Favorite children's book poetry

Bruce N H

Active Member
Hey all,

This is really a tangent, but in last week's class while talking about the "I sit beside the fire and think" poem, there was a brief digression on poetry in children's books. Corey mentioned really liking the book Boom Chicka Boom (I don't know that one, will have to look for it) and much of Sandra Boynton*. So I wanted to raise the question for the group. What is your favorite children's book poetry. I'll start with two:

Goodnight, Moon, of course. I think every parent has this one memorized, even after their kids have grown up and moved away.

The Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson. The general plot is that while the bear is hibernating, other animals come into his cave for warmth, start sharing their food, light a little fire, have a party, until the bear wakes up. He's initially upset, but then joins in the fun, and eventually all the other animals fall asleep and the bear is up. I particularly love this passage:

An itty-bitty mouse,
pitter-pat, tip-toe,
creep-crawls in the cave
from the fluff-cold snow.

The rhythm of that line and the alliteration just really make it fun to read aloud. The whole book is a delight, IMO, and was a regular part of our bedtime rotation of books. She wrote a few more, where the bear and his friends do different things, but I felt those other books suffered because she took the exact same poetic form and changed the words, so after reading a couple of them it got redundant.

So, what are your favorite lines of poetry from children's books?


*My favorite Boynton is Moo, Baa, La la la.


Well-Known Member
There are three kinds of 'childrens' book poetry'. There are books of poems meant for children. There are books for children written entirely in poem form. There are books written largely in prose, which have poems interspersed.

For a collection of poems for children (all by a single author), 'A Child's Garden of Verses' by Robert Louis Stevenson would be a classic example, and certainly a favorite. Another great example would be 'When We Were Very Young', by A. A. Milne.

For books written entirely in poem form, the Dr. Seuss books would be a great example. Another classic would be 'Madeline', by Ludwig Bemelmans.

For books written largely in prose, but which include poems, 'Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There' would be a good example, with poems like 'The Walrus and the Carpenter', and 'Jabberwocky'.

For stand-alone children's poems, is 'The Star', by Jane Taylor ('Twinkle, twinkle, little star') the best known child's poem of all time? What other candidates are there?

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
I would put Mary Had a Little Lamb on a par with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (or Carroll's Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat, for that matter). I used to visit the schoolhouse where Sarah Josepha Hale taught and where the incident of the lamb happened. The schoolhouse was moved to Sudbury MA from New Hampshire and is a lovely park setting where I used sometimes to take my son and my dog.



Well-Known Member
Other candidates from the 'nursery rhyme' category (which one might consider 'Mary had a Little Lamb' to belong to - probably more so than 'Twinkle twinkle') then 'London Bridge is falling down' (much older than Mary and her lamb, and whose sung tune was borrowed by that poem), and 'Ring a Ring of Roses', might be considered as best known childrens' poems. Another candidate might be 'Star light, Star bright, First star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.'


For me Inger Hagrup's poems for children are among the best, though I don't think many will have heard of them outside Scandinavia, and it is probably first and foremost in Norway they are classics. I am not aware of any translations, which, being poetry, is perhaps not very strange, but it is a pity. They are witty and fun, sometimes with a sting that adults see more clearly than children, and they have good rhythm and vocabulary.

I can't begin to give any translation that don't do more than give a taste of the meaning, though. Let alone the metre.

Kate Neville

Well-Known Member
Well, pretty much all of Milne's poetry, though especially James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree (which eventually became a name for one of our cats, and only much later I realized was satirical commentary on upper class naming conventions) and Halfway Up the Stairs. Also I love the Maurice Sendak book A Hole is to Dig. Maybe not poetry in the micro, but practically epic in the macro. And now I'm thinking that Sendak and Seuss have primed me to prefer the satire.

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
I just pulled my copy of A Hole is to Dig; I'll see if I can get the grandkids interested in it (two years old). And being named James, James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree was one of my own favorites as a child.

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
As a child, and into my teens, I poured over (and over and over) the nonsense stories and poems of Edward Lear. I still remember a lot:

Far and few, far and few
are the lands where the Jumblies live
their heads are green and their hands are blue
and they went to sea in a sieve

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
The owl and the pussycat went to sea
in a beautiful pea-green boat;
they took some honey and plenty of money
wrapped up in a five-pound note.

It's funny what we carry around in our heads, isn't it?


New Member
AA Milne of course, especially, Teddy Bear and Sand Between the Toes

and lots of Shel Silverstein, such as:

The baby bat cried out in fright,
''Turn on the dark, I'm afraid of the light."

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Is anyone else old enough to remember Casey at the Bat? When I was a child, there was always somebody reciting it when we did that. Or couse in fourth grade, I memorized Wordsworth's Daffodils and was reading Longfellow's long story poems...


New Member
Is anyone else old enough to remember Casey at the Bat? When I was a child, there was always somebody reciting it when we did that. Or course in fourth grade, I memorized Wordsworth's Daffodils and was reading Longfellow's long story poems...
...Mighty Casey had struck out.

And yeah, when everyone else was reciting Three Blind Mice and Farmer in the Dell, I found out there were several controversial verses to Mary Had a Little Lamb, and I added a few of my own. When the teachers said I couldn't make up my own poetry to recite, I had to choose some already published, I chose Charge of the Light Brigade (Tennyson). I think it was grade 2. The teachers didn't call on me very often. ;)