Who says poems have to rhyme?

Photo by Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose” by Nikki Giovanni

c.2020, William Morrow $19.99 / $24.99 Canada 144 pages

“Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance” by Nikki Grimes

c.2020, Bloomsbury $18.99 / $25.99 Canada 144 pages

“Kwame Alexander’s Free Write: A Poetry Notebook” by Kwame Alexander

c.2020, Sourcebooks $12.99 / higher in Canada 123 pages

You don’t have time to do a rhyme.

Or maybe you do, although you know that poetry doesn’t necessarily have to rhyme. Sometimes, a poem is a story made of words your heart sings. You can say a poem, you can rap one, or you can read one so why not read a few in these great poetry books…

A little of this, a little of that, and stories that aren’t poems are found in “Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose” by Nikki Giovanni.

Readers who are fans of Giovanni’s are in for a treat here: As you’d expect from Giovanni, this book contains heartfelt, personal poetry that feels as though it was written directly to each individual who picks it up. There are poems about friendship and love, about being comfortable with one’s place in life, poetry that harks back to idyllic childhood, and poems about racism. In between those works, readers will find short (page or two) articles of prose in the same vein as the poetry, with words speaking straight to the person with this book in their hands.

Although you’ll probably find “Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance” by Nikki Grimes in the Children’s section of your bookstore or library, this absolutely isn’t just a book for kids and it’s not just a book for women.

Using works from some of Harlem’s “groundbreaking” female poets from nearly a century ago, Grimes uses a “Golden Shovel” method of writing, which uses the last word of a line in one poem to make another poem. You’ll see how it works as you read poetry from Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Helene Johnson, Ida Rowland, Lucy Ariel Williams, and other women who wrote their words during the years encompassing the Harlem Renaissance.

But that’s not all: each poem is accompanied by a unique work of art from some of today’s best Black illustrators: Pat Cummings, Vashti Harrison, Shadra Strickland, and others. Together, this is a book you can share with your favorite 10-and-older reader.

And finally, if that young reader wants to be a poet, too, but needs help getting motivated, then look for “Kwame Alexander’s Free Write: A Poetry Notebook” from Kwame Alexander.

This hardcover book is part journal, part teaching tool and will really help any budding writer with kid-sized writing prompts, language lessons and tips, grammar help, super-short stories of Alexander’s life and career, and plenty of room for kids to jot down ideas, one-liners, observations, idle thoughts, and all kinds of poetry that rhymes or doesn’t. Your child will even find poems inside this learn-to-be-a-poet book and there’s silliness here, too, because poems are sometimes that way. Alexander doesn’t take being a writer frivolously, though, and any kid ages 8 to 12 who wants to be a writer of poems, songs, or even long-form stories will treasure this book.

No doubt, you’ve got your favorite poets to read, but see if these three books don’t help you find (or create!) others. If you’ve got a few dimes, you might need these rhymes.

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