other books of poetry that shouldn't be missed include:

"Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse" (Houghton Mifflin, $15.99, ages 7-10), written by Tamera Will Wissinger and illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

"Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems" (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $17.99, ages 5-8), written by veteran children's poet Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Carin Berger.

"Forest Has a Song" (Houghton Mifflin, $16.99, ages 6-9), written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Robbin Gourley.

"Pug and Other Animal Poems" (FSG, $16.99, ages 7-10), written by Valerie Worth and illustrated by Steve Jenkins.


Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park Maryland Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.


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