You might be familiar with many cases where on asking for children’s poetry books, you would be vaguely directed at the fiction or non-fiction rack. This is primarily because, children’s books of poetry, is almost a lost cause. Contrary to popular opinion though, poetry books for young adults are indeed being written, though finding that combination of a book that balances the traditional rhyme with fun while not being preachy, is indeed extremely rare.
Like children’s parents, who often think that such books aren’t written at all, book sellers too often tend to think that not many such poetry books are published, hence they don’t stock on them. Perhaps, one could say that the link between children’s poetry and the targeted audience has been broken then?
We think so too, even though it’s a shame! Almost every child I know loves poetry, sometimes much more than adults actually. Young adults intrinsically love rhythm, word play, and the world of the fantastic- all of which poetry could cater to very well.
My pet peeve is that of too many anthologies making their way to the markets. Kill me if you will, but there are just far too many books that start with the title, ‘100 Best Poems..’ While I do understand the logic behind, having a lot of good poems brought together, surely we could use a little imagination when it comes to making books for children? How many parents would like their already burdened children to do the heavy lifting of carrying around a 100 poets?
At the risk of sounding ancient, I reminiscence of books from childhood days, each of which had a different cover, a different flavour as it were. A small book that I could carry around everywhere. But size apart, far too many children books seem to be still harping about the moon and the stars and snow castles and Rapunzel’s hair, why not write about other things that children might have interest in too? Also, reducing a child’s wild imagination to neat corridors, seems to be an outdated approach to both poetry as well as children’s writing. Doing injustice to both as an end result.
Our children are often far more capable of understanding pain, love or the ordinary-ness of life than we give them credit for. As a mother myself, for the longest time I’ve looked for books that bridge the gap between childish imagination and a young adult’s curious mind. The books we present here, do exactly that. They are from the realm of pure imagination where not only children, but adults too can re-visit the joy of rhythm.
- Beastly Tales from Here and There by Vikram Seth – Penguin India (2013)
For those of you who’ve enjoyed Aesop’s Tales or even our own Panchatantra, Vikram Seth’s modern-day animal fables in verse will be a delightful read. There are ten fables here, eight of which are reworked from traditional tales from India, China, Greece and Ukraine. Two of the stories are by the writer himself. The stories are accompanied by line drawings by Ravi which serve as a perfect accompaniment to the collection. Seth brings a fresh perspective and vocabulary- in rhyme, to these well-Giving a fresh perspective to these well-loved stories. Some of the characters like Peter Rabbit and Pigling Bland are already known to young readers, and they play cameo roles in stories like, ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’. The tales are set in rhyme, but the poetic form doesn’t take away the storytelling; in fact, many a time it enhances it in fact. There’s a wicked sense humour that runs throughout, the book, making it non preachy and fun to read.
2. The Right Kind of Dog by Adil Jussawalla – Duckbill Books and Publications Ltd (2013)
Needless to say, Adil Jussawalla is a master wordsmith. In a letter to the reader, he says at the very beginning, that he imagines most of the people holding the book “to be young, not more than fifteen years old”.
These collections of poems are timeless. Like all good children’s books, this too is pitched a bit higher than the prescribed age group. A beautiful, precious and sensitive book for young adults that you can keep coming back to them anytime. The poems in here are both funny and sometimes sad, but guaranteed to make you giggle, and spend some time in reflection too. Not every child might understand the poems immediately, but like all good work, it grows on you. Kids enter a world that might not fully comprehend, but the poems give them hope that the written word isn’t always boring, and that serious literature can be fun too.
3. To Catch A Poem (An Anthology for Young People) Anju Makhija & Jane Bhandari – Sahitya Akademi
To Catch a Poem is an anthology of poems for the young, and young at heart. Edited by Anju Makhija and Jane Bhandari this isn’t your typical anthology though, because it includes poetry by both adults and children too. The editors have done a wonderful job of including some well -known poets, along with poetry by students from Rishi Valley School.
The book is structured in sections by different poets, and each section is prefaced with details about the poet’s work. Every section, is illustrated with wonderful and witty ink drawings by Ratnakar Ojha.
Some fine names from the poetry world like Names like Sampurna Chatterji, Adil Jussawalla, Priya Sarukkai Chabria, Vivek Tandon, Jane Bhandari, Temsula Ao, Rohinton Daruwala, Anju Makhija, Keki Daruwalla, Mustansir Dalvi, Jeet Thayil, Sivakami Velliangiri find place here. You’ll find that the poets here have shared work that respond to children, are funny and creative. Some of these poems include limericks, some are story poems, and others in traditional rhymes. But almost all of them are poems that have their ears fine-tuned to that of a child.
4. Tickle Me, Don’t Tickle Me: And Other Poems For Magnificent, Turbo-Loaded, Triple – Charged Children By Jerry Pinto – Talking Cub (2019)
This is a fabulous collection of 51 poems that sparkles with Pinto’s wacky humour and crazy imagination. The book came into being during the pandemic era, and for many children, it was a solution for the lockdown depression. The collection is replete with Pinto’s imagination and in many of his poems he tackles subjects that children often ponder about. There are poems about zoo escapees, about kids who always say they’ll fail but don’t, the horrors of hair oiling, and much more. The book uses a funky layout and cool typography to jazz things up for kids. The illustrations are by Sunaina Coelho, which add a dash of fun and craziness to complement the humour in the poems. Some of the poems though are quite reflective poems, talking about instances that affect the lives of children. All in all a lovely book for young adults.
5. Malu Bhalu By Kamla Bhasin – Tulika Publishers
Malu Bhalu is about the adventures of a young polar bear in the North Pole. Translated from Hindi by Sandhya Rao, Kamla Bhasin’s delightful rhyming and sense of gender equality will enthral many young readers into a new world. The book can be read out to youngsters too, as they follow the adventures of Malu the Bhalu into the North pole.
Bindia Thapar had sone the illustrations, while closely collaborating with Bhasin here. The beautiful illustrations add colour, texture and vibrancy to the book.
To be able to mix rhyme with a story that is told from a gendered angle is a new way of adding dimension to how children think and perceive the world. And because children enjoy the rhythm of the words, reading here becomes an enjoyable experience too. This book is for slightly younger readers.