Some children's poetry collections only really appeal, long term, to children. Some however, contain collections that adults also enjoy; they are books that can be shared and passed down from generation to generation. Today's poetry book is just such a title, and it would make a wonderful gift to a family.
Selected by Helen Ferris
Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard
For ages 5 and up
Random House, 1957, 978-0-385-07696-8
Many years ago, when Helen Ferris and her brother Fred were little, their parents made poetry “as much a part of their children’s every day as getting up in the morning.” Helen and Fred absorbed poetry, learning many of the poems they heard by heart. Their poetry journey began with Mother Goose rhymes, and went on to include the poems of Alfred Tennyson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Shakespeare. Helen’s mother felt very strongly that even if her children “could not understand all the words,” they could still “enjoy the beautiful sound of them.” Helen and Fred and their parents moved several times, and their lives changed in many ways, but they never stopped enjoying poetry and sharing it with others.
Out of her love of poetry grew Helen’s wish to create a book that celebrated this form of writing, that brought together the writings of many, and the favorite poems of many more. In all there are over seven hundred poems in this collection, both classic and modern. The poems are divided up into eighteen categories, making it easy for young readers to find poems that suit their interests. The topics include “My Family and I,” “It’s fun to play,” “Animals, Pets and Otherwise,” and “Almost any time is laughing time.”
Many children will naturally gravitate to this latter section, for here they will find old favorites like The Walrus and the Carpenter and The Owl and the Pussycat. Here too is The Song of Mr. Toad, which is the song that Mr. Toad sings in The Wind in the Willows when he is feeling rather pleased with himself. Edward Lear and Ogden Nash’s nonsense poems are also here.
Poems with a patriotic feel appear in the “Sign of my nation, great and strong,” section. Here children will find Paul Revere’s Ride, and The Gettysburg Address, along with The Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.
This is the kind of collection that has something for everyone, no matter what the age of the reader. It is a book to grow old with, and a book to pass on to the next generation so that they too might grow up with a love of poetry, just as Helen Ferris did.