Family of Poems NPR coverage of Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children by Caroline Kennedy and Jon J. Muth. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.
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Family of Poems

My Favorite Poetry for Children

by Caroline Kennedy and Jon J. Muth

Hardcover, 143 pages, Disney Pr, List Price: $19.95 |


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My Favorite Poetry for Children
Caroline Kennedy and Jon J. Muth

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Book Summary

In this stellar follow-up to The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the author collects more than one hundred of her family's best-loved poems from all over the world, accompanied by beautiful watercolor illustrations. 250,000 first printing. $150,000 ad/promo.

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Caroline Kennedy: 'Favorite Poetry for Children'

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Family Of Poems

Chapter One The Early Morning The moon on the one hand, the dawn on the other: The moon is my sister, the dawn is my brother. The moon on my left hand and the dawn on my right. My brother, good morning: my sister, good night.

Hilaire Belloc

Me As long as I live I shall always be My Self-and no other, Just me. Like a tree. Willow, elder, Aspen, thorn, Or cypress forlorn. Like a flower, For its hour- Primrose, or pink, Or a violet- Sunned by the sun, And with dewdrops wet. Always just me.

Walter de la Mare

To P.J. (2 yrs. old who sed write a poem for me in Portland, Oregon) if i cud ever write a poem as beautiful as u little 2/yr/old/brotha, i wud laugh, jump, leap up and touch the stars cuz u be the poem i try for each time i pick up a pen and paper. u, and Morani and Mungu be our blue/blk/ stars that will shine on our lives and makes us finally BE. if i cud ever write a poem as beautiful as u, little 2/yr/old/ brotha, poetry wud go out of bizness.

Sonia Sanchez

The Reason I Like Chocolate The reason I like chocolate is I can lick my fingers and nobody tells me I'm not polite I especially like scary movies 'cause I can snuggle with Mommy or my big sister and they don't laugh I like to cry sometimes 'cause everybody says "what's the matter don't cry" and I like books for all those reasons but mostly 'cause they just make me happy and I really like to be happy

Nikki Giovanni

Michael Is Afraid of the Storm Lightning is angry in the night. Thunder spanks our house. Rain is hating our old elm- It punishes the boughs. Now, I am next to nine years old, And crying's not for me. But if I touch my mother's hand, Perhaps no one will see. And if I keep herself in sight- Follow her busy dress- No one will notice my wild eye. No one will laugh, I guess.

Gwendolyn Brooks

"Hope" Is the Thing with Feathers "Hope" is the thing with feathers- That perches in the soul- And sings the tune without the words- And never stops-at all- And sweetest-in the Gale-is heard- And sore must be the storm- That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm- I've heard it in the chillest land- And on the strangest Sea- Yet, never, in Extremity, It asked a crumb-of Me.

Emily Dickinson

I May, I Might, I Must If you will tell me why the fen appears impassable, I then will tell you why I think that I can get across it if I try.

Marianne Moore

The Lake Isle of Innisfree I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet's wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart's core.

William Butler Yeats

Has My Heart Gone to Sleep? Has my heart gone to sleep? Have the beehives of my dreams stopped working, the waterwheel of the mind run dry, scoops turning empty, only shadows inside? No, my heart is not asleep. It is awake, wide awake. Not asleep, not dreaming- its eyes are opened wide watching distant signals, listening on the rim of the vast silence.

Antonio Machado Translated by Alan S. Trublood

The Road Not Taken Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Psalm 23: 1-6

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Holy Bible, King James Version

These poems are for having fun. We all like to fool around, and playing with sounds and language is one of the first ways we explore our world. Silly poems are easy to collect and memorize-they remind us that things that seem funny can be serious underneath-and enjoying them encourages us to try reading different kinds of poems. Soon enough we realize that there is no poem we can't tackle, no idea we can't understand.

Serious poets write silly poems too. A. E. Housman, an influential English poet and Latin professor, wrote "Amelia Mixed the Mustard." The poem "Some Opposites" grew out of a game that poet laureate Richard Wilbur used to play with his children.

When you write your own poems you can be serious or lighthearted, you can make rhymes, you can arrange the words vertically or sideways, and you can express how you feel. In your poetry, you have the power to describe the world as it is, and as you want it to be. That is the first step to making it true.


There Was an Old Man of West Dumpet There was an old man of West Dumpet, Who possessed a large nose like a trumpet; When he blew it aloud, It astonished the crowd, And was heard through the whole of West Dumpet.

Edward Lear

There Was an Old Man of Blackheath There was an old man of Blackheath, Who sat on his set of false teeth; Said he, with a start, "O Lord, bless my heart! I've bitten myself underneath!"


The Little Man Who Wasn't There As I was going up the stair I met a man who wasn't there He wasn't there again today I wish, I wish he'd stay away.

William Hughes Mearns

Moses Moses supposes his toeses are roses, But Moses supposes erroneously; For nobody's toeses are posies of roses As Moses supposes his toeses to be.


Happiness John had Great Big Waterproof Boots on; John had a Great Big Waterproof Hat; John had a Great Big Waterproof Mackintosh- And that (Said John) Is That.

A. A. Milne

"Amelia Mixed the Mustard" Amelia mixed the mustard, She mixed it good and thick; She put it in the custard And made her Mother sick, And showing satisfaction By many loud huzza "Observe" said she "the action Of mustard on Mamma."

A. E. Housman

Careless Willie Willie with a thirst for gore Nailed his sister to the door Mother said with humor quaint "Careful, Willie, don't scratch the paint!"


To a Fellow Poet Sir, you are tough, and I am tough. But who will write whose epitaph?

Joseph Brodsky

Daddy Fell Into the Pond Everyone grumbled. The sky was gray. We had nothing to do and nothing to say. We were nearing the end of a dismal day, And there seemed to be nothing beyond, THEN Daddy fell into the pond! And everyone's face grew merry and bright, And Timothy danced for sheer delight, "Give me the camera, quick, oh quick! He's crawling out of the duckweed." Click! Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee, And doubled up, shaking silently, And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft And it sounded as if the old drake laughed. O, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond WHEN Daddy fell into the pond!

Alfred Noyes

The People Upstairs The people upstairs all practice ballet. Their living room is a bowling alley. Their bedroom is full of conducted tours. Their radio is louder than yours. They celebrate weekends all the week. When they take a shower, your ceilings leak. They try to get their parties to mix By supplying their guests with Pogo sticks, And when their orgy at last abates, They go to the bathroom on roller skates. I might love the people upstairs wondrous If instead of above us, they just lived under us.

Ogden Nash

from Falling in Love Is Like Owning a Dog


First of all, it's a big responsibility, especially in a city like New York. So think long and hard before deciding on love. On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security: when you're walking down the street late at night and you have a leash on love ain't no one going to mess with you. Love doesn't like being left alone for long. But come home and love is always happy to see you. It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life, but you can never be mad at love for long. Is love good all the time? No! No! Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love. Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk. It runs you around the block and leaves you panting. It pulls you in several different directions at once, or winds around and around you until you're all wound up and can't move. But love makes you meet people wherever you go. People who have nothing in common but love stop and talk to each other on the street. Throw things away and love will bring them back, again, and again, and again. But most of all, love needs love, lots of it. And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Taylor Mali

Today Is Very Boring Today is very boring, it's a very boring day, there is nothing much to look at, there is nothing much to say, there's a peacock on my sneakers, there's a penguin on my head, there's a dormouse on my doorstep, I am going back to bed. Today is very boring, it is boring through and through, there is absolutely nothing that I think I want to do, I see giants riding rhinos, and an ogre with a sword, there's a dragon blowing smoke rings, I am positively bored. Today is very boring, I can hardly help but yawn, there's a flying saucer landing in the middle of my lawn, a volcano just erupted less than half a mile away, and I think I felt an earthquake, it's a very boring day.

Jack Prelutsky

The Emperor of Ice-Cream Call the roller of big cigars, The muscular one, and bid him whip In kitchen cups concupiscent curds. Let the wenches dawdle in such dress As they are used to wear, and let the boys Bring flowers in last month's newspapers. Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. Take from the dresser of deal, Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet On which she embroidered fantails once And spread it so as to cover her face. If her horny feet protrude, they come To show how cold she is, and dumb. Let the lamp affix its beam. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. Wallace Stevens

Some Opposites The opposite of standing still Is walking up or down a hill, Running backwards, creeping, crawling, Leaping off a cliff and falling, Turning somersaults in gravel, Or any other mode of travel. The opposite of a doughnut? Wait A minute while I meditate. This isn't easy. Ah, I've found it! A cookie with a hole around it. What is the opposite of two? A lonely me, a lonely you. The opposite of a cloud could be A white reflection in the sea, Or a huge blueness in the air, Caused by a cloud's not being there. The opposite of opposite? That's much too difficult. I quit.

Richard Wilbur

When I was young I had two kittens, two parakeets, a pony, a dog, and two hamsters whose babies got loose all over the White House. I was even given a Russian puppy whose mother had been the first dog in outer space. My cousins had an iguana, a giant tortoise, a monkey, and a red-tailed hawk who sat on our porch all summer because their house was too noisy.

These animals were my friends, and when I couldn't play with them, I had stuffed animals who came to life almost as convincingly. I used to line up the chairs in my room and sit my teddy bears down and read them stories and poems. They seemed to enjoy them very much.

The poems in this section are about all kinds of animals. Some poets write about animals they know well, like Ted Hughes does in "Roger the Dog." Others try to capture the essence of certain animals and the role they play in our lives. In Robert Frost's poem "The Last Word of a Bluebird," the friendly bluebird tells the little girl that spring will come again, whereas in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Eagle," the bird is a majestic and terrifying predator. Poets remind us that animals have powers we admire: they are loving and cuddly, they help to feed and clothe us, they are strong and swift. These poems capture the qualities of many different animals and remind us to treasure wildness as well as companionship.


Epigram: Engraved on the Collar of a Dog Which I Gave to His Royal Highness I am his Highness' dog at Kew; Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

Alexander Pope

Roger the Dog Asleep he wheezes at his ease. He only wakes to scratch his fleas. He hogs the fire, he bakes his head As if it were a loaf of bread. He's just a sack of snoring dog, You can lug him like a log. You can roll him with your foot. He'll stay snoring where he's put. Take him out for exercise He'll roll in cowclap up to his eyes. He will not race, he will not romp. He saves his strength for gobble and chomp. He'll work as hard as you could wish Emptying the dinner dish, Then flops flat, and digs down deep, Like a miner, into sleep.

Ted Hughes