Kid Lit Lunch

Poetry Friday: Poetry Speaks to Children

Imagedbcgi_5 As a teenager I read and admired Langston Hughes's poetry. Given the powerful drama of lines like "What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun?.../Or does it explode?,"  I expected that Hughes would speak in deep, stentorian tones.

Hearing his voice on the Poetry Speaks to Children CD surprised me recently. Hughes introduces another poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," telling a bit about how he wrote it, and then reads it. To my ear, he is much more of a tenor, although his message is still basso profundo: "I've known rivers/Ancient, dusky rivers./My soul has grown deep like the rivers." I enjoyed the contrast—and the gift of hearing the poet, who died in 1967,  read his own work. (I should mention that the "raisin in the sun" poem is not on the CD.)

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" is just one selection in Poetry Speaks to Children, which is accompanied by a CD of some 60 tracks of poets and others reciting their own poems. Roald Dahl is on there, as are Rita Dove and Robert Frost. Compiled by Elise Paschen, the wide-ranging anthology offers lots of pictures and works from the serious (Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening") to the very silly (C.K. Williams' "Gas").

I'm sharing the book a little at a time with my 7 year old, who is a great age for Poetry Speaks to Children. There's plenty here for younger kiddos, too.

The book and CD remind me how much I like Langston Hughes, and I  am happy to catch up with him again. The bonus is getting to meet a number of new (to me) writers, too.

Pssst. Hey, you poetry folks. You can also hear Hughes read and introduce "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" at the Academy of American Poets.

Liz B. rounds up all the participants in Poetry Friday today at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy.


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Many of the poets reading their works in POETRY SPEAKS TO CHILDREN can be heard at http://www.poetryarchive.org. They have a fantastic children's section at: http://www.poetryarchive.org/childrensarchive/home.do

It is great to hear the poets and this book does have a great selection. However, I find the illustrations way too cute and wish they had done something else. Illustration can doom a poem for me. There are some who feel poetry should never be illustrated and this book makes me agree with them.

pssst...you can hear more Langston Hughes read/recite Langston Hughes here. Our library seems to have most of the Voice of the Poet series, and so much sends chills down my back.

And while searching on Amazon for the link, I found "The Essential Langston Hughes", coming from Caedmon in Aug. 2007 -- hmmm!

ooh, thanks for the tips, Monica and Becky. I've missed Langston Hughes, and don't really know why I haven't read his work in so long. I look forward to catching up with more readings on the links y'all mentioned.

Monica, generally I like pictures in books of children's poetry because they are a way in for children who are very visual. But I can see the argument against including them. Pictures, I mean, not children. Ha.

I really want to see this one. Thanks for the informative review.

Jules, I liked the variety of poems that Elise Paschen put together. Your library may have this one; I think mine does.

My son likes the "Gas" one best; needless to say, it is not about the oil-industry variety.


I have seen this book reviewed in a couple of other places. I finally ordered it yesterday on your recommendation. Thanks!

The Favorite Poem Project website has videos of some of the participants reading their favorite poems. The last of the project's three books, "Invitation to Poetry," includes a DVD that also features
participants reading their favorite poems.


I, too, like illustrated books of poetry for young children. I think the illustrations draw some children to books of poetry they might not read otherwise. I do think poor illustrations can detract from a book of children's poetry. However, if a poem is a good piece of writing, nothing can doom it for me.

Elaine, I really like the book and the range of poems and authors. Let me know what you think when you get it. Some of the pictures are lovely.

My son said about an illustration of a Karla Kusking poem, "Mom, that looks like you." I just loved that.

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