There are beautiful things, and there are useful things. But there are also things both beautiful and useful—those are the very best.

In writing, it is the same: there are beautifully written novels, and terribly useful manuals on, say, home improvement. There are all manner of books in between. But rare is the book that stands firmly in both category. When one does appear, it’s a thing worth celebrating.

"Sparrow," from All the Small Poems, by Valerie Worth | Little Book, Big Story

All The Small Poems was an accidental library find, and one that we borrowed two or three times before finally conceding and buying our own copy. Valerie Worth’s poems, small as they are, use a lovely economy of language to describe the most ordinary, overlooked objects as something worth admiring: potatoes, a slug. Porches. Coat hangers. From “Soap Bubble”:

The soap bubble’s
. . . Mapped with
Rainbows, streaming,
Curled: seeming
A world too splendid
To snap, dribble,
And disappear.

Illustrated with detailed black-and-white drawings that remind me of those found in encyclopedias, each poem is only a few stanzas long and manages to capture some simple item perfectly. These poems are great fun to read aloud at the table. Even my husband, who insists that he doesn’t get poetry, loves these.

"Fireworks," from All the Small Poems, by Valerie Worth | Little Book, Big Story

Valerie Worth’s poems elevate the everyday to the beautiful and in doing so, help us see them all with new eyes. And that is a thing both beautiful and useful.

All the Small Poems and Fourteen More
Valerie Worth, Natalie Babbitt (1996)