Five Great Children’s Poetry Collections for National Poetry Month
I love poetry. Good poetry, like good prose, makes you think and makes you feel. With April being National Poetry Month, I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at some excellent horror poetry collections for young readers.
Writing horror for children is a unique balancing act of being scary but not too scary. Add in meter, rhythm, and often rhyme and it can be difficult to pull off. Each of the books below have definite creep factor while still being fun and accessible to the younger reader.
So if you are thinking of writing your own young horror poetry, or if you’re just looking to share some great poetry with the kids in your life, check out the books on this list.
An Eyeball in My Garden: And Other Spine-Tingling Poems
Selected and edited by Jennifer Cole Judd & Laura Wynkoop
Illustrated by Johan Olander
(Two Lions, 2010)
I really enjoy a good horror poetry anthology, but there aren’t many out there for younger readers. So I was excited to discover An Eyeball in My Garden a few years back. All of the 44 poems are accompanied by spooky black ink illustrations.The poems are fun to read out loud and use a lot of humor to balance the spookiness.
Written by Kate Coombs
Illustrated by Lee Gatlin
(Chronicle books, 2018)
Often, children’s poetry has a distinct bouncy cadence and some sort of rhyme scheme. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it was awesome to open Monster School and find a variety of poetic forms. There were even a few free verse poems.
I was impressed at the sophistication of the poetry. Many of the poems were higher concept and didn’t just spell things out; readers will have to use context to get the full picture and meaning of the poem. I think this book is a great example of how you don’t have to write down to children.
Selected by Myra Cohn Livingston
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
(Holiday House, 1989)
Any fan of the original Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will be immediately drawn (pun intended) to the illustrations in this poetry anthology. Gammell’s artwork elevates 18 already excellent Halloween-themed poems.
Written by Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by Gris Grimly
(Hyperion Books, 2004)
Marilyn Singer has published over 35 poetry books for children, so you know you’re in for some great writing when you pick up one of her books. I particularly enjoy the overall story thread that Creature Carnival uses. You walk through the gates of the carnival with the first poem. Then each subsequent poem walks you past the various attractions until you leave the carnival behind in the last poem. Gris Grimly’s illustrations are excellent as well. Grimly always does a fantastic job of making the macabre accessible for kids.
Literally Disturbed 2: More Tales to Keep You Up at Night
Written by Ben H. Winters
Illustrated by Adam F. Watkins
(Price Stern Sloan, 2015)
I stumbled on Literally Disturbed when I was looking for some creepy story collections at the library. After getting home, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it wasn’t a collection of prose tales, but a collection of spooky poetry. There are a variety of poetic forms on display and the unsettling black and white illustrations really amp up the creepiness of this collection.
Hopefully this list has given the young and the young-at-heart something to sink their fangs into this month and year round. If you’re ever hungry for more horror poetry for kids, just visit the juvenile poetry nonfiction section of your local library. You never know what you’ll find lurking there.
Rebecca Herzog writes creepy and funny stories for (mostly) young readers. Her poetry has been published in Spaceports & Spidersilk. Rebecca especially enjoys torturing, er, entertaining her own little monsters with spooky bedtime stories. She lives in sunny (and muggy) Florida with her crazy family, a lazy bearded dragon, and two saucy tarantulas. Rebecca’s favorite young horror novel is Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Connect with Rebecca on her blog and on Twitter.