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No Wasted Words: Poetry and Stories in Verse

The Hot Off the Press Spotlight segment showcases new books from our current Hot Off the Press list to further assist parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and other book enthusiasts in finding engaging books for all types of readers.

While prose is perhaps the most common format in which a story is written, it’s certainly not the only format. As April is National Poetry Month, it’s the perfect time to look at the imaginative and moving form of storytelling that poetry and stories in verse can provide. Children appreciate a good rhyme that engages their sense of whimsy and humor. Poetry can also help develop the capacity for creating mental imagery as well as a sense of rhythm. Stories in verse are getting a fair amount of notice for their ability to pack a lot of emotional punch into a minimum of words, and can appeal to a wide range of readers—especially to those who might find novel-length prose to be intimidating. This week’s Spotlight showcases some truly amazing poetry and stories in verse from our April Hot Off the Press list that celebrate cultural diversity, take notice of the little joys in life, and even journey to the underworld, hooking readers by cutting to the very heart of things without a single wasted word. 

Aloha Everything, by Kaylin Melia George; illus. by Mae Waite (Red Comet Press) — Fiction, Poetry / Stories in Verse, BIPOC Characters and Creators, Cultural Diversity, Folklore / Fairytales / Myths, ages 4-6.

Aloha Everything is a magical story that will take you on a thrilling journey through the breathtaking islands of Hawaiʻi!

In this exciting adventure, you’ll encounter mighty canoes crashing over ocean waves, regal hawks soaring high above the clouds, and brilliant lizards jumping nimbly through forest trees! Most importantly, you’ll meet a courageous young girl who learns, grows, and comes to love her island home with all her heart. Aloha Everything is both a captivating read and a fantastic educational resource for learning about Hawaiian history, ecology, and culture. With breathtaking hand-painted illustrations and beautiful rhyming poetry that will lull little ones into brilliant dreams of vibrant adventure, this book is sure to capture the hearts of both children and parents alike.

Bless Our Pets: Poems of Gratitude for Our Animals Friends, by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illus. by Lita Judge (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) — Nonfiction, Poetry / Stories in Verse, Animals, Family / Community, Kindness / Generosity, ages 4-6.

A celebration of creatures—and one of the last books edited by beloved children’s poet Lee Bennett Hopkins.

In this adorable, often amusing collection, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Lois Lowry, and twelve other poets give thanks for those who bark, purr, chitter, and slither. The poems feature fourteen different animal companions, including a cat snoozing in her bed, a goldfish dancing in her bowl, and a gerbil nestling in an overall pocket. Illustrated in warm, tender detail by Lita Judge, Bless Our Pets captures the charms—and antics—of pets and the people who love them. From puppies to mice to turtles to ponies, this endearing anthology expresses children’s gratitude for creatures big and small. Bless Our Pets is the perfect tribute to the friends who bring so much joy into our everyday lives.

Deaths Country, by R. M. Romero (Peachtree Teen) — Fiction, Poetry / Stories in Verse, LGBTQIA+, Romance, Folklore / Fairytales / Myths, Teen.

Lakelore meets “Orpheus and Eurydice” when two Miami teens travel to the underworld to retrieve their girlfriend’s soul.

Andres Santos of São Paulo was all swinging fists and firecracker fury, a foot soldier in the war between his parents, until he drowned in the Tietê River… and made a bargain with Death for a new life. A year later, his parents have relocated the family to Miami, but their promises of a fresh start quickly dissolve in the summer heat.

Instead of fists, Andres now uses music to escape his parents’ battles. While wandering Miami Beach, he meets two girls: photographer Renee, a blaze of fire, and dancer Liora, a ray of sunshine. The three become a polyamorous triad, happy, despite how no one understands their relationship. But when a car accident leaves Liora in a coma, Andres and Renee are shattered.

Then Renee proposes a radical solution: She and Andres must go into the underworld to retrieve their girlfriend’s spirit and reunite it with her body—before it’s too late. Their search takes them to the City of the Dead, where painters bleed color, songs grow flowers, and regretful souls will do anything to forget their lives on earth. But finding Liora’s spirit is only the first step in returning to the living world. Because when Andres drowned, he left a part of himself in the underworld—a part he’s in no hurry to meet again. But it is eager to be reunited with him…

In verse as vibrant as the Miami skyline, critically acclaimed author R.M. Romero has crafted a masterpiece of magical realism and an openhearted ode to the nature of healing.

I Am the Wind, by Lucinda Jacob, Sarah Webb, Matthew Parkinson Bennett; illus. by Ashwin Chacko (Little Island Books) — Fiction, Poetry / Stories in Verse, Imagination / Play, Humor, Music / Art, ages 7-12.

Discover brilliant new poems and revisit old favorites in this joyously illustrated collection of children’s poems from Ireland. Family favorites like Boland, Heaney, Meehan and Yeats sit alongside diverse new voices from Ireland.

You’ll find thoughtful, surprising and powerful poems here. Poems about love and skateboarding, about feeling lonely and making friends, about jellyfish, magic, school, snowdrops, monsters, blackbirds… and lots, lots more.

Chosen with love by the acclaimed children’s poet Lucinda Jacob and award-winning children’s writer and bookseller Sarah Webb. With playful color illustrations by Ashwin Chacko.

A book to treasure now and always.

We Who Produce Pearls, by Joanna Ho; illus. by Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya (Scholastic) — Fiction, Poetry / Stories in Verse, BIPOC Characters and Creators, Cultural Diversity, Social Activism / Equality / Feminism, ages 4-6.

From the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author, Joanna Ho, comes an uplifting call to action that highlights Asian American history, paired with vibrant and colorful illustrations by artist and activist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya.

In Joanna Ho’s true classic style, she creates a poetic ode that celebrates Asian American communities and their history. We Who Produce Pearls, is an anthem for Asian America that celebrates the richness and diversity within the Asian American identity and serves as a reminder of our self worth, our legacy and most of all, our destiny. Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s signature bright and bold palette brings to light the strength and power within us all, creating a mesmerizing, stunning, and magical masterpiece that proves how we can shape our pain and struggle into one of joy and power. Together, Joanna and Amanda remind readers to rise up, speak out, and step into power.

For more great book suggestions, be sure to check out the full April Hot Off the Press list!

List compiled by CBC’s resident book connoisseur, Brooke Pisarsky. Check out other Hot Off the Press Spotlight book lists on our blog.

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