Books, Poetry



Originally published in TEACH Magazine, March/April 2023 Issue

Poetry is an often underappreciated form of art that aids in the development of language, writing skills, creative thinking, and self-expression. It offers students a chance to play with words and experiment with writing structures, and can be an innovative way to bring joy to reading. In recognition of poetry’s many benefits, and in honour of both World Poetry Day on March 21 and National Poetry Month in April, we’ve compiled a list of books that use poems to explore a wide range of topics, from human rights to math to geography, and more!

And We Rise: The Civil Rights Movement in Poems
By Erica Martin
Viking Books for Young Readers (February 2022)
Grade Level: 7–12

This debut poetry collection explores the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s. Through striking, potent verse, Erica Martin looks at both well-documented and lesser-known events that contributed to the movement. The book also includes historical photographs, research, and a timeline.

Counting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems
By Betsy Franco
Illustrated by Priscilla Tey
Candlewick Press (October 2022)
Grade Level: 3–7

Betsy Franco’s playful math poems add up to good, wholesome fun in this STEAM-centred collection. Whether students are multiplying mice, pricing out cups of lemonade, or counting how long it takes Mom to answer a question, they’re sure to delight in Franco’s silly rhymes and Priscilla Tey’s cheeky drawings. (Additional resources include a teacher’s guide.)

Galápagos: Islands of Change
By Leslie Bulion
Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Peachtree (March 2023)
Grade Level: 3–7

Galápagos introduces readers to the unique island ecosystem that allowed Charles Darwin to develop his theory of natural selection. Leslie Bulion combines poetry with science notes to tell the story of these isolated islands and the unique species found there.

This novel in verse tells the true story of Henny Sinding, a 22-year-old amateur lighthouse keeper who helped smuggle hundreds of Jewish families from Denmark to Sweden during the Second World War. Author Susan Hood uses thought-provoking, enchanting verse to capture the intricacies of this heroic tale.

How to Write a Poem
By Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Quill Tree Books (April 2023)
Grade Level: K–3

In How to Write a Poem, award-winning poet and author Kwame Alexander teams up with Baltimore poet Deanna Nikaido to create a magical celebration of the world around us. The book encourages students to find inspiration in their everyday surroundings, to stop and listen to all the poems that are just waiting to be written.


Like a Hurricane
By Jonathan Bécotte
Translated by Jonathan Kaplansky
Orca Book Publishers (February 2023)
Grade Level: 4–7

Like a Hurricane is a novel in verse told from the perspective of a teen who’s keeping his sexuality a secret. He wants to tell his family and friends, but is afraid that they’ll reject him. Jonathan Bécotte’s minimal yet meaningful text offers a vivid exploration of identity that is sure to resonate with many middle-grade readers.

Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School
Edited by Hanif Adburraqib, Franny Choi, Peter Kahn, and Dan “Sully” Sullivan
Penguin Workshop (February 2022)
Grade Level: 7–12

This anthology is comprised of 20 years of poetry from the Spoken Word Club at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Chicago. Many club members have gone on to win awards, become scholars, or even be chosen as National Poet Youth Laureates, and Respect the Mic showcases a portion of that talent through its incredible curated collection of poetry and prose.

Sometime I Feel Like a River
By Danielle Daniel
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Groundwood Books (March 2023)
Grade Level: K–1

In 12 short poems, Danielle Daniel invites young readers to connect themselves to the natural world. Each poem is accompanied by Josée Bisaillon’s dazzling illustrations to create both a lyrical and visual tribute to our environment. The book also includes a mindfulness activity that that encourages readers to fully utilize their senses while exploring their surroundings. 

Super Small: Miniature Marvels of the Natural World
By Tiffany Stone
Illustrated by Ashley Spires
Greystone Books (April 2023)
Grade Level: K–3

This comic-style STEAM book combines dialogue and poetry to teach students about the real-life superpowers of the smallest creatures on Earth. Critically acclaimed author and poet Tiffany Stone writes about pygmy seahorses, axolotls, snails, grasshoppers, and more in this delightful celebration of the power of being small.

Wings in the Wild
By Margarita Engle
Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 2023)
Grade Level: 7–12

Wings in the Wild is a contemporary love story about two teens fighting for a better future. After Soleida’s parents are arrested for harbouring illegal art, she escapes to Costa Rica with thousands of other Cuban refugees. There she meets Dariel, an enchanting Cuban American musician, and together they work to raise awareness of the imprisoned artists in Cuba. Told through dramatic verse, this romance novel looks at climate action, human rights, and the love between two people who come from different worlds.