Thursday, February 08, 2007

Love poetry for kids

If you’re looking for “love” poems for Valentine’s Day, you won’t have much trouble. Poets have been pouring out their hearts for centuries. “How do I love thee, let me count the ways” wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her sweetheart, Robert Browning. Young readers feel this same longing and often gravitate to very emotional “love” poetry—both in their reading and in their writing. You might even be surprised how popular these can be with adolescent readers (both boys and girls). Ralph Fletcher has created an entire book of love poetry for young readers called I Am Wings; Poems About Love, dividing this small collection into two sections: “Falling in (love)” and “Falling out (of love).” One of the most notable poems is “Owl Pellets” which compares dissection in biology to the pain of rejection. I love that one!

By Ralph Fletcher

A month ago
in biology lab
you sat close to me
knee touching mine
your sweet smell
almost drowning out
the formaldehyde stink
which crinkled up
your nose
while i dissected a fetal pig.

Now I take apart
this owl pellet
small bag that holds
skin and hair and bones
little skeletons
what the owl ate
but couldn’t digest
and coughed back up

You sit with Jon Fox
ignore me completely
laugh at his dumb jokes
let your head fall onto
his bony shoulder
while i attempt
to piece together
with trembling hands
the tiny bones
of a baby snake

Certain things
are just about
to swallow.

From I Am Wings: Poems about Love (pp. 34-35)

Just giving a poem—any poem-- is a lovely Valentine gesture, but if you’re looking for poetry for young people specifically ABOUT Valentine’s and all kinds of love, here’s a select listing of a dozen gems:

Ralph Fletcher’s I Am Wings: Poems about Love (later combined with Buried Alive in the book, Room Enough for Love)
Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Good Morning to You, Valentine: Poems (illustrated by Tomie de Paola) and his more recent, Valentine Hearts: Holiday Poetry (an I Can Read Book)
Jack Prelutsky’s It’s Valentine’s Day (available on audiocassette, too)
Arnold Adoff’s Love Letters
Eloise Greenfield’s Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems
Nikki Grimes’ Hopscotch Love: A Family Treasury of Love Poems
Pat Mora’s Love to Mama: A Tribute to Mothers and its “partner” book, Javaka Steptoe’s anthology, In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers
Myra Cohn Livingston’s Celebrations (which includes Valentine’s and more)
Gary Soto’s A Fire in My Hands (has many poems about young love, like "Oranges")
Ed Young’s beautifully illustrated, Voices of the Heart


Anonymous said...

What a lovely list. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Young adult readers might enjoy this title, one of my favorites:

I Feel A Little Jumpy Around You, poems collected by Naomi Shihab Nye and Paul B. Janeczko

Happy Valentine's Day, Sylvia! Thanks for a great list.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks-- and happy Valentine's Day!

Someone said...

Thanks for posting "Owl Pellets". I enjoy reading your blog, and I hope you keep it up. I've linked to you a few times. :)

Elaine Magliaro said...


The Poetry Friday roundup will be at Blue Rose Girls this week. In addition to providing a link to your post this week, I'm going to include a link to "Connecting Poetry and Picture Books."

Emily said...

The biologist in me had to tell you - I love that poem! I guess there *is* a poem for everyone! :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list. We will be reading some of them next year or more likely next week when the books I just ordered arrive at the library. We used a poem by Aileen Fisher from Good Morning to You as our theme for Valentine's. Also used in my blog post for that day.

Anonymous said...

I will add Owl Pellets to my collection of poems for my classroom. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Wow that's so cute. I didn't know they have a genre like that for kids!

Ralph Fletcher said...

Thanks for including my poem! It's one my favorites....such an unlikely subject for a love poem!

Ralph Fletcher