'Poetry Speaks To Children'

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'Poetry Speaks to Children' book cover
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If you're an adult, Poetry Speaks to Children may bring back memories of what it felt like to be little, when reading and language were an enchanting discovery.

If you're small — maybe still a bit young to read poetry — the new collection of nearly 100 poems does exactly what the title implies: a CD included with the book features many of the 73 authors reading their work.

The poets include Emily Dickinson ("Letter to Bee"), Carl Sandburg ("On a Flimmering Floom You Shall Ride"), Langston Hughes ("The Negro Speaks of Rivers") and J.R.R. Tolkien ("Frodo's Song in Bree").

The book is designed to be read by children 6 years and older. But Elise Paschen, a poet herself and the book's editor, says it appeals to kids as young as 2. "And not only that, it really appeals to adults. I think that you can read these poems on all levels."

Read and hear three poems from Poetry Speaks to Children:

The Dentist and the Crocodile

By Roald Dahl

The crocodile, with cunning smile, sat in the dentist's chair.

 

He said, "Right here and everywhere my teeth require repair."

 

The dentist's face was turning white. He quivered, quaked and shook.

 

He muttered, "I suppose I'm going to have to take a look."

 

"I want you," Crocodile declared, "to do the back ones first.

 

The molars at the very back are easily the worst."

 

He opened wide his massive jaws. It was a fearsome sight––

 

At least three hundred pointed teeth, all sharp and shining white.

 

The dentist kept himself well clear. He stood two yards away.

 

He chose the longest probe he had to search out the decay.

 

"I said to do the back ones first!" the Crocodile called out.

 

"You're much too far away, dear sir, to see what you're about.

 

To do the back ones properly you've got to put your head

 

Deep down inside my great big mouth," the grinning Crocky said.

 

The poor old dentist wrung his hands and, weeping in despair,

 

He cried, "No no! I see them all extremely well from here!"

 

Just then, in burst a lady, in her hands a golden chain.

 

She cried, "Oh Croc, you naughty boy, you're playing tricks again!"

 

"Watch out!" the dentist shrieked and started climbing up the wall.

 

"He's after me! He's after you! He's going to eat us all!"

 

"Don't be a twit," the lady said, and flashed a gorgeous smile.

 

"He's harmless. He's my little pet, my lovely crocodile."

 

© Roald Dahl

 

 

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Little girl on a bus
Judy Love

Okay, Brown Girl, Okay

By James Berry

Josie, Josie, I am okay

being brown. I remember,

every day dusk and dawn get born

from the loving of night and light

who work together, like married.

And they would like to say to you:

Be at school on and on, brown Josie

like thousands and thousands and thousands

of children, who are brown and white

and black and pale-lemon color.

All the time, brown girl Josie is okay.

 

Josie, Josie, I am okay

being brown. I remember,

every minute sun in the sky

and ground of the earth work together

like married.

And they would like to say to you:

Ride on up a going escalator

like thousands and thousands and thousands

of people, who are brown and white

and black and pale-lemon color.

All the time, brown girl Josie is okay.

 

Josie, Josie, I am okay

being brown. I remember,

all the time bright-sky and brown-earth

work together, like married

making forests and food and flowers and rain.

And they would like to say to you:

Grow and grow brightly, brown girl.

Write and read and play and work.

Ride bus or train or boat or airplane

like thousands and thousands and thousands

of people, who are brown and white

and black and pale-lemon color.

All the time, brown girl Josie is okay.

 

© James Berry; audio courtesy James Berry

 

 

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A tiger puts on a white glove.
Judy Love

The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves,

or, What You Are You Are

By Gwendolyn Brooks

There once was a tiger, terrible and tough,

who said "I don't think tigers are stylish enough.

They put on only orange and stripes of fierce black.

Fine and fancy fashion is what they mostly lack.

Even though they proudly

speak most loudly,

so that the jungle shakes

and every eye awakes—

Even though they slither

hither and thither

in such a wild way

that few may care to stay—

to be tough just isn't enough."

These things the tiger said,

And growled and tossed his head,

and rushed to the jungle fair

for something fine to wear.

 

Then!—what a hoot and yell

upon the jungle fell

The rhinoceros rasped!

The elephant gasped!

"By all that's sainted!"

said wolf—and fainted.

 

The crocodile cried.

The lion sighed.

The leopard sneered.

The jaguar jeered.

The antelope shouted.

The panther pouted.

Everyone screamed

"We never dreamed

that ever could be

in history

a tiger who loves

to wear white gloves.

White gloves are for girls

with manners and curls

and dresses and hats and bow-ribbons.

That's the way it always was

and rightly so, because

it's nature's nice decree

that tiger folk should be

not dainty, but daring,

and wisely wearing

what's fierce as the face,

not whiteness and lace!"

 

They shamed him and shamed him—

till none could have blamed him,

when at last, with a sigh

and a saddened eye,

and in spite of his love,

he took off each glove,

and agreed this was meant

all to prevail:

each tiger content

with his lashing tail

and satisfied

with his strong striped hide.

 

© Gwendolyn Brooks; audio courtesy Michigan City Public Library.

 

 

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Books Featured In This Story

Poetry Speaks To Children

by Elise Paschen, Judy Love, Wendy Rasmussen and Paula Zinngrabe Wendland

Hardcover, 104 pages | purchase

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