Published in 1995, the year I started working as a bookseller, A Child's Anthology of Poetry remains the foremost collection of poetry for children, including many works by poets who have not traditionally written for children and a great combination of classic and contemporary verse. With the help of an advisory board that includes the likes of poetic greats such as Louise Glück and Mark Strand, Elizabeth Hague Sword and Victoria Flournoy McCarthy did a magnificent job selecting poets and poems for the book, which is arranged alphabetically by poet with an index of poem titles in the back and a table of contents listing authors in the front. One thing I do wish had been included in a more visible way are the dates the poems were first published. You can locate this in the copyright acknowledgment section before the index.
For a look inside the book, click here. A brief list of big names is as follows: Maya Angelou, Bashō, Elizabeth Bishop, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, TS Eliot, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Edward Lear, Ogden Nash, Octavio Paz, Edgar Allan Poe, Christina Rossetti, Carl Sandburg, Tennyson, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Wordsworth and Yeats. "Casey at Bat," "The Raven," "To an Athlete Dying Young," "The Road not Taken," and "Jabberwocky" are among the more widely known poems included.
As Elizabeth Hague Sword writes at the end of her introduction, "I hope this book opens "magic casements" for everyone who reads these poems. Whether a child's interest lies in a poem's words, story, rhythm or rhyme, poetry can foster a lifelong love of the language. This is a gift beyond measure." If you only buy one book for poetry for your children, and you want it to be literary, this is the book for you. Of course, Shel Silverstein is an essential part of childhood (and his poem, "Sick," is included in this collection), but his poetry is kind of like the dessert to the meal that is A Child's Anthology of Poetry.
Look for poems from this fantastic anthology this month!