Category: Poetry (page 1 of 1)

A Nature Poem For Every Day of the Year

Earlier this year I shared the beautiful anthology of nature poetry for children, Sing a Song of Seasons. What happened shortly after was that I bought a beautiful anthology of nature poetry for my own, perched it in our dining room window where I’d see it every day, and set myself the loose goal of reading a poem whenever it crossed my mind.

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Jane McMorland Hunter | Little Book, Big Story

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year features poems old and new, one for—wait for it—every day of the year. From E. Nesbit to Shakespeare, some are easy to follow and some invite us to reach beyond what feels comfortable. Some are excerpts from older, lengthier works like Paradise Lost or The Faerie Queen; many are single stanzas. But all are a glimpse of the sun as it peers over the horizon at dawn. As editor Jane McMorland Hunter writes in her introduction:

“Animals, birds, flowers, trees, the sea and the sky allow our imaginations to soar. This can only improve our lives.”

I would go further and say that animals, birds, flowers, trees the sea and the sky lift our eyes up to the Lord, maker of columbine and wild geese, cumulus clouds and cherry trees, and in him our imaginations soar. These poems remind me to lift my eyes from the page (or, alas, from the news feed on my phone) and remember the Lord who cares for sparrows and lilies and, more so, for us.

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Jane McMorland Hunter | Little Book, Big Story

Whether you read a poem daily or weekly (or, as I do, sometimes one and sometimes the other); whether you read your poem seated at the table with you family, outside under a flowering plum tree, or (as I do) standing by the shelf where you store the book, pausing for a moment mid-stride, this is a book of wonder and beauty worth savoring. Though this anthology is intended for grown-ups, I haven’t seen anything in it that couldn’t be read as a family—and I do sometimes read a poem aloud to any nearby child who might be listening.

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year
Ed. Jane McMorland Hunter (2018)

Sing a Song of Seasons

Sometimes the way to a good book lies through a bad book—in this case, a picture book I chose for my daughter, beautifully illustrated and filled with poems that compared baby frogs to aborted childhood dreams and April showers to weeping.


That was not the book we were looking for.

But I still wanted to give my daughter (new to reading and smitten with poetry) a beautifully illustrated book of nature poems. So I resumed the hunt and successfully brought down Sing a Song of Seasons.

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year | Little Book, Big Story

There’s a poem for every day in the year in here, gathered from old favorite poets and new favorite poets, and charmingly illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon. These are the poems I thought I’d given my daughter with the first book: delightful, filled with wonder, in no way gloomy or bitter.

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year | Little Book, Big Story

From Robert Frost to Walter de la Mare, from Christina Rosetti to John Foster, this is a collection that will grow with my daughter, one that will be a lifeline from adulthood back to the childlike joy of finding a bird’s nest or spotting the first daffodil or watching spiders spin. One of my favorite parts of the day is when she appears at my elbow with this giant book and asks brightly, “Mom, can we read our poem for today?”

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year | Little Book, Big Story

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each day of the Year
Fiona Waters; Frann Preston-Gannon (2018)

5 Poetry Books That Our Family Loves

I missed National Poetry Month by a solid month with this post, but you seem like a forgiving bunch, and one who doesn’t mind reading about poetry out of season, right? Of course, there is no “out of season” for poetry, really. It’s perfect for reading in the spring, when garden beds and sunsets seem to speak in verse, and for reading on sunny summer afternoons—preferably on a picnic blanket in a backyard, perhaps with chickens clucking nearby and bees weaving in and out of the flower stalks. Poetry is just right for fall, too, when the rain hits the windows with its own poetic rhythm, and for winter, when the warmth of fleece blankets and black tea are worth a stanza or two alone.

Over the years, our family has collected a number of poetry books, perfect for all seasons. We don’t read from them as often as any of us would like, but we have a few collections that get pulled off the shelf, passed around and read aloud more often than any of our other poetry books. Some are old—very old—and some are new. But all of them are lovely and worth sharing over lunchtime quesadillas or steaming cups of tea.

5 Poetry Books That Our Family Loves | Little Book, Big Story

A Child’s Garden Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

Andrew Pudewa once described this as “A Girl’s Garden of Verses,” but of course, that doesn’t trouble our family one bit. These poems have been among our most-read, much-beloved, highly-dogeared favorites for years. (Read the full review.)

A Child’s Calendar, by John Updike

A Child's Calendar, by John Updike | Little Book, Big Story

John Updike takes us through the months of the year with twelve lovely poems. Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations put those poems in the context of one family that you can’t help loving by the end of the book.

A Child's Calendar, by John Updike | Little Book, Big Story

Anything by A. A. Milne

The Poetry of AA Milne | Little Book, Big Story

Just the rhythm of Milne’s poetry is addicting. He gives snippets of it in Winnie-the-Pooh, but his volumes of poetry are so much fun to read. We’re not always sure what happening, but we always love the language.

All the Small Poems and Fourteen More, by Valerie Worth

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

These poems are lovely—beautiful and accessible and about the most ordinary things. (Read the full review.)

The Golded Treasury of PoetryEdited by Louis Untermeyer

The Golden Book of Poetry | Little Book, Big Story

I found this behemoth in an antique store and purchased it on a whim. When we did sit down with it, though, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it contained everything from silly rhymes to giant narrative poems of the old school. Our favorites have to do (rather predictably) with Robin Hood. We read them dramatically—with flair. Over and over again.

A Child’s Garden of Verses

I didn’t sit down and think, “A ha! I have it—the perfect edifying exercise!” It happened on its own one day at lunch, when I picked up A Child’s Garden of Verses and began reading poetry to the girls as they finished their quesadillas.

What happened next surprised me. They asked for another poem, and then another. And the next day at lunch, they wanted me to read to them again. And so it began: we assembled a small library of dinner-table books and began thumbing through one or two of them at each meal.

Mary Oliver. A. A. Milne. Billy Collins. Shel Silverstein. Valerie Worth. Some were written for adults, some for kids, but all of them are lovely, hilarious, sustaining poetry.

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

We don’t do this at every meal, or even every day, but when I do grab a book from the shelf, four little eyes light up as the girls wait to see which poem I’ll choose. And when it’s from A Child’s Garden of Verses, one of their very favorites, they often put their forks down and listen closely.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems have a peace to them and feel for all the world as though you’re sprawled in the grass of a Scottish lawn as you listen. He had a sharp memory for the joys of childhood and a knack for choosing the perfect words to describe it. Poems like “Keepsake Mill” move me, while the girls can’t get enough of “The Cow,” “The Lamplighter,” or “My Bed is Like a Boat.” I mean, the man wrote half a dozen poems about bedtime, and every one of them is enchanting!

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

The only thing that could improve it, really, are Joanna Isles’s illustrations. Detailed and gorgeous, they show children doing what children do best: playing, inventing, imagining, creating little worlds within their games.

There are a number of editions of this book available, all with different illustrators, but we are all so smitten with Isles’s interpretations that I firmly encourage you, if possible, to track down her edition. We found our copy at Goodwill, and my oldest daughter spent the next day tracking a small orange cat through every single picture in the book. That’s still a great game for us, one that my youngest now loves as well: “Where is the cat in this poem? Can you find him?”

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

A Child’s Garden of Verses is classic children’s poetry at its best, a charming book that would fit right into any library. (Plus, it’s perfect for reading together over peanut-butter sandwiches.)

A Child’s Garden of Verses
Robert Louis Stevenson, Joanna Isles (1885, repub. 1995)

This week’s summer rerun originally published on April 26, 2013 (my 30th birthday!).

All The Small Poems & Fourteen More

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)