Nonfiction and poetry are two of my favorite things. Like peanut butter and chocolate, they go together well. In honor of National Poetry Month, I decided to feature a few nonfiction poetry titles to highlight how an author’s voice can breathe new life into nonfiction.
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle (Holt, 2008). School Library Journal called this Young Adult book “hauntingly beautiful, revealing pieces of Cuba’s troubled past through the poetry of hidden moments.” This incredible book won a Newbery honor.
Doug Florian, what can I say? Color me a fan of Comets, Stars, The Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings (Harcourt, 2007). I love the variety here, including the concrete poem about a galaxy in the shape of a spiral. This reader can feel his passion for the topic on every page. And if you’re looking for fun nonfiction, you need go no further than his Insectlopedia (Harcourt, 1998).
Insectlopedia brings to mind another wonderful book—Paul Fleischman’s Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices (HarperCollins, 1988). This title, with illustrations by Eric Beddows, won the Newbery in 1989. The collection is written in the form of verbal duets, which are stunning, creative, informative, whimsical, and a ton of fun to work on with students. I did these with a group of 8th graders a few years ago and the more they recited them, the more excited they became, spinning like water bugs and clicking like cicadas.
For younger readers, also try Judy Sierra’s Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems (Sandpiper, 2003), with illustrations by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey. Little ones will laugh and learn as they read about the world of emperor penguins.
So celebrate National Poetry Month with a pairing of nonfiction and poetry, and enjoy!