Ten Essential Poetry Books for Children

We asked poet Valerie Bloom to pick out ten of the best poetry books for children, books that will start a lifelong love of poetry.


Ten of the Best! That’s easy, I thought. How wrong I was! Looking in dismay at the mountain of books I’d pulled from my bookcases, I wondered how on earth I was going to whittle them down to ten. It is very probable that I have chosen the ten books now that I would not have chosen another day. Was this one the best from Roger McGough or Michael Rosen? Where were some of my very favourite books by Charles Causley, Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Jackie Kay…? But a choice had to be made. Inevitably there are collections from classic writers, but you don’t become a classic unless you’re among the best so I make no apologies for that. Inevitably too, that meant many new and younger writers were overlooked - this time.

A Great Big Cuddle Michael Rosen, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Books, 978-1406343199, £14.99 hbk

Reading this book made me wish my children were still toddlers. Every poem just fizzes with fun, and Chris Riddell’s illustrations are a joy as always. This pairing of these two former Children’s Laureates is a winning formula if ever there was one. Kids will giggle with the Wiggly Wiggly

Pigs, bounce to the rhythm of Tippy-Tappy and have a great time imitating the animal noises in We Can. There’s no need for added instructions. Even the most unadventurous adult will know how to read these poems to young ones because the poems tell how they want or rather need to be read. It takes the genius of Michael Rosen to write poems like these.

Poetry Pie Roger McGough, Puffin, 978-0141356860, £6.99 pbk As usual, Roger McGough’s poems dance off the page with word play, wit and wisdom. His trademark humorous observations are sure to enchant children and the child in all of us. Some of these are laugh out loud pieces, like the hilarious Elephants and Peas, but there is also enough to meditate on. The message of hope and encouragement in Tomorrow has your name on it any child will cherish. And any adult will identify with the sentiments, especially in the last line of the penultimate verse.

He has included his own unique line drawings and children are sure to keep coming back for another slice of this poetry pie!

4 Books for Keeps National Poetry Day 2020 Rising Stars: New Young

Voices in Poetry Ruth Awolola, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Abigail Cook, Jay Hulme and Amina Jama, illus Riya Chowdhury, Elanor Chuah and Joe Manners, Otter-Barry Books, 978-1910959374, £6.99 pbk

This is a book of poems by five young poets, each with eight poems in the collection. It is an exciting and inspiring collection of talented voices and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future. The poems are accessible

without being overly simplistic, complex issues are dealt with in a way that encourages conversations and many young readers will find in these pieces, echoes of their own experiences.

refreshing to see issues handled with such skill and finesse and sensitivity as in Ruth Awolola’s Mainly About Aliens, and in her beautiful poem On Forgetting That I Am a Tree.

Werewolf Club Rules and

Other Poems Joseph Coelho, Francis Lincoln, 978-1847804525, £6.99 pbk

Containing 50 poems, Werewolf Club Rules is a beautiful collection from an inspired young poet. He uses language like an enchanter, casting a spell around the reader with the vivid word pictures of places and people such as Miss Flotsam who’s the kind of teacher every child would wish to have. One poem was just a little too close for comfort. Dada’s Stories

told how the poet’s grandfather slept with his pets and squashed them in his sleep. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will find that these pieces have some resonance with personal experience as the truth of the poems rings loud and clear.

Valerie Bloom began writing poetry in primary school. She trained as a teacher in Jamaica and came to England in the 1970s. She has written and edited a number of poetry books in English and Jamaican patois and published children’s novels Surprising Joy and The Tribe. Published poetry includes The World is Sweet (2002); Hot Like Fire (2002); Whoop an’ Shout (2003); Let Me Touch the Sky (2008); Jaws and Claws and Things with Wings (2013); Mighty Mountains, Swirling Seas (2015).


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