National Poetry Month: Reading List

Will Harlan | April 9, 2021



National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating some of the great works of poetry in our collection. Check out our display and explore poetry for kids, tweens, teens, and adults!

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National Poetry Month: Featured Recommendations


My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree

Yi Lei

One of China’s most significant contemporary poets, co-translated by former US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Yi Lei published her poem “A Single Woman’s Bedroom” in 1987, when cohabitation before marriage was a punishable crime in China. She was met with major critical acclaim—and with outrage—for her frank embrace of women’s erotic desire and her unabashed critique of oppressive law. Over the span of her revolutionary career, Yi Lei became one of the most influential figures in contemporary Chinese poetry. Passionate, rigorous, and inimitable, the poems in My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree celebrate the joys of the body, ponder the miracle of compassion, and proclaim an abiding reverence for the natural world. Presented in the original Chinese alongside English translations by Changtai Bi and Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith, this collection introduces American readers to a boundless spirit—one “composing an explosion.”

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Deaf Republic

Ilya Kaminsky

Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry Ilya Kaminsky’s astonishing parable in poems asks us, What is silence? Deaf Republic opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear—they all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting a child; the brash Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theater; and Galya’s girls, heroically teaching signing by day and by night luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, Ilya Kaminsky’s long-awaited Deaf Republic confronts our time’s vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.

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I Shimmer Sometimes, Too

Porsha O

Porsha O's debut poetry collection soars with the power and presence of live performance. These poems dip their hands deep into the fabric of black womanhood, pulling out all of its threads. This book establishes Porsha O firmly in the lineage of black queer poetics, pulling equally from Audre Lorde and Danez Smith. This is a book of gentle breaking and inventive reconstruction. This is a book of self-care, and community-care - the pursuit of building a world that will keep you alive.

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Postcolonial Love Poem

Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz’s highly anticipated follow-up to When My Brother Was an Aztec, winner of an American Book Award Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality. Diaz defies the conditions from which she writes, a nation whose creation predicated the diminishment and ultimate erasure of bodies like hers and the people she loves: “I am doing my best to not become a museum / of myself. I am doing my best to breathe in and out. // I am begging: Let me be lonely but not invisible.” Postcolonial Love Poem unravels notions of American goodness and creates something more powerful than hope—in it, a future is built, future being a matrix of the choices we make now, and in these poems, Diaz chooses love.

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Chlorine Sky

Mahogany L. Browne

A novel-in-verse about a young girl coming-of-age and stepping out of the shadow of her former best friend. Perfect for readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Nikki Grimes. "Mahogany L. Browne's debut YA ia an absolute masterpiece. It will leave you breathless." -Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times bestselling author of The Poet X She looks me hard in my eyes & my knees lock into tree trunks My eyes don't dance like my heartbeat racing They stare straight back hot daggers. I remember things will never be the same. I remember things. With gritty and heartbreaking honesty, Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend.

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Turtle Under Ice

Juleah del Rosario

“A moving story about sisterhood, family, and overcoming the insurmountable mountain that is grief.” —Kirkus Reviews “Elegiac and beautiful, del Rosario’s tale plumbs the deep relationships between sisters with grace and compassion.” —Booklist A teen navigates questions of grief, identity, and guilt in the wake of her sister’s mysterious disappearance in this breathtaking novel-in-verse from the author of 500 Words or Less—perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo. Rowena feels like her family is a frayed string of lights that someone needs to fix with electrical tape. After her mother died a few years ago, she and her sister, Ariana, drifted into their own corners of the world, each figuring out in their own separate ways how to exist in a world in which their mother is no longer alive. But then Ariana disappears under the cover of night in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving no trace or tracks. When Row wakes up to a world of snow and her sister’s empty bedroom, she is left to piece together the mystery behind where Ariana went and why, realizing along the way that she might be part of the reason Ariana is gone. Haunting and evocative—and told in dual perspectives—Turtle under Ice examines two sisters frozen by grief as they search for a way to unthaw.

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Home Is Not a Country

Safia Elhillo

“Nothing short of magic. One of the best writers of our times.” —Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times bestselling author of The Poet X The powerful novel-in-verse from Safia Elhillo, the critically acclaimed poet featured on Forbes Africa’s “30 Under 30” list. This mesmerizing journey of family, identity, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places is filled with lyrical beauty and stunning strength. Nima doesn’t feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like an outsider to belong somewhere else. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself. Until she doesn’t. As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn’t give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry. And the life Nima has, the one she keeps wishing were someone else’s . . . she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had.

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Clap When You Land

Elizabeth Acevedo

In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives. Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people… In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. Great for summer reading or anytime! Clap When You Land is a Today show pick for “25 children’s books your kids and teens won’t be able to put down this summer!" Plus don't miss Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X and With the Fire on High!

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They Call Me Güero

David Bowles

Bluebonnet Award Master List 2020-2021 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book, 2019 ALSC Notable Children's Book, 2019 Walter Award Honor Book, 2019 Twelve-year-old Güero is Mexican American, at home with Spanish or English and on both sides of the river. He's starting 7th grade with a woke English teacher who knows how to make poetry cool. In Spanish, "Güero" is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro mexicano, like Canelo Álvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd--reader, gamer, musician--who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else, and like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna! She's tough as nails. But trusting in his family's traditions, his accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart. Life is tough for a border kid, but Güero has figured out how to cope. He writes poetry. In Spanish, "Güero" is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro mexicano, like Canelo Álvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd--reader, gamer, musician--who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else, and like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna! She's tough as nails. But trusting in his family's traditions, his accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart. Life is tough for a border kid, but Güero has figured out how to cope. He writes poetry. Claudia Lewis Award for Excellence in Poetry, Bank Street 2019 NCTE 2019 Notable Verse Novels Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award TIL Jean Flynn Award for Best Middle Grade Book 2018 Skipping Stones Award Ámericas Award, Commended Title School Library Journal's 2018 Best Books Shelf Awareness 2018 Best Children's & Teen Books of the Year, Middle Grade Favorites of 2019, Americas Society / Council of the Americas A product of a Mexican-American family, David Bowles has lived most of his life in deep South Texas, where he teaches at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley. Recipient of awards from the American Library Association, Texas Institute of Letters and Texas Associated Press, David has written several books, including the Pura Belpré Honor Book The Smoking Mirror, Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico, The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande (The Unicorn Rescue Society series), and the middle grade graphic novel Rise of the Halfling King (Tales of the Feathered Serpent #1).

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Red, White, and Whole

Rajani LaRocca

A heartbreakingly hopeful #ownvoices novel in verse about an Indian American girl whose life is turned upside down when her mother is diagnosed with leukemia. Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked—Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”—but they are a universe apart. Then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Really sick. Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life. From Indies Introduce author Rajani LaRocca comes a radiant story about the ties that bind and how to go on in the face of unthinkable loss. This is the perfect next read for fans of Jasmine Warga and Thanhhà Lại.

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BenBee and the Teacher Griefer

K.A. Holt

From the author of Rhyme Schemer, House Arrest, and Knockout! The Kids Under the Stairs: BenBee and the Teacher Griefer is a funny, clever novel-in-verse series about Ben Bellows—who failed the Language Arts section of the Florida State test—and three classmates who get stuck in a summer school class. But these kids aren't dumb—they're divergent thinkers, as Ms. J tells them: they simply approach things in a different way than traditional school demands. • Each chapter is told through the perspective of one of the four students, who each write in a different style (art, verse, stream of consciousness). • Celebrates different types of intelligence • A heartwarming, laugh-out-loud novel-in-verse Soon, the kids win over Ms. J with their passion for Sandbox, a Minecraft-type game. The kids make a deal with Ms. J: every minute they spend reading aloud equals one minute they get to play Sandbox in class. But when the administration finds about this unorthodox method of teaching, Ben B. and his buds have to band together to save their teacher's job—and their own academic future. The first in a series of complementary storylines, this is an honest, heartfelt book about friendship, videogames, and learning to love yourself. • Features a distinct and engaging cast of characters • Encourages even the most reluctant reader to embrace their own "divergent" self • Perfect for parents of kids age 10 and up who love Minecraft, educators and librarians, middle grade readers, new readers of poetry, and fans of videogames • You'll love this book if you love books like Ghost by Jason Reynolds, Patina by Jason Reynolds, and Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

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Amber and Clay

Laura Amy Schlitz

The Newbery Medal-winning author of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! gives readers a virtuoso performance in verse in this profoundly original epic pitched just right for fans of poetry, history, mythology, and fantasy. Welcome to ancient Greece as only genius storyteller Laura Amy Schlitz can conjure it. In a warlike land of wind and sunlight, "ringed by a restless sea," live Rhaskos and Melisto, spiritual twins with little in common beyond the violent and mysterious forces that dictate their lives. A Thracian slave in a Greek household, Rhaskos is as common as clay, a stable boy worth less than a donkey, much less a horse. Wrenched from his mother at a tender age, he nurtures in secret, aided by Socrates, his passions for art and philosophy. Melisto is a spoiled aristocrat, a girl as precious as amber but willful and wild. She'll marry and be tamed--the curse of all highborn girls--but risk her life for a season first to serve Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Bound by destiny, Melisto and Rhaskos--Amber and Clay--never meet in the flesh. By the time they do, one of them is a ghost. But the thin line between life and death is just one boundary their unlikely friendship crosses. It takes an army of snarky gods and fearsome goddesses, slaves and masters, mothers and philosophers to help shape their story into a gorgeously distilled, symphonic tour de force. Blending verse, prose, and illustrated archaeological "artifacts," this is a tale that vividly transcends time, an indelible reminder of the power of language to illuminate the over- and underworlds of human history.

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The One Thing You’d Save

Linda Sue Park

If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save? Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park explores different answers to this provocative question in linked poems that capture the diverse voices of a middle school class. Illustrated with black-and-white art. When a teacher asks her class what one thing they would save in an emergency, some students know the answer right away. Others come to their decisions more slowly. And some change their minds when they hear their classmates’ responses. A lively dialog ignites as the students discover unexpected facets of one another—and themselves. With her ear for authentic dialog and knowledge of tweens’ priorities and emotions, Linda Sue Park brings the varied voices of an inclusive classroom to life through carefully honed, engaging, and instantly accessible verse.

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Trees

Verlie Hutchens

Every tree has its own story to tell in this evocative collection of poems celebrating the many varieties—from maple to willow to oak. There are so many different kinds of trees in the world, and each has special qualities that make it unique. This lyrical, fanciful collection of poems celebrates the singular beauty of each tree, from the gnarled old apple tree to the tall and graceful aspen.

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The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-to Poems

Paul B. Janeczko

Toast a marshmallow, be a tree in winter, read braille -- Paul B. Janeczko and Richard Jones invite you to enjoy an assortment of poems that inform and inspire. Today I walked outside and spied a hedgehog on the hill. When she and I met eye to eye, she raised up straight and still. Be they practical (how to mix a pancake or how to bird-watch) or fanciful (how to scare monsters or how to be a snowflake), the poems in this book boast a flair and joy that you won't find in any instruction manual. Poets from Kwame Alexander to Pat Mora to Allan Wolf share the way to play hard, to love nature, and to be grateful. Soft, evocative illustrations will encourage readers to look at the world with an eye to its countless possibilities. Contributors include: Kwame Alexander Calef Brown Rebecca Kai Dotlich Margarita Engle Ralph Fletcher Douglas Florian Helen Frost Martin Gardner Charles Ghigna Nikki Grimes Anna E. Jordan Karla Kuskin Irene Latham J. Patrick Lewis Marjorie Maddox Elaine Magliaro Pat Mora Christina Rossetti Monica Shannon Marilyn Singer Robert Louis Stevenson Charles Waters April Halprin Wayland Steven Withrow Allan Wolf

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When Green Becomes Tomatoes

Julie Fogliano

december 29 and i woke to a morning that was quiet and white the first snow (just like magic) came on tip toes overnight Flowers blooming in sheets of snow make way for happy frogs dancing in the rain. Summer swims move over for autumn sweaters until the snow comes back again. In Julie Fogliano's skilled hand and illustrated by Julie Morstad's charming pictures, the seasons come to life in this gorgeous and comprehensive book of poetry.

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Looking for more resources? We have you covered. Check out our entire list of National Poetry Month recommendations. For more personalized recommendations, fill out our recommendation form.