Growing Reader

6 Lyrical Picture Books That Encourage a Love of Poetry

by Jennifer Garry

“Blech. Poetry is boring.” This isn’t an unusual response when you so much as utter the word “poetry” to a child. And honestly, can you blame them? Poetry is so often presented to kids as dry words on a colorless page. But it’s so much more than that!

Poetry can be hilarious (see Lunch Money or Revolting Rhymes), and it can be emotional (see Love or The Wonderful Things You Will Be). It can be super silly, and it can certainly make you feel less alone. A great way to introduce little readers to the genre is through beautiful picture books with lyrical language that shows the world as a place full of wonder. These six picture books are the perfect place to start.

  • Poetree

    by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani

    Sylvia celebrates the end of winter by writing a poem about spring from a field of blooming buttercups. Afterward, she reads her poem to a squirrel and ties the message to a birch tree. On the way to school the next day, Sylvia discovers that the tree wrote her a poem back — and so begins a poem-filled pen-pal correspondence between Sylvia and the birch tree. The enchanting text and watercolor illustrations combine to create a celebration of nature and poetry.

  • My Heart

    by Corinna Luyken

    “My heart is a window, my heart is a slide. My heart can be closed or opened up wide.” So begins the stunning picture book My Heart from the author-illustrator of The Book of Mistakes. This book is essentially a single poem that’s gradually unfurled across multiple pages, paired with gorgeous illustrations in mostly black, white, and yellow. With messages of kindness, empathy, and self-acceptance relayed through an engaging rhythm, it’s the perfect introduction to poetry.

  • The Day You Begin

    by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

    Jacqueline Woodson’s stunning, lyrical text explores what it’s like to feel different — whether it’s because of where you’re from or how you look or what you eat. With empowering language, Woodson explores how we might find the courage to connect even when we’re scared. Paired with Rafael López’s vibrant, engaging art, your little readers and poets-in the-making will ask to revisit this story again and again.

  • Last Stop on Market Street

    by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

    Lively illustrations and sparkling prose combine in this award-winning book, which follows CJ and his grandmother as they ride the bus across town after church. The striking language de la Peña weaves brings new life and beauty to things that might otherwise be overlooked, like when he describes CJ watching “water pool on flower petals” and how the bus “sighed and sagged.” A must-have addition to your budding poetry collection.

  • The Nonsense Show

    by Eric Carle

    This silly, colorful book is a fun introduction to the genre for your littlest readers. With rhyming text reminiscent of nursery rhymes, Eric Carle surprises children with absolutely ridiculous scenarios, like ducks growing out of bananas and a mouse catching a cat. Kids are sure to laugh at the combination of playful language and preposterous illustrations, full of that familiar Carle flare we all know and love.

  • Dreamers

    by Yuyi Morales

    Winner of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, this book tells the story of Yuyi Morales, who left her home in Mexico to immigrate to the U.S. with her infant son. Speaking no English and finding themselves in a strange new land, the mother and son discovered a library, which changed everything. “Books became our language. Books became our home. Books became our lives. We learned to read, to speak, to write, and to make our voices heard.” Emotionally charged, the exquisite mixed-media illustrations add to the book’s vibrancy.