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Crash Course: Recent poetry books for younger readers

This post wraps up my crash course series in books for younger readers. Hop back to Tuesday/Thursday posts from this month to see my previous posts in this series.

Summaries of these books are from WorldCat/the publisher. All titles are from the past couple of years.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Ekua Holmes (Illustrator), Chris Colderley, Marjory Wentworth (2017)


A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Honoree’s New York Times best-selling ode to poets who have sparked a sense of wonder.

Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award–winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen.

Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything by Calef Brown (2015)

This is the first longer-format, middle-grade collection from #1 New York Times–bestselling author-illustrator Calef Brown. Moving away from the picture book format offers Calef the opportunity to tackle a variety of themes and poetry styles as well as reach a slightly older audience. Hypnotize a Tiger is chock-full of Calef’s zany black-and-white artwork and features his wonderfully inventive characters and worlds—from the “completely nonviolent and silent” Lou Gnome to Percival, the impetuous (and none-too-sensible) lad who believes he is invincible, to Hugh Jarm (who has a huge arm, natch!). It’s a whimsical world: creative, fun, and inspiring!

Underneath My Bed: List Poems by Brian P. Cleary (2016)

When is a list also a poem? When it’s a list poem! List poems can be funny or serious, rhymed or unrhymed. Award-winning author Brian P. Cleary explains how these types of poems work—and shows some of the many ways they can be written.

Underneath My Bed is packed with goofy poems on subjects ranging from summer camp to dinosaurs to messy bedrooms. And when you’ve finished reading, you can try writing your very own list poem!

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry: More than 200 Poems With Photographs That Float, Zoom, and Bloom! by J. Patrick Lewis (2015)

When words in verse are paired with the awesomeness of nature, something magical happens! Beloved former U.S. Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis curates an exuberant poetic celebration of the natural world in this stellar collection of nature poems. From trickling streams to deafening thunderstorms to soaring mountains, discover majestic photography perfectly paired with contemporary (such as Billy Collins), classics (such as Robert Frost), and never-before-published work.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, Julie Morstad (Illustrator) (2016)

Flowers blooming in sheets of snow make way for happy frogs dancing in the rain. Summer swims move over for autumn sweaters until the snow comes back again. In Julie Fogliano’s skilled hand and illustrated by Julie Morstad’s charming pictures, the seasons come to life in this gorgeous and comprehensive book of poetry.

Wake Up! by Helen Frost, Rick Lieder (Illustrator) (2017)

The world is wide awake — are you? Stunning photos and poetic text usher readers into the early moments of life all around them.

Wake up! Come out and explore all the new creatures being born — just-hatched birds in the trees, tadpoles in the pond, a baby fawn in the woods. In their latest collaboration, poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder, the creators of Step Gently Out, Sweep Up the Sun, and Among a Thousand Fireflies, invite readers to wake up, open their eyes, and see the awe-inspiring array of new life just outside their door.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (2017)

Inspired by the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, bestselling author Nikki Grimes uses “The Golden Shovel” poetic method to create wholly original poems based on the works of master poets like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Jean Toomer, and others who enriched history during this era.

Each poem is paired with one-of-a-kind art from today’s most exciting African American illustrators—including Pat Cummings, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, and many more—to create an emotional and thought-provoking book with timely themes for today’s readers.

A foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author’s note, poet biographies, and index makes this not only a book to cherish, but a wonderful resource and reference as well.

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham, Charles Waters, Sean Qualls (Illustrator), Selina Alko (Illustrator) (2018)

How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don’t know each other… and they’re not sure they want to. Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners.

Keep a Pocket in Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies by J. Patrick Lewis, Johanna Wright (Illustrator) (2017)

Thirteen classic poems by poets such as Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, and David McCord are paired with parodies written by J. Patrick Lewis that honor and play off of the original poems in a range of ways. For example, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is paired with “Stopping by Fridge on a Hungry Evening” to hilarious effect, whereas the combination of Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” with Lewis’s “‘Grief’ is the thing with tissues” is profound, and both David McCord’s “This Is My Rock” and Lewis’s “This Is My Tree” hum with a sense of wonder. This playful introduction to classics will inspire imagination and wonder even as it tickles funny bones.

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka (2016)

Who says words need to be concrete? This collection shapes poems in surprising and delightful ways.

Concrete poetry is a perennially popular poetic form because they are fun to look at. But by using the arrangement of the words on the page to convey the meaning of the poem, concrete or shape poems are also easy to write! From the author of the incredibly inventive Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word comes another clever collection that shows kids how to look at words and poetry in a whole new way.

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, Josee Masse (Illustrator) (2016)

What happens when you hold up a mirror to poems about Greek myths? You get a brand-new perspective on the classics! And that is just what happens in Echo Echo, the newest collection of reverso poems from Marilyn Singer. Read one way, each poem tells the story of a familiar myth; but when read in reverse, the poems reveal a new point of view! Readers will delight in uncovering the dual points of view in well-known legends, including the stories of Pandora’s box, King Midas and his golden touch, Perseus and Medusa, Pygmalion, Icarus and Daedalus, Demeter and Persephone, and Echo and Narcissus.

These cunning verses combine with beautiful illustrations to create a collection of fourteen reverso poems to treasure.

My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads by Hope Anita Smith (2017)

Who is your hero? Who’s your best friend?

Who says he loves you again and again?

Daddy!

Told through the voice of a child, Anita Hope Smith’s My Daddy Rules the World collection of poems celebrates everyday displays of fatherly love, from guitar lessons and wrestling matches to bedtime stories, haircuts in the kitchen, and cuddling in bed. These heartwarming poems, together with bold folk-art-inspired images, capture the strength and beauty of the relationship between father and child.

Crash Course: Series books for elementary students

Post four in my crash course series of posts about books for younger readers. Hope back to previous Tuesdays/Thursdays this month to see the others.

Our series section is a popular place for students to be. They’re going to find favorites like Dork Diaries, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Big Nate (none of which need any boosting help from me here—I’m guessing you’re all familiar with these titles) . There are older series that are still popular, such as Horrible Harry, Animal Ark, 39 Clues, Geronimo Stilton/Thea Stilton, A-Z Mysteries, and Hank Zipzer.

I’m going to run down a dozen series here that see a lot of interest and may be newer and/or less well known.

As with all of these posts, a huge shout-out to my coworker Heather for curating and maintaining such high-interest titles with lots of diverse characters. I’m lucky to have landed in a library where diversity is valued and promoted.

Onto the series!

Museum Mysteries series by Steve Brezenoff

Book one: The Case of the Haunted History Museum

Wilson, Amal, Clementine, and Raining Sam solve mysteries in various museums. Fast-paced plots, diverse characters, and appealing art.

Squishy Taylor by by Ailsa Wild, Ben Wood (Illustrator)

Book one: Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters

Funny mysteries starring the charismatic Sita, aka Squishy, and her blended family.

Classroom 13 Series by Honest Lee, Matthew J. Gilbert, Joelle Dreidemy (Illustrator)

Book one: The Unlucky Lottery Winners of Classroom 13

I love this wacky little series. Throughout the books, each student in the class wins over a billion dollars, gets to use a genie to grant wishes, becomes famous, gains superpowers and more, only to find each seemingly amazing thing has big negative and unlucky consequences.

Girls Who Code Series by Stacia Deutsch

Book one: The Friendship Code

Middle school girls learn about coding and friendship in this STEM-focused series. Smart, diverse characters and eye-catching art. This one covers a wide age range for appeal.

Kicks Series by Alex Morgan

Book one: Saving the Team

Another series featuring middle school-aged main characters. New girl Devin quickly gets settled in her new town thanks to the friends she makes on the soccer team. Focus on teamwork and sportsmanship.

Amulet Series #1 by Kazu Kibuishi

Book one: The Stonekeeper

These are THE series to read at my school. Graphic novels about siblings (and a mechanical rabbit) who traverse nightmarish fantasy worlds in various quests.

Conspiracy 365 by Gabrielle Lord

Book one: January

ANOTHER series featuring slightly older characters. In the wake of his father’s death, 15-year-old Callum (yep!) is drawn into a tense world full of plots, crimes, and villains while he tries to avoid his own death. Age-appropriate thriller series for those who like lots of action.

Clubhouse Mysteries Series by Sharon M. Draper, Jesse Joshua Watson (Illustrator)

Book one: The Buried Bones Mystery

Reissued/repackaged series. Mysteries, diversity, and a clubhouse—what’s not to like?!

The Bad Guys Series by Aaron Blabey

Book one: Bad Guys

WILDLY popular at my school. Mr. Wolf, Mr. Piranha, Mr. Snake, and Mr. Shark aren’t really bad guys—they just look like they are. Truly funny with a format that will keep readers turning pages.

Magic Kitten Series by Sue Bentley

Book one: A Summer Spell

The series is actually more than just Magic Kitten. There’s also Magic Puppy, Magic Ponies, Magic Bunny, and so on. This is exactly what it sounds like—cute animals and magic.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy Series by Jeffrey Brown and Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Book one: Jedi Academy

Star Wars except cuter mixes with real-life kiddo problems and comics for a winning series.

Ghost Detectors series by Dotti Enderle, Howard McWilliam

Book one: It Creeps!

Science-minded Malcolm obtains a tool that allows him to detect ghosts and hilarity ensues. Tamely “creepy” for fans of potentially scary-seeming books.

Crash Course: Graphic novels for younger readers

Earlier this month, I shared a bunch of recent picture books that focus on community, caring, inclusivity, and connections. Today, I’m looking at graphic novels that are popular in the elementary library where I work. Just like I firmly believe picture books are for people of all ages, and have value and usefulness for people beyond the “recommended” age group, graphic novels also have wider appeal than their suggested ages may indicate. Even if you just work with older teens, it’s useful to know about these books that may be more widely read by younger readers, but will certainly find older audiences.

The graphic novel returns from just one class.

I did a recent post with mini-reviews of a bunch of graphic novels (they’re kind of my go-to read when my brain feels super overwhelmed). Karen has also posted quite a bit about graphic novels, and Ally often does comics and graphic novel roundups, too. Pop “graphic novels” into our search bar and check out some of these other great resources!

As with every post, we always want to hear from you. If you work with younger readers or have younger kids in your life, what graphic novels are they loving? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

We recently moved the graphic novel section, so now it’s right around the corner from my desk. Saves me a lot of walking!

I ran a report at work to see what our top 50 books of the past year looked like. I did a post at the end of the school year that showed our top 25, if you’re interested. Of our top 50 for the past year, there were six Dog Man titles, four Amulet books, and three Raina Telgemeier books. The graphic novel look at school is FIERCE. I have lots of conversations with adults that are like this one:

And a lot of conversations with kids that are like this one:

Whether you’re looking to learn a bit more yourself, searching for a new book or series to hand to a young person in your life, or hoping to do some collection development, let’s dive in!

Compass South: A Graphic Novel (Four Points Series #1) by Hope Larson, Rebecca Mock (Illustrator)

Pirates pursue 12-year-old twins in the 1860s. Lots of action and adventure. The sequel, Knife’s Edge, offers up further danger and possible treasure.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

So good. Russian American Vera hopes she’ll fit in at camp more than her school, but camp isn’t as great as she’d hoped. Shows how complex the social dynamics of childhood can be. Muted colors work well for the general feeling of misery.

The Mystery Boxes (Explorer Series #1) by Kazu Kibuishi (Editor)

What’s inside the mystery box? A group of great graphic novelists offer up their answers in these short comics. Series also includes The Hidden Door and The Lost Islands.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

SO enjoyable. We definitely need more graphic novels featuring black kids. Fantastic full-color art enhances this story of racism, privilege, day-to-day middle school issues, and fitting in.

March Grand Prix series by Kean Soo

Animal racecar drivers? Yes, please!

Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, Mike Holmes (Illustrator)

Clues, puzzles, and mysteries all just waiting to be solved by smart kids and coding!

Mega Princess series by Kelly Thompson

Princess Max (with the help of her jerk pony) would rather be a detective than a princess who has all of the powers of all princesses ever.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Series by Dana Simpson

Friendship and hijinks in the vein of Calvin and Hobbes. Phoebe’s reluctant new best friend, unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, helps her feel less lonely.

And speaking of Calvin and Hobbes….

… these still circulate like mad at school. This makes me happy! In elementary school, my own kiddo went through a HARDCORE Calvin and Hobbes phase, even going as Stuependous Man for superhero day at school!

Lucy and Andy Neanderthal Series #1 by Jeffrey Brown

Stone Age kids and plenty of humor.

Click by Kayla Miller

Absolutely charming and great. A really heartfelt and positive exploration of friendship, fitting in, and standing out. Fortunately, it looks like this is the first in a series about Olive’s adventures. Sequel called Camp!

Q and Ray series by Trisha Speed Shaskan, Stephen Shaskan (Illustrator)

Adorable animal detectives are on the case! Great for lower grades.

Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson

Emmie and Friends series. Middle school look at friendship, popularity, confidence, and embarrassment. Heartfelt and relatable.

Narwhal and Jelly Series by Ben Clanton

Silly and cute, this series focuses on friendship.

Lowriders series by by Cathy Camper, Raúl the Third (Illustrator)

A bunch of pals who love working on cars have wild adventures in space and (in the sequel) the underworld.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and friends

I love the emphasis on creativity, imagination, and working together as well as the creative play that allows you to imagine yourself however you’d like to be—or to show the world how you really are.

Hilo series by Judd Winick

Hilo’s not from around here—he fell from the sky! He and his new friends uncover all kinds of creatures and have lots of adventures.

Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack

Cleopatra is zapped far into the future, where (no pressure) she has to save the galaxy. VERY popular at my school.

Bird & Squirrel series by James Burks

A scared squirrel and bold bird make for unlikely friends, but together they can face anything!

I could keep going, but WHEW, that’s already a lot of books. Happy reading!

The top 25 children’s titles at my school this year

It’s the end of the school year (hooray!). I didn’t need to run a report to see what our most popular books were, since I watch them go in and out of the elementary library every day, but I thought I’d verify my guesses. As our top 25 list shows, graphic novels were hot (Raina Telegemeier and Dav Pilkey could put out a new book every week and kids would still be clamoring for more from her—same with the Amulet series), Wimpy Kid is still going strong, and books nominated for the Maud Hart Lovelace Award (Minnesota’s “read and vote” award for kids) got lots of circulations (a fact aided by the pizza party kids who read a certain number of these books were able to earn). The titles on this award list included entries 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 14, 15, 22 and 25 on our top 25 list. What was hot at your school (elementary, middle, or high school) this year? Share your lists in our comments or find me on Twitter @CiteSomething. 

  1. The terrible two Barnett, Mac.
  2. Dog Man : Lord of the Fleas Pilkey, Dav.
  3. Cursed Coville, Bruce.
  4. Fuzzy mud Sachar, Louis, 1954-
  5. Fish in a tree Hunt, Lynda Mullaly.
  6. Dog Man : Unleashed Pilkey, Dav.
  7. Minecraft combat handbook Milton, Stephanie.
  8. Crenshaw Applegate, Katherine.
  9. Webster : tale of an outlaw White, Ellen Emerson.
  10. Minecraft essential handbook Milton, Stephanie.
  11. Diary of a Wimpy Kid : The Meltdown Kinney, Jeff.
  12. Smile Telgemeier, Raina.
  13. Amulet. Book eight, Supernova Kibuishi, Kazu, 1978-
  14. Book Scavenger Bertman, Jennifer Chambliss.
  15. The Hero Two Doors Down : Based on the True Story of Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend Robinson, Sharon.
  16. Pokémon : Deluxe Essential Handbook : The Need-to-Know Stats and Facts on Over 700 Pokémon Pokémon.
  17. Dog Man Pilkey, Dav.
  18. Dog Man : A Tale of Two Kitties Pilkey, Dav.
  19. Amulet. Book one, The stonekeeper Kibuishi, Kazu,.
  20. Guinness World Records, 2017 : Gamer’s Edition Glenday, Craig.
  21. Dog Man and Cat Kid Pilkey, Dav, 1966-
  22. Soar Bauer, Joan, 1951-
  23. Game Over, Super Rabbit Boy! Flintham, Thomas.
  24. Amulet. Book two, The stonekeeper’s curse Kibuishi, Kazu,.
  25. Last in a Long Line of Rebels Tyre, Lisa Lewis.